by Mary Gannon on 02 May, 2023
Mental Health Week takes place from May 1st to May 7th and it helps us shine a light on what Mental Health is and why it’s so important to take care of. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the topic and gain a deeper understanding of Mental Health through various resources and activities.
As the pandemic upended schools and left lasting effects on students, mental health awareness continues to grow in importance. Every student has Mental Health, which is why introducing healthy habits, and engaging students on the importance of mental health is essential.
As an educator, Mental Health Week is a great opportunity to explore Mental Health and Wellness in the classroom. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to one’s overall mental health, which is why exploring these topics in an educational and inclusive environment is essential to students.
When exploring mental health as an educator, you can help guide students to the most relevant and appropriate resources to help them succeed in the future.
Students may not even know what mental health means or how it might affect them, so using a diverse set of resources and voices will help inform and engage students on how to maintain their mental health. ChatterHigh offers multiple modules on mental health, each introducing students to a myriad of issues, such as test anxiety, stress, depression and more, and how to deal with them in an engaging, interactive, and accessible way.
The pandemic shifted nearly everything online, and students have adapted well. Students are tech-savvy, which helps them explore resources such as the Jack.org modules on ChatterHigh, but it also means their heads are often buried in electronics. In a country like Canada, where the winter is particularly long and cold, getting outside during the summer months offers many benefits to our mental health.
In addition, getting outside helps our physical health. Fresh air and sun help us all feel physically and mentally better! Physical and mental health are closely related–poor mental health can even lead to physical health conditions and vice versa.
As the days become longer and the temperature rises, consider scheduling some time outside with your students. Students can enjoy time outside while socializing with friends and peers. They could also be encouraged to walk or bike to school, which can help students start their day with a positive and stress-free mindset. Whatever the activity, helping students recognize the benefits of nature and their environment will foster healthy habits that last long after they leave the classroom.
Fostering a safe space and inclusive environment is crucial to supporting and promoting mental health in the classroom. Each student should feel welcome to share their struggles or questions, which also requires a positive and accepting environment. As an educator, you could focus on the issues that most often affect students and academic success, such as stigma, stress, and anxiety.
Moreover, an inclusive environment will encourage participation from all students and will foster acceptance and understanding of differences among students. Inclusivity can include welcoming diversity and diverse perspectives into the classroom, promoting collaboration, or simply helping each student strive towards their individual goals.
If you want your students to pursue an individual activity, self-reflection is a great way to explore diversity and inclusion. Students can reflect on how their peers are different from them, and how each individual contributes a unique and important perspective to the classroom.
Students are resilient–they have worked through the unpredictable and changing pandemic. Students are most often communicating with one another, so laying the groundwork for positive thought and action helps students support one another. Peer support is valuable, and as an educator, you have the opportunity to provide resources and support to help your students succeed with the help of their peers.
Socialization is vital to the mental health and well-being of every individual. Students have been lacking some of the benefits of socialization during the pandemic, which is why promoting social activities and peer interaction is so important. What’s more, students who do not live with mental health illnesses or struggles can still benefit from learning, as it helps them understand those around them. Socialization helps expose students to many different mindsets and habits than their own, which also helps fully prepare them for any obstacles they may face in the future.
Some students may think mental illness will not affect them or that it is simply a problem for adults, but the reality is the opposite. Individuals from 15-24 are the most likely to experience mental illness in Canada. There are many contributing factors to mental illness which is why equipping students with the right approach and practices for addressing poor mental health is vital to their everyday well-being.
The physical and mental health habits students form in the classroom ultimately reach far beyond school, to help them have positive mental health throughout their lives. A healthy diet, sleep and exercise are excellent healthy habits, but how can they be implemented in the classroom? A key factor is knowing that healthy habits should be realistic and achievable for each student. A healthy diet doesn’t mean they have to eat broccoli every day, but it might mean they bring fruit as a snack instead of packaged goods. If you want to promote exercise, schedule some daily physical activity with your class, and you could invite other classes for the added benefit of socializing!
Mental Health and mental illness are important issues in our society and students are among the most affected groups. As an educator, you have the opportunity to promote and encourage positive mindsets and habits that can help improve the mental health of each student. Focusing on mental health awareness will foster understanding and acceptance as students go forward in their education and lives with confidence in their mental health.