While mental health may not be the easiest topic to introduce to students, it is an important element of total health and wellness. It’s also easier than you think to incorporate mental health projects into the classroom.
The importance of mental health programs for students
Basic mental health programs help strengthen students’ development and maintenance of a healthy mindset, and to encourage them to explore mental wellness advocacy in their communities. Research shows that equipping students with knowledge and tools — such as cognitive-behavioral skills — not only improves their ability to deal with stressful situations but it also lays the groundwork for preventing significant mental health issues in the future. After exploring a variety of mental health awareness topics for students, we’ve put together these three easy-to-implement mental health project ideas.
Project #1: Write from a Different Viewpoint Activity
It’s All in Your Viewpoint lesson from the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health
Our first mental health project is a writing activity on being able to put yourself in someone else’s vantage point. Understanding different perspectives is an essential element of good mental health. It’s easy to get distracted by being “right” and to fall into the habit of doing or interpreting something a particular way.
If you were to ask your students, “What has a head and four legs?” you may expect answers focused on animals and people, but how many might think of a bed or a table? We can teach our students to look at this riddle (and life’s problems) from a different angle and learn that there may be more than one answer.
From Write From a Different Viewpoint,
“Have the class select a story or tale with which they are all familiar. As a class, review the basic plot points, then list all of the characters on the board. Using a first-person narrative, have each student rewrite the story from a viewpoint other than the main character’s. (Even writing from a minor character’s viewpoint can be fun!)”
Project #2: Develop a Personal Mental Wellness Plan
Once students understand that their mental health requires practice and exercise like their physical health, have students develop a personal plan for supporting and checking in with themselves. “What challenges do you have in your life this year?” Encourage students to chunk their challenges and review the four foundations for each upcoming stressor. If a student is applying to higher education in the fall or starting a new job in the spring, the plan should be tailored to each challenge.
- Using the template handout (from Understanding Mental Wellness) or a separate sheet of paper, have students draft a plan for how they will focus their personal mental wellness plan to deal with the challenges that they face.
- Since this lesson deals with personal challenges, have students write what they feel comfortable sharing publicly.
- Students share their plans for supporting mental health. This can be done as a group or in pairs. (You can even develop a class-wide plan to display for ongoing check-ins.) Discuss how the actions taken will support mental health and wellness and make it possible to deal with life’s challenges.
Project #3: Stamp Out Stigma with Mental Health Day Poster Creation
According to The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), 60% of people dealing with a mental illness won’t seek help due to the associated negative attitudes and beliefs regarding mental health conditions.
Have students create posters presenting information about a chosen or assigned mental health disorder. Ask that students focus on respect and knowledge in their approach. Language in this assignment should work to destigmatize the presented information instead of reinforcing inaccuracies and misunderstandings sometimes presented in pop culture. Feature the posters throughout the school halls or your classroom.
Normalizing challenges with mental health is the key to reducing stigma with our students. Encouraging students to have respectful, informed and researched conversations around mental health will help them feel better about dealing with their own problems and those of others.
Mental Health Project FAQs
What are mental health projects and how these ideas can be helpful?
Mental health projects for students are initiatives designed to promote mental well-being, raise awareness about mental health issues, and provide resources and support. Such projects might include peer support networks, mental health workshops, mindfulness and stress reduction programs, or mental health clubs that encourage open conversation about mental health.
These initiatives can be particularly beneficial for students. They not only provide students with tools to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, but also help create a supportive and understanding school environment. By promoting mental health literacy, these projects can empower students to seek help when needed and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues. They can also encourage students to support their peers, fostering a school culture of empathy and understanding.
Amber Osuba is the Senior Marketing Manager for K-12. Prior to this role, Amber served as a Senior Implementation Manager supporting educators and districts across Pennsylvania and Maryland for three years. She is a former first grade STEM teacher and curriculum lead. You’ll find her at EVERFI’s national conference booths asking teachers to grab swag, take a selfie and tag @EVERFI.