Special Awareness Days

First week of May - Mental Health Week


As we focus on the Canadian Mental Health’s Association’s Mental Health Week, it is no secret that it has been a challenging few years in many ways for students and teachers. The theme for this year's annual Canadian Mental Health Week is #MyStory. It is about the fact that everybody has their own story about mental health and how to help friends, family, and others by understanding and demonstrating empathy.

Did you know?

  • 40% of office visits to pediatricians are for mental health concerns.
  • 70% of mental health issues begin in childhood and adolescence.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians aged 10-24.
  • An estimated 1.2 million children are affected by mental health issues.
  • Less than 20% of those affected will receive appropriate treatment.
    • Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
    • The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.

Read more interesting facts from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

As disturbing as these facts are, it is also important to note that “Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.”

When it comes to what teachers and students can do, there are many opportunities to make a difference. Opening up conversations can be the first step.

This special week in May gives us the opportunity to take mental health discussions a step further by cultivating resilience and self–assurance in students and helping them to recognize and appreciate that it is okay to talk to someone about how they are feeling. 

This is a wonderful opportunity to help children and youth demonstrate compassion, empathy and understanding in a world that is experiencing so much isolation, fear and loneliness.

Activity Bursts

Grades K-2

Music, Emotions, Empathy, Vocabulary

Ask students to:

  • Clap their hands while spelling the word C-A-R-E.
  • Raise their hand if they can tell you what caring about someone or something means. Share several answers.
  • Put their hands on their hips if they can tell you how they care for themselves. Share.
  • Sit down if they can tell you what else they care about (such as people, pets, the environment, etc.).

Invite students to listen to the video “Caring Song” by Have Fun Teaching. Encourage dancing and singing along.


  • What was the message in this video?
  • Why do you think it is important to care about others?
  • How do you feel when you do something nice for someone?
  • •What words would you use to describe how you feel when someone does something to show they care about you?

Do a group brainstorm about ways that they can show they care about others.

Play the video again and ask students to sing along. Consider practising the song and recording a class rendition of it to put on the school website. (Note: Be mindful of your school or board policies on sharing content online. It is best to avoid showing faces or sharing names. For example, the visuals could include student-made posters of the key words in the song.)

Close by reminding students that learning how to name their feelings and sharing those feelings with others is an important way to help them manage their emotions. They are developing strategies that will help everyone, including themselves, get through the good times and the bad. 

Grades 3-5

Critical Thinking, Empathy, The Arts

Ask students to jot down their responses to the following question: If someone came up to you and asked you to name three things that you really care about, what would they be?

Ask the following questions and tally the responses:

  • How many of you listed:
    • some version of “family” (including pets)?
    • the “environment?”
    • a thing’, or some item that you have and really care about?
    • a friend?
    • a special event or holiday?
    • other (invite them to explain)?

Ask students how their answer would change if they could only choose one thing to care about. Discuss responses and then ask:

  • What did you find interesting about this activity?
  • What helped you to select your final choice?

Explain that caring about tangible things like your bike or gaming device is normal. We all care about things that we can do for exercise, fun, and excitement. Ask what the difference is between caring for a thing and caring for a person and invite volunteers to share responses. For example, discuss the fact that ‘things’ can’t care back, and ask why that would be important.

Invite students to create some way to demonstrate to others that caring about people is important. Here are some ideas:

  • Write a note to someone you care about and make sure they receive it.
  • Make a poster reminding people to care about each other.
  • Compose a short poem or song about caring for each other. Add dance moves and share.

Close by reminding students that when they care about others, others will care about them, today, and every day. That is why it’s important to be honest about our feelings and accept the feelings of others — in other words, “Get real about how you feel!”

Grades 6-8

Empathy, Critical Thinking, Collaboration

Have students to define the word “care.” Share the results.


  • What is the difference between “care about” and “care for?”
  • What do you think most kids your age care about? List and discuss findings. Any surprises? Concerns?
  • Why do you think that in today’s world, people need to demonstrate caring about others?
  • What does caring about others look like?

Invite students to brainstorm a list of ways that they can demonstrate empathy and caring— in their school, at home, with their friends, and in their communities. Share results.

As a class, select at least one practical suggestion and create a plan to effect positive change by performing a caring act. Consider extending this idea to other areas in the weeks ahead. After implementing your plan, track the progress over several days or weeks.

Close by asking:

  • Do you think we were successful with this strategy? Explain
  • What could we have done differently to improve the results?
  • Did this exercise help you to remember the importance of caring for others?

Alternate Activity:

Grades 3-5, 6-8

Vocabulary, Critical Thinking, Self-Awareness, Oral Communication

Discuss the theme for CMHA’s National Child and Youth Mental Health Week: #MyStory


  • What do you think this means?
  • Why do you think some kids your age are hesitant to tell anyone when they are feeling sad, lonely, afraid, or uncomfortable?
  • Why do you think it is important to share these feelings with someone you trust?
  • Without using names, who are some of the people that you could go to if you were experiencing some of these negative feelings? (e.g., parent, sibling, teacher, guidance counselor, doctor)

Ask students to create a personal word cloud of the various feelings and emotions they experience (see page 21 of the 2021 CMHA “School Toolkit” for some suggestions). Remind them to include both positive and negative words or expressions. Invite volunteers to share their word cloud. You may consider making a personal word cloud too!

Close by reminding students that sometimes just identifying and naming these emotions can help a person manage them in positive ways.

Special Day This Month!