Teaching Resources for Mental Health Awareness

By outhWell/ Teachers, Parents Train in Youth Mental Health First Aid in Santa Barbara County

Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Introduction
Even though we are well into the twenty-first century there is a lack of awareness and information about mental health, and a stigma associated with mental illness. That is, people are often comfortable acknowledging and addressing physical illnesses and disabilities, but are slow to acknowledge and address mental disabilities. As such, individuals cannot be properly treated or often do not get the help they need.  


Image by Lakeshore Public Radio | By Dee Dotson

Stressors Unique to Our Day
The month of May has been designated as mental health month. Whether it is May or not, mental health awareness as well as treatment and coping strategies are always in order. With the COVID-19 pandemic lingering on, a virus that caused the world to be in quarantine and social distance for nearly two years, we should be more concerned about our mental health. What are the effects on the mental health of our youth? What are the long term effects of social distancing and quarantine? Other factors such as online learning, natural disasters and recent mass shootings have also taken a toll on the mental health of our youth. PBS Learning Media has created videos and teaching resources to address specific aspects of mental health related to youth. Below we have also included teaching and learning resources from other sites. 

Even though more people understand that mental illness is
caused by brain biology, it still carries a stigma. iStockphoto.com

Suicide Prevention: How Can Schools Help? | Above the Noise
“No one wants to talk about it, but suicide is a leading cause of death among teens. The good news is, schools are uniquely positioned to help. Student reporters from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs investigate what schools can do. Have your students watch the video and respond to the question in KQED Learn. Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.”

Why Is Each Generation Getting Lonelier? | Above the Noise
“Did you know Gen Z is the loneliest generation on record? And, yes, this was true before the pandemic. (Also true: There is an actual survey that measures teen loneliness.) Loneliness can be tough to deal with, and its causes are hard to nail down. But, as usual, Myles has data to analyze and evidence to evaluate. Once you hear it, let us know what you think. Why is Gen Z so lonely? And what can be done about it?”

Stressin’ Out! | Spot on Science
“Stressing out over an upcoming test or a big game at school? Dr. Lisa Rameriz explains how stress can actually be a good thing and what to do when it turns toxic.”

Can Trauma Be Passed to the Next Generation Through DNA?
“Learn about the genetic factors that may make a person more prone to anxiety with this video and educational resources from PBS NewsHour from August 30, 2015.”

Idris Mitchell | Mysteries of Mental Illness
“Learn how Idris Mitchell came to terms with his bipolar disorder many years after his diagnosis and how he now monitors and manages his illness, in this video from Decolonizing Mental Health.”

The Hidden Pandemic Documentary
“For more than a year, COVID-19 has dominated headlines as it has steadily killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Behind the scenes, another deadly illness, already worsening dramatically in recent years, has spread like wildfire during lockdown. Kansas City PBS shines a light on this continued threat with The Hidden Pandemic, a documentary focusing on the lives of Kansas Citians navigating mental illness. Through personal interviews with patients and the health care professionals who treat them, The Hidden Pandemic uncovers challenges faced on the journey to improving and maintaining mental health.”

Other Mental Health Awareness Teaching and Learning Resources
133 Mental Health and Learning Resources for Kids and Teens
Mental Health Resources For Adolescents and Young Adults
Be the Change: Mental Health Lessons
Teaching About Mental Health Awareness (Month)
Search Social Emotional Lesson Plans
Social-Emotional Learning Lesson Plans for Elementary Classrooms

Discussion Questions

1. How important is mental health awareness in today’s society? How important is being aware of mental health and having resources in public schools?

2. How does a stigma against mental health prevent effective treatment?

We are open to feedback and discussion. If you see any typos or grammatical errors please feel free to email the author and editor at the address below.

Dr. David Childs
childsd1@nku.edu 

7 Comments

  1. This is a powerful article regarding both the mental health of students and other people around us. Unfortunately, it is one that hits home for many people and Dr. Childs made some very great points above. The first one that really stood out to me is without being able to acknowledge and address any mental disabilities, it makes it almost impossible for people to be taken care of and given the attention and treatment that they so deserve. Another great point that was made is how much our students have been affected by the pandemic, online learning, natural disasters, and mass shootings just to name a few. After coming out of a global pandemic, now more than ever should there be an emphasis on prioritizing our students and the status of their mental health. Dr. Childs provides some wonderful resources here to ensure that we are not only creating this space to familiarize people with mental disabilities, but also doing our part in helping where we can.

