It’s Mental Health Month, and today is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. 11.01% of 12-17 year olds reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in 2017, and suicide is the third leading cause of death for children aged 10-14.
It’s important for schools to stay up-to-date on mental health issues, and crucial for schools to be able to open a dialogue with students and extend them support when they are struggling. We’ve compiled 5 action items you can take as a school to promote mental health awareness for your students and staff:
1. Educate Students About Existing Resources
Nearly 80% of 6-17 year olds who are defined as needing mental health services do not receive mental health treatment. One way to address that gap is to make students and staff aware of all the campus resources that are available for them to take advantage of.
2. Open a Mental Health Awareness Club
The best part about this method is that these clubs can largely be student-run. You can even initiate a new chapter of National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in your school. NAMI clubs are easily adaptable to the needs of its students and greater school community. It’s even possible to advertise and host the events of the local chapter at your school!
3. Talk About it In the Classroom/Integrate it Into the Curriculum
50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Mental health is an incredibly important topic for children to be aware of. Not every classroom will be able to incorporate mental health beyond a short lesson, but the more understanding children have the more empowered they will be. For lesson plan and classroom activity ideas, click here and here.
4. Host a Mental Health Festival
Set up fun booths that educate students about resources offered by the school and community, common mental health struggles students experience, and effective strategies to help themselves in moments of distress. It’s also an opportunity to partner and feature local nonprofits as well as presentations from student leaders.
5. Train Your Staff in Mental Health
Educators aren’t typically given training for mental health situations that are not child abuse, neglect, and bullying. Teachers are the first line of support that a student frequently encounters when they are struggling, and it is difficult for them to recognize signs or know how to handle a situation when they don’t have the knowledge. Mental Health First Aid training is an actionable way to remedy this and arm your teachers with more ways they can support the healthy development of their students.
Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss, but opening the dialogue and providing a safe, supportive space for students at school makes a huge impact. It can even save a life. For more information and resources on how to incorporate conversations around mental health in your school, check out the following links: