#United Kingdom
22 March 2008

I think I may be in love with my teacher, and I feel depressed and suicidal

I’m 15 and from the UK, where I’m in year 10. Since coming to high school, I’ve been very unhappy because I’m shy and have difficulty making friends, but last year I realized that I had feelings for my teacher. Since then, more than a year has passed, he still teaches me, and although I’ve tried to control my feelings, they’ve deepened into something more like love: I feel so nervous when I’m around him – I go all shaky, my heart pounds, my breathing becomes shallow, and recently, I’ve been feeling anxious and paranoid because of him. I think I am suffering from depression, as I feel like crying all the time and have suicidal thoughts daily. I feel like I’m on my way to a mental breakdown because I have no one to talk to about any of this. I’ve tried to forget about my teacher, but I can’t; it is not a “crush”, and I really need advice on what to do because my GCSEs are on the line, as well as my mental health. Please can you help me?

Lorin Young

Hi Lucy,

Thank you for your question. First of all, it is very important that you seek help if you are having suicidal thoughts and are potentially suffering from depression.

Depression includes several of the symptoms you mention, including anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and having suicidal thoughts. As well, a diagnosis of depression may be made when the following symptoms are present: depressed mood, diminished interest or pleasure in activities, weight loss or weight gain, difficulty sleeping or increased sleep, fatigue, loss of energy, physical agitation or decreased movement, feeling worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness, decreased concentration, indecisiveness, and recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or suicidal attempt.

Depression is a serious illness, but it is treatable when identified. There are several individuals who you may be able to speak to, including a school guidance counselor, psychologist, nurse, friends, and family members. There is a suicide hotline in United Kingdom. If you are feeling like hurting yourself, please contact someone you know or call this number. They will be available to speak with you as well as potentially being able to provide you with further resources.

It is very difficult moving to a new school, particularly if you don’t have some of the friends that you had in middle school. If you are still having problems making friends, perhaps you can try looking into activities that interest you, i.e. sports, book clubs, language clubs. You may find it easier to make friends with those who share interests similar to yours.

The difficulty you are having making new friends may also play a factor in how you feel about your teacher. Often, a good teacher invokes feelings of admiration and respect and, if you are lonely and you feel that your teacher is particularly kind or attentive, than you may look to this individual for feelings of comfort and acceptance. These feelings may transform into feelings of attraction and, possibly, feelings of love.

This may be overwhelming, particularly in that the emotions are oriented towards someone who is a mature adult and with whom you spend a lot of time, i.e. if you are taught by this person on a regular basis. While these feelings are very genuine for you, sometimes this type of attraction may not represent love per se, which is meant in no way to diminish the intensity of what you are feeling.

However, it is important that you evaluate the context in which these feelings have developed and think about the reality of a potential relationship with this person. Love is a very difficult emotion and sometimes it is hard to step back from the feelings and think about it in a rational manner. However, as you noted, this has become a consuming part of your life. Thus, it may be very helpful for you to speak to someone about this, including a guidance counselor or school psychologist.

Clearly, while he is your teacher, you cannot engage in a relationship. It is important that certain boundaries exist between a student and a teacher, similar to those between a patient and a doctor. Limits exist in order to respect the trust that evolves between a student and a teacher or a patient and a doctor. Without these boundaries, trust is lost and the teacher or doctor would be abusing their position of authority. As well, it is your responsibility to respect these boundaries by not initiating a relationship with your teacher.

The other issue is one of legality, in that you are 15 and the age of consent in the United Kingdom is 16. It is illegal for a sexual relationship to commence between yourself and your teacher. However, regardless of the legality, this is not going to change how you feel. Again, I urge you again to speak with someone about how you are feeling.

Best of luck and please write us if you have further questions…

-Lorin, for AlterHeroes