Building Well-Being: Fostering Mental Health in Schools | Facing History & Ourselves
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Building Well-Being: Fostering Mental Health in Schools

Prioritizing the mental health of your students is vital to learning. This curated list of resources can assist in modeling healthy habits.

The tween and teen years are a time of major physical and emotional change and growth. Young adults are becoming more independent while trying to navigate their identity, deal with peer pressure both in person and on social media, and figure out what they want their future to look like: it’s a lot. Often accompanying this developmental stage are the first symptoms of some mental health conditions, making mental health care of particular importance during this time. Mental challenges that commonly come up during adolescence include those related to anxiety, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity, and issues with disordered eating. And because what’s happening in the brain is intricately tied to learning, mental health can affect academic outcomes and the development of social skills that are such key parts of student life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that the “number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing.” While this data is distressing, there are many ways to curb this trend, including involving school staff and peers in the creation of safe and nurturing learning spaces. 

And while teachers play a vital role in supporting the mental health of their students, it cannot come at the cost of their own well-being. Being a teacher is challenging and requires a lot of emotional energy and it’s critical that educators carve out enough time for their own mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) promotes the concept of “no health without mental health.” Taking care of and checking in on our mental state is a necessary part of maintaining the wellness of our bodies, and in fact poor mental health can lead to additional health complications.

Asking teachers to be a part of mental health management can feel like another big task for already overworked educators, and it is. But with the right tools in hand, incorporating and prioritizing mental health strategies with your students can lighten the daily load of your job by minimizing behavioral interruptions and establishing a supportive environment for both adults and young learners.

As we honor Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Facing History has pulled a selection of our resources that can center mental health in the school setting, promote conversation, and outline ways for your classroom community to check-in with one another.

Mini-Lesson: Protecting Teen Mental Health
Learn about some of the factors impacting teen mental health and actions we can take to promote wellbeing.

Mini-Lesson: Creating Healthy News Habits
These activities will teach students how to develop healthy habits for protecting their mental health while staying informed and taking action.

Mini-Lesson: What Does It Mean to Live with Social Media?
Students will sharpen their media literacy skills as they evaluate the impact of social media on their lives and question how we can manage social media’s harmful effects.

Teaching Strategy: Toolbox for Care
Invite students to think about the “tools” they have access to that can help them take care of themselves and their community in the wake of traumatic news.

Activity: Three Good Things
Students can practice gratitude and positive thinking by naming and recording three good things that have happened that day.

Article: How to Build an Affirming Classroom in the Face of Anti-Trans Legislation
From the CDC: "Nearly half (45%) of LGBQ+ students in 2021 seriously considered attempting suicide." In response to the rise of legislation targeting transgender people, these resources guide educators in building an affirming, welcoming class community for students, especially trans and non-binary students.

Toolkit: Building Community for Connection and Learning
Although originally designed as a back-to-school resource, this guide can be utilized throughout the year and contains activities and routines to help you create a sense of community, build relationships, and nurture students’ social-emotional needs.

Resource Collection: Combating Bullying and Bias: Resources for Parents and Caregivers
Support teenagers’ social and emotional wellbeing with these strategies adapted from Facing History’s evidence-based leading classroom materials.