  2. This article is important for all teachers to see. Every school that I have been placed in, I have met several students in my class who come from a difficult home. I found these students detached from their peers and their education. This article provides resources for teachers who encounter students like these. With the help and knowledge of mental health, we can help students find their joy in life. We can create a safe place for students to come to, so that they know that there are people who care. Most importantly, we can make mental health awareness a cultural norm.

  3. This article is extremely important to today. As we continue to go through COVID 19, I can tell that this has impacted the youth immensely. Currently, I am at an elementary school where the students who are in 4th grade and up are having a very hard with paying attention in class. This was the classes that were majorly effected by the pandemic and they struggle with classroom management skills. They have a hard time following directions and focusing on the task at hand. They are also very isolated and have a hard time telling people their feelings. These students having to go online and being at home in their comfort zones has forced them to become more isolated. Being a teacher during COVID had to have been one of the hardest things ever. Keeping the students concentrated and having the do the work must have been very difficult. This most likely took a huge toll on the teachers, and once they have come out of quarantine they feel even more under appreciated for all of the work they do. This will also take a mental toll on a person who wants to teach students, and wants to see them grow. I believe that mental health is so important to students and to teachers. And I only hope that we continue to push to make it important for teachers to maintain, and for the students to learn how to maintain it themselves as well.

  4. This article is extremely relevant and important to reference in today’s society. As a teacher, we should be informed about mental health and how we can help our students who might be dealing with anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or other mental illnesses. I am glad the resources are included in the article to make it easier for teachers to talk about these topics with their students in the classroom. Even if a student is not familiar with mental illnesses, these resources would be a great way to reduce the negative stigma around mental illnesses, and also serve as a reminder to students that they might not be aware of what their friends or classmates might be going through. As a teacher, I am a huge advocate for SEL and believe it should be incorporated into classrooms everyday, even with elementary schoolers. Students should be familiar with their feelings from a young age and also recognize that it is normal and okay to go through a range of emotions. These resources should be accessible to students, and teachers, at all times within the school day to create a comfortable, welcoming, and helpful environment for students.

  5. It cannot be denied that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of mental health tolls. Too much research, people’s personal experiences, and the statistics show this same thing. As a university student during the pandemic, it was hard for a lot of student’s mentally, especially during the Spring 2021 semester where it was all online and the pandemic seemed never-ending. For me, I had no Zoom meetings, so I talked to no classmates or professors during that semester. It was just doing assignments and engaging in material, like an online class would be set up. It was quite a lonely experience, considering college is suppose to be a life changing experience. Being in classrooms, when schools got back to in person instruction, it was evident how they were impacted too. A lot of students didn’t participate as much as they probably would have before the pandemic. A lot of them seemed defeated, sad, and tired of school as a whole. The pandemic could be a huge cause of that. Taking hands on and in person teaching took a toll on the younger generations that will take years to catch up unfortunately.

  6. When dealing with people every day, it’s important to have good mental health because it affects the way we act, talk, and interact with people and the space around us. Being in a job where mishaps and hard days are around every corner, it can be difficult to maintain positivity, especially if one is in a state of distress already. Covid definitely hit hard, leading to what is now the biggest teacher shortage in America… it’s a tough job and it requires a tough person. Being an educator is stressful and it’s important to find ways to diffuse and focus on mental health. Mental health itself isn’t often focused on, especially those of teachers; there isn’t enough talk and not enough resources provided. This article provides a multitude of resources, however, and it’s great to start making sure mental health as a person is well taken care of so that as a teacher, the students are well taken care of.

  7. Mental health took a huge toll during and after the covid pandemic. Online learning for any college degree seeking student was very difficult. The role of a teacher candidate trying to experince hands on time time in the classroom completely vanished when the world was shut down. The mental health of people decreased and this article gives great respources to support any teacher candidate or teacher. I did not only notice a decline in the mntal health of teacher and degree seeking teachers but also our young learners. A huge difference I saw going into the classrooms before covid and going into the classrooms after covid was young learner’s handwriting and how they hold a pencil. When I was at my observations during my Pro 1 semester, I noticed a lot of students lacking social skills in the classroom. The second graders I had, had never experinced a in person classroom setting before. That year I was with them, was the first year they got to be in the classroom.

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