World Mental Health Day – Classroom Tips

World Mental Health Day – Classroom Tips

Do we need a global conversation on mental health?

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) says, “Yes.” On October 10th we will be marking the World Mental Health Day, founded in 1992 by the WFMH, in order to raise awareness on mental health issues for all people. This year’s theme – Mental Health in the Workplace – is an opportunity to look at our work environments through the lens of mental health and speak openly about what promotes and what hinders wellbeing in the workplace.

With 60 percent of Canadian adults spending two thirds of their waking hours at work, the need to address mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. The WFMH explains that although one in four adults will experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime, prejudice and discrimination are significant barriers that prevent people from opening up and reaching out for support. For many organizations, ensuring that all people who experience mental illness feel safe enough to discuss their realities and needs with dignity requires a significant shift in workplace culture.

The Facts

Research indicates that mental illness is the leading cause of disability in Canada. With 34% of Ontario high-school students indicating a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression), it should come as no surprise that approximately 70 per cent of young adults living with mental health problems report the symptoms started in childhood.

Working Together to Create Safer Spaces

As educators who spend on average 900 hours a year with students, teachers have a very important role to play in helping students understand their thoughts, feelings, behaviours and affirming that like physical illness, mental illness should not be looked at any differently. Like physical or physiological illness, mental illness requires timely and appropriate treatment.

As educators, it is important that promoting mental health and discussing the complexities of mental illness takes priority in the classroom. Equipping students with this awareness from an earlier age means that they are not only able to identify their illness and seek out the appropriate treatment sooner, but they will be more likely to develop a healthier outlook on mental health which can benefit them greatly in their adult life.

In order to break the cycle of misconception surrounding mental health, educators can:

  • Help students form the appropriate language to express themselves
    • Ask students how they are feeling. Get them to name their feelings and think about where these are coming from so that they can get into the practice of talking about their feelings. Being able to name feelings and where they are coming from is a skill.
  • Facilitate conversations about mental health
    • Mental healthrefers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.
    • Good mental healthisn’t just the absence of mental health Mental and emotional health is about being happy, self-confident, self-aware, and resilient.
    • People who are mentally healthyare able to cope with life’s challenges and recover from setbacks. But mental and emotional health–requires knowledge, understanding and effort to maintain.
  • Teach them about various methods and forms of self-care
    • Meditation, deep breathing, silent reflection
    • Art as a mode of expression
    • Exercise
  • De-stigmatize mental illness
    • Sensitize students to the various forms of mental illness and the treatments available
    • Discuss and debunk the stigmas and negative stereotypes that surround mental illness. Explain that everybody has to actively work on their mental health

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