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Activities to Support the Mental Health of Your Students

Novak Education
Novak Education
July 27, 2022

Mental Health Resources For Grades K-12

Mental health is on everyone’s mind.  The stresses of everyday living, inflation, sky-high gas prices, rising crime, increases in school shootings, global conflicts, and the ever-growing list of trouble in our personal and public lives continue to affect our individual and collective mental health. It is very important that educators, as well as their students, take care of their mental health by proactively exercising their minds and spirits.  

In 2018, the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health reported that 22.1% of children ranging from 3 to 17 years old have a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral concern (Deaton et al., 2022). However, in March of 2022, the CDC reported that the problem is getting worse: “According to the new data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year” (CDC, 2022). You likely already know this firsthand, as schools have long played an important role in supporting student mental health issues. Additionally, “Schools are the setting in which many early mental health problems are first identified (Jaycox et al., 2010). 

The CDC also mentions the importance of school connectedness in supporting student mental health. “School connectedness is a key to addressing youth adversities at all times – especially during times of severe disruptions,” said Kathleen A. Ethier, PhD, Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “Students need our support now more than ever, whether by making sure that their schools are inclusive and safe or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults.”

The mental health crisis is a big topic (too big, so we will let Ken Burns do the heavy lifting) which is why we wanted to share activities and strategies for supporting students' mental health. We have organized our list of classroom activities under the CASEL 5 competencies for social emotional learning (SEL):

The following list includes things you can do in your classroom to promote mental health. You will notice that many ideas don’t require special training, supplies, or huge amounts of time…just a desire to help. Note: Some links are used more than once as the article has multiple activities listed, and we assigned a grade-level based upon the activity if a grade-level wasn’t listed.

Review a word document or pdf of the resources below (PDF) (Word Doc)

Self-Awareness

Activity

Examples

  1. Get rid of the stigma and discuss mental health

           Video:  Reducing Stigma

  1. Address identity crisis
  2. Video: Repairing the identity crisis
  1. Help students find their identity
  2. Video: Finding Your Identity
  1. Teach students to meditate
  2. Video: Teach your children to meditate
  1. Teach students to breathe deeply
    Video: Deep Breathing
  1. Acknowledge emotions, don’t ignore them
  2. Video:  Understanding our feelings
  1. Open a Mental Health Dialogue
  2. Videos: We all have mental health | What is mental health?
  1. Create a Mood Tracker
  2. Video: Mood Tracker Ideas
  1. Facilitate Mental Health Check-Ins
  2. Video:  A Teachers Mental health Checkin
  1. Help them to picture a circle of control
  2. Video:  Circle of control
  1. Encourage your students to keep journals
  2. Video: 4 Benefits of Journaling
  1. Helping students reflect on thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  2. Video: Turn off the news | Website: Lesson Plan 
  1. Help student recognize emotions
    Video: Emotional Wellbeing
  1. Learn from fiction: discuss the feelings of book characters

Video:  Mental Health and fiction

  1. Discuss body image
  2. Video: All Dolled Up: Brenna’s Story

 

Self-Management

Activity

Examples

  1. Give an anonymous mental health quiz or self care check up

Video: What are mental health problems?

  1. SMART Goal Setting
  2. Video: SMART Goals
  1. Provide Brain Breaks
  2. Video:  Brain Breaks
  1. Give students time to mindfully color and draw
  2. Video: Benefits of Coloring
  1. Play fun group games
  2. Website: 40 Games
  1. Let the kids play board games
    1. Mental Health Management Bingo - Video
  1. Get Active! Go for a walk or exercise outdoors
  2. Video: How to manage your mental health
  1. Go on an adventure trip
  2. Video:  Jill’s Story
  1. Teach Social Emotional Skills. 
  2. (The activity is different, so we have included a link to CASEL SEL implementation.)

Video resources: PBS

 

Social Awareness

Activity

Examples

  1. The Safe Deposit Box.
  2. Think of this as an anonymous “suggestion box” that students can drop a note in about their own or a fellow student’s mental health.
  1. Create an atmosphere where all feelings are allowed
  2. Video:  Helping Bob Belong
  1. Build Healthy relationship skills
  2. Video: 8 Best Videos for all ages
  1. Conduct class meetings
  2. Video: Tips for class meeting

 

Relationship Skills

Activity

Examples

  1. How to Teach Relationship Skills
  2. Video: Social-Emotional Learning: Relationship Skills
  1. The Kindness Clock Craft
  2. Pinterest
  1. Show kindness to others
  2. Video: 5 Simple Ways
  1. Write Positive Post-Its
  2. Video: Acts of Kindness
  1. Have students practice gratitude
  2. Video:  Benefits of Gratitude

 

Responsible Decision Making

Activity

Examples

  1. Mental Illness: Myths and Reality

Video:Separating Mental Illness fact from fiction

  1. Build coping skills
    Video: Tools for supporting emotional wellbeing in children and youth
  1. View life through pink glasses

Website: What does it mean to Look thru Rose colored glasses

  1. Making students aware of support and resources
    Website:  Access to Care
  1. Health Resource - “Commercial Breaks"
  2. Commercial Breaks - Script

 

This work is more important than ever as we help our students address high-stress levels and poor mental health that interfere with learning. We hope this list helps as a starting point.

Continue your learning. Learn how to apply the best practices of UDL and SEL to improve student outcomes. 

 

 

 

 

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