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 activities you can implement to generate stronger mental health awareness in students.

Activity 1: Mental Health Dialogue

Before diving into a lesson about mental health, ask your students questions like, “How is mental health currently perceived in the United States?” or “How can mental health awareness impact your school?”. 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, utilize EVERFI’s Mental Wellness Basics course, as the program discusses mental wellness as being just as important as physical wellness. With the course, they can learn about self-care, healthy coping skills, and more.

Skill building for: Communication, Empathy

Activity 2: 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 activity allows students to put their minds to rest for a short while before they return to being solely focused on tasks and assignments. For more on brain breaks in the classroom, check out this EVERFI article here. 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 and discussing basic mental health facts, 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: Mental Health Check-In

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: 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: Positive Post-Its

Have your students encourage each other by writing positive messages on sticky notes that promotes 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 activities with your students today. For more activity ideas, implementation guides, and digital lesson plans, visit the EVERFI Teacher Resource Center.

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