World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.
Mental health is just as important as physical health and students need to understand the impact that poor mental health can have on the way people think, feel, and act. By taking a few moments to draw awareness to mental health, hopefully students will be able to break down the stigma that surrounds the issue and step up to support those in need.
One of the first steps in addressing mental health with young students is to have them learn how to name their feelings and recognize when they need to get help. Often children don’t know how to express the way they feel so they just say they are OK, happy, or sad.
Try introducing some new ‘feeling words’ by singing the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It…” Start with words that they know (happy, sad, scared). Then introduce words such as frustrated, confused, lonely, angry, frightened etc.) After each verse talk about specific things that could make them feel that way. Look for actions that might exemplify the emotion (e.g., confused- open your arms with palms up, lonely- curl in a ball, etc.). After singing, ask the children to try to use their new words to express to others how they are feeling.
Check out these sites for more ideas:
Remind students that everybody experiences situations that may be difficult to manage. Point out that some people have a harder time than others dealing with these difficult times. Discuss the fact that there are good ways and bad ways to respond to situations.
Using the ideas below, ask the students to think of good ways to respond to the following:
Encourage de-stressing ideas such as taking a deep breath, walking away, using assertive language to express yourself, writing down your feelings, trying another approach.
One of the biggest barriers to promoting positive mental health is the stigma that surrounds the topic. It is important that students learn to accept the notion of mental health in the same way they accept the reality of physical health.
Have students work with a partner to explore the meaning of stigma. Discuss what kind of stigma exists around the topic of mental health.
Ask students to think about ways that stigma negatively affects people (e.g., they may not seek help when they need it because they’re afraid to tell anyone they’re having problems). Ask about campaigns or activities they are aware of that aim to break down stigma around mental health. Are there any that they find especially effective? What else do they think could help reduce stigma about mental health?
Here are some additional websites that can support this activity: