by Deborah Deacon on 14 Oct, 2021
Fall has officially moved in, which means colder, shorter days are coming. And that can be difficult, especially right now. Research shows a positive correlation between sunshine and better mental health. So what better time to get some fresh inspiration for how you can raise mental health awareness in your students and your school?
While statistics like “70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence” can be daunting, they remind us that you, as an educator, have an invaluable role to play in helping today’s youth grow into healthy young adults. The question is, how? How do we show them the relevance of mental health awareness, while also equipping them with the knowledge and tools necessary to develop healthy habits? Basically, we sneak it in, and we make it fun! We find ways to grow students’ general awareness of mental health, through sharing facts and statistics, and we help them develop their own self-awareness.
Still a little vague? We thought so. That’s why we’ve created a list of 4 practical ways you can raise mental health awareness in your classroom.
While it can be easy to view physical and mental health as two separate topics, one way we can raise mental health awareness in students is by showing them just how interconnected the two truly are. Students are often pretty aware of their physical bodies, for better or for worse. Whether we’re talking about athletes in training or teenagers grappling with changes, our physical bodies are hard to ignore. But it’s important that our mental health doesn’t take a back seat. Instead, when teaching students about the importance of exercise and healthy eating for cardiovascular health, let’s also remind them that physical activity and a good diet improve mental health as well. In fact, mental health problems often manifest with physical symptoms and it’s important that students know this.
One great resource is ChatterHigh’s free Mental Health and Wellness modules, which discuss what mental health is, maintaining exercise, sleep, and nutrition, and more! You can even audit the modules before using them with your class.
For a few more hands-on ways to teach your students about the interconnectedness of physical and mental health, try some of these stress-relieving activities, especially if they’re gearing up for a big test, presentation, or assignment:
After the kids have finished one of these activities, have them stop for a moment and reflect. Ask them how they felt before, during, and after the activity. How did the physical movement impact their mental state? You could even have them jot a couple of notes down each time your class tries one of the activities, so they can see which kind of movement helps them the most. Finally, encourage the students to share what they’re discovering. After all, mental health awareness is all about conversations.
When it comes to raising mental health awareness, fostering self-awareness in our students is paramount. While sharing facts and statistics is part of the process (more on how to do that in an engaging manner in point 4), students need to know how to identify their own negative thought patterns and behaviours. However, once they are able to recognize their negative thoughts, we want to help them make a mental shift.
One key to making that shift is gratitude and, once again, the benefits extend to minds and bodies. In fact, adopting an “attitude of gratitude” is linked to improvements in mood, optimism, better social connections, and improvements in physical health. Even Harvard thinks so. According to this article on giving thanks, practicing gratitude also has the added benefit of helping people better face adversity. We know you want a classroom full of resilient students - we want that too - so here are a few suggestions from Harvard on how you can help foster thankfulness in your classroom.
Schoolwide assemblies or classroom presentations are great ways to raise mental health awareness in schools and help create a sense of unity among the students. Organizations such as activeminds.org and Jack.org have speakers that will inspire and educate your students through sharing personal stories. Currently, both of these organizations offer virtual presentations, so it couldn’t be easier. Check out the links above for more information.
ChatterHigh’s Mindful Modules cover a range of topics, including:
All of these modules follow our proven “research and learn” approach so that students have an interactive learning experience that introduces them to reputable resources. While our content is already tailored to either Canada or the United States, we also offer customizable modules specific to your school or district, because we know that every community has unique experiences, needs, and resources.