How to Teach Mental Health to Your Students

A tablet on a floral-patterned fabric displaying the words "Mental Health Matters" on the screen

Why Is It Important to Teach Mental Health
to Your Students

Recent statistics show that many young people struggle with mental health differences, with about half of teenagers experiencing a mental health condition at some point. Sadly, suicide rates have been increasing, making it the second-leading cause of death among young people.

When we don’t talk about mental health, students may feel afraid of speaking out about their worries, confidence, or anxiety, which results in these difficulties increasing in severity. 

But when we talk about mental health, it makes a big difference.

First off, it helps to break down the stigma surrounding mental health differences. When we talk openly about mental well-being, it creates a safe space where students feel comfortable sharing their feelings.

Additionally, teaching mental health allows us to spot potential concerns early on, so students can get help sooner.

Learning about mental health also gives students tools to cope with stress and anxiety, empowering them to take care of themselves.

With proper mental health education, we can create a healthier environment for our students where they feel supported and understood.

8 Ways to Teach Mental Health

An illustration with two contrasting figures: one appears overwhelmed with a tangled line above her head, while the other sits confidently, juggling balls, with puzzle pieces coming together below

Teaching mental health is important, and right now, three states in the USA currently mandate it in curriculums. What’s more, many schools are promoting mental health practices and teaching mental health awareness.

So, now that you’ve decided to integrate mental health into your classroom, where do you start? Here are some strategies for teaching mental health to students.

#1: Talk about Mental Health

Just like how we all catch colds sometimes, no one is mentally healthy ALL of the time.

Talking openly about mental health in your classroom can help your students understand it better. 
Have conversations around emotions, stress, and mental well-being. Normalize mental health discussion!

Remember, some of your students might not know much about mental health, while others might have personal experiences with it. Let’s be ready to talk about them with care. Create a safe and open environment where students feel comfortable discussing mental health.

Once you have students talking, you can explain the definition of mental health, and that it’s not shameful or negative to have trouble with our mental health.

#2: Use Educational Resources

Thinking about what to teach and how to teach mental health can be overwhelming. Why not lighten the load by using educational resources?

Check out your school or community libraries for books and articles that cover mental health themes in your curriculum. Look for materials from reputable authors, mental health professionals, or organizations in mental health education.

There are also a lot of resources available online! 

You can find a ready-made lesson about Mental Health Awareness that include discussion prompts, worksheets, and quizzes.

Or, kick off your class by watching a video. YouTube has plenty of FREE videos that talk about Mental Health. Show the video and see what questions or comments your students have.

#3: Invite Guest Speakers

Invite guest speakers (such as mental health professionals or individuals with lived experience) to offer expertise and valuable insights. The speaker might cover topics like common mental health conditions, coping strategies, or personal stories.

After the speaker’s presentation, you can have a follow-up discussion or you can facilitate a reflection so they can understand the topic better.

#4: Use Interactive Activities

Get students involved in fun ways when teaching about mental health. Use interactive activities that engage your students in meaningful ways and promote discussion and reflection.

Here are some examples:

  • Play a game of emotion charades where your students will act out various emotions.
  • Create a wheel that’s similar to “Spin-a-Wheel” where feelings are listed in sections, and have your students spin to select an emotion. Then, they’ll tell about a time when they’ve felt that way.
  • Do mindfulness exercises like deep breathing, body scans, or basic yoga.
  • Provide students with journaling prompts related to mental health topics.
  • Present real-life scenarios showing mental health challenges and have your students brainstorm solutions in small groups.
  • Role-play different coping skills for managing stress or difficult emotions.

Feel free to adjust the activities based on the age and development level of your students!

A smiling young girl lying on her stomach on a blue exercise mat, resting her chin on her hands, with other children in the background also on mats

#5: Integrate Mental Health in Your Curriculum

If you don’t have time to add a separate lesson for mental health, that’s not a problem. You can still teach about it by integrating the topic into your existing curriculum.

For example, you can use themes of stress management and emotional regulation in subjects like health education and psychology. You can also discuss characters’ mental health struggles in your literature class. Even using statistics related to mental health can help you integrate the topic into your math subject.

#6: Address the Stigma

Stigma refers to the negative attitudes, misconceptions, and stereotypes that surround mental health. When not addressed, it can lead to discrimination and social exclusion.

As a teacher, you can help stop the stigma by teaching mental health stigma awareness and keeping all conversations with your students open and non-judgemental.

Teach your students the importance of empathy, acceptance, and inclusivity towards individuals with mental health difficulties. You can hang coloring pages or posters that promote mental health awareness around your classroom so they can serve as a reminder for your students that mental health should not be stigmatized.

#7: Do Self-Awareness Exercises

Self-awareness helps your students understand their own feelings, thoughts, and actions better. These exercises can help teach self-awareness:

  • Journaling

Tell your students to keep journals where they write about what they’ve been doing and how they feel. They can even set small goals for themselves, which they can check off upon completion.

When they feel they’re achieving positive things, they will feel better about themselves.

  • Mood Tracking

Teach your students how to rate their moods on a scale, or how to make a mood tracker chart. They can do this for a week, or even for a year.

By looking at their tracker charts over time, they can see how their mood changes and learn more about their mental health.

Tracking moods helps them become aware of how they feel, which makes it easier for them to manage their emotions.

With these exercises, your students can learn more about themselves and how to take care of their mental health.

#8: Teach Help-Seeking Behaviors and Coping Strategies

Just because your students understand mental health and are aware of themselves doesn’t mean they’re immune to mental health challenges. So, when they find themselves feeling stressed or anxious, it can be really helpful if they know how to deal with it.

One way is by teaching them different self-care practices, like taking deep breaths or doing activities they enjoy. Another helpful strategy is teaching problem-solving skills that can make students feel more confident and less overwhelmed when facing tough situations.

It’s also important to show students that it’s okay to ask for help. Most students feel unsure about seeking help, so it’s important to remind them that it’s okay to reach out when they’re struggling. They can seek support from their trusted people like parents, teachers, counselors, or friends.

A woman and a young girl sit close together on a yellow couch

We teachers are not limited to shaping our students’ academic futures. We shape their overall well-being. By teaching mental health in our classroom, we can create a supportive environment where our students feel understood and ready for life’s challenges. So, get creative and start teaching about mental health!