While Mental Health may not be the easiest topic to introduce to students, it is an important element of total health and wellness. 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.
Explore these mental health project ideas to strengthen students’ development and maintenance of a healthy mindset and to encourage mental wellness advocates in their communities.
Write from a Different Viewpoint Activity
It’s All in Your Viewpoint lesson from the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health
Being able to put yourself in someone else’s vantage point 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!)”
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 Mental Wellness Basics) or a separate sheet of paper, have students draft a plan for how they will focus on their foundations of mental health to deal with the challenges that they face. (See examples on Teacher Reference Page). 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 make it possible to deal with life’s challenges.
Stamp Out Stigma – Mental Health Day Posters
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.
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.