by Hana Gill on 07 Jul, 2021
Did you know that 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from at least one mental health problem or illness?
Most can likely attest to having personal experience with a mental health struggle–either directly or indirectly with a loved one. Therefore, it is crucial for schools to prioritize mental health and physical health equally.
Children and youth are in a critical time of life where they are learning and developing the skills that will be carried with them throughout their lives. Often, it’s skills such as time management and teamwork that are prioritized in the classroom. While these are important in themselves, the skills and tools that foster positive mental health cannot be overlooked. Positive mental health has many benefits. For example, it can help students feel in control of their lives, hopeful about the future, and better able to cope with life’s challenges. These provide the backbone to emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Research has shown that school-based mental health promotion programs have:
By shedding light on these topics in a student’s developing years, schools also have the power to destigmatize struggles that exist within all communities and subsequently foster open-minded attitudes within future generations. Here are 5 tips to support student mental health in schools:
“There is no health without mental health.”World Health Organization
Promote the connection between diet, exercise, and sleep as pillars of mental health. These 3 things have been proven to improve depressive symptoms, stress levels, and overall wellness. Consider integrating these topics into your health education curriculum, highlighting accessible ways for all students to establish healthy practices. For example:
Moreover, highlight the connection between body image and mental health. Mental health, body image, and self-esteem are a feedback loop. In the classroom, encourage students to challenge the messages and imagery they see in the media about how they should look. Consider implementing a media literacy program within your classroom with topics like body image, gender representation, and diversity in media.
A fundamental part of creating a positive mental health learning environment is inclusivity. This means ensuring that all activities and initiatives are sensitive to the developmental, cultural, and personal differences of your students. This includes:
By fostering this kind of inclusive classroom environment, students will be more comfortable coming to you about their struggles or for guidance.
Students have experienced growing stress rates over the years. A study done by the American Psychological Association in 2014 revealed that teen stress levels had exceeded that of adults in recent years. Considering what students face (academic responsibilities, social pressures, and general concerns about their futures), this comes to no surprise. Not to mention, the implications of COVID-19 on schools and the world have increased stress and anxiety levels for many.
To combat the growing stress your students are dealing with, consider implementing school-based activities that promote mental health and wellness. Here is a great list of tips. For example:
There are many external tools and resources out there that can be integrated into your class curriculum. This article includes a curated list of American and Canadian resources that you can integrate into your curriculum or encourage students to explore on their own. These touch on a wide range of topics, such as social and emotional learning (SEL) which increases self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Moreover, it includes location-specific mental health resources which provide help for a diverse range of issues (e.g. mental health disorders). This is a great way to reinforce with your students that there is always help out there and that they are not alone in their struggles.
Studies have shown that when people are optimistic and persistent in goal-setting, they have less depression and anxiety. This is largely what ChatterHigh is founded upon, as we stimulate hope in our users. Here, we strive to strike a chord with students by showing them the many potential pathways they can take in the future.
In particular, we offer mental health and wellness modules that educate students on a wide array of topics. We’re continuing to release new location-specific resource modules across the provinces and territories. As well, we offer a set of Canada-wide mental health literacy modules on the topics of wellness, substance use, and mental health disorders.
Here is an outline of specific topics included in our Mental Health and Wellness module set:
All of these tips work in tandem to create a more caring school culture. Here, students are given the tools to support their peers. A culture built on trust and belonging emerges as they become more connected with their school community.
It’s crucial that educators are given the necessary tools to inform youth about mental health topics. Here, they can not only shape the state of student wellness today, but also the future trajectory of their mental health and wellness practices.