Young people are experiencing an increase in depression at an alarming rate over the past couple of years, according to researchers at Columbia University. Looking to promote mental health awareness in your class community and provide students with effective methods to manage aspects of their mental health? Here are six mental health activities for students you can implement to generate stronger mental health awareness in your high school and middle school classrooms.
Activity 1: Open a Mental Health Dialogue
An open discussion in the classroom can evoke and promote mental health awareness amongst your students. If your students want to engage further into this topic, explore all our mental health and wellness resources. The programs discuss mental wellness as being just as important as physical wellness, and students can learn about self-care, healthy coping skills, and more.
Skill building for: Communication, Empathy
Activity 2: Provide Brain Breaks
Give your students a ‘brain break’ or a chance to sit quietly for a few minutes, close their eyes, do yoga, or meditate. This can give them a chance to “breathe” as they may be facing stress from school, home life, and jobs. This mental health activity allows students to put their minds to rest for a short while before they return to being solely focused on tasks and assignments. Alternatively, you can have a “Time In” where students can converse with each other for five minutes.
Skill building for: Stress Management
Activity 3: Stop the Stigma
After learning about social-emotional learning, have your students create colorful mini-posters with quotes on them that promote mental health awareness. Making art has been shown to lower stress levels, as supported by a research study conducted by art therapy professors at Drexel University. You can hang the posters around your classroom as a constant reminder for your students that mental health should not be stigmatized.
Skill building for: Creativity, Writing
Activity 4: Facilitate Mental Health Check-Ins
Give your students the opportunity to express how they’re presently feeling with a Mental Health Check- In. Check out this free Mental Health Check-In Poster that you can download, print, and hang in your classroom. This will give your students a chance to express how they feel and give you an idea of what emotions they may be experiencing that day. It has the added benefit of showing other students when they may be feeling low that they don’t need to face those times alone. The poster also includes detailed instructions on how to follow up with your students after this activity.
Skill building for: Communication
Activity 5: Create a Mood Tracker
Have your students draw out a personal mood tracker chart for the year, or you can download and print this free chart for them! They can choose which colors represent each mood. Encourage your students to fill in their daily mood with the corresponding color. Over time, they can analyze their tracker chart and reflect on how their mood and mental health changed throughout the year. Tracking moods and their fluctuation over time creates awareness, which makes students more effective managers of their moods.
Skill Building for: Stress Management
Activity 6: Write Positive Post-Its
Have your students encourage each other by writing positive messages on sticky notes that promote Mental Health awareness, such as “It gets better!”, and allow them to stick them on a designated bulletin board that every student can see when they come to school. The sticky notes will serve as a reminder that mental health should be discussed and that students themselves can take action to promote mental health awareness.
Skill building for: Empathy, Writing
Try out a few of these mental health activities with your students today. For more mental wellness project and activity ideas, implementation guides, and digital lesson plans, visit the EVERFI Teacher Resource Center.
Mental Health Activities FAQs
What are mental health activities for high school students?
Mental health activities for high school students are designed to help them understand, manage, and improve their emotional well-being. These may include mindfulness exercises such as meditation or yoga to help students reduce stress and improve focus. Journaling can be another effective activity, enabling students to express their thoughts and feelings.
Group activities that foster open discussions about mental health can help reduce stigma and encourage students to share their experiences. Workshops or classes on topics like stress management, self-care, and coping strategies can also be beneficial. Additionally, engaging students in physical activities, art, music, or other hobbies can provide therapeutic outlets for stress and contribute to overall mental health.