Dancer Health

Do You Know the Signs of a Mental Disorder?

Photo by Megan McCluskey, courtesy of MTJGD

Train yourself and your staff to spot indicators of serious depression, anxiety or other mood disorders. Bonnie Robson, a psychiatrist who has worked with the National Ballet School of Canada, provided this list and emphasizes that it's for teachers watching for external signs of duress. Students should understand the internal symptoms of depression, as well, like those detailed by Dance/USA.

If someone on staff is worried about a student, Robson says they should tell the studio director, who should call a meeting with the dancer and her parents (that's essential if she's a minor, particularly) to share the observations and consider asking the dancer to get a professional opinion, while avoiding drawing any conclusions themselves. "If the parents or the student are in denial of any problem, the teacher or director has the right to ask for a letter stating that the dancer is safe to dance," Robson says, treating the concern as they would an injury or concussion.


Depression

• Seems sad, cries easily, looks tired

• Increased irritability

• Loss of energy

• Sudden change in weight

• Change in social relationships; avoids others

• Signs or suspicion of drug use or other self-medication

Anxiety

• Looks apprehensive or worried or has a generally negative attitude

• Blushing, mottled skin

• Acts clumsy or impulsive, shows excess muscle tension

• Seems dizzy, short of breath or sweats profusely

• Performs increased or unusual rituals

• Signs or suspicion of drug use or other self-medication

Mood Disorders

• Difficulty focusing

• Racing speech

• Impulsive behavior

• Pacing

• Unusual dress or makeup

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