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 

11 Comments

  1. Mental health has been a taboo in the United States for far too long. I think this is an excellent discussion to be having children, teens, and adults currently, as many are/were suffering from the pandemic with mental health issues. I feel everyone could use someone to speak with on a professional level. Whether you think you need help or not, you likely suffer from something mental health-related with or without realizing it. Learning how to deal with your stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues plays a vital role in one’s health and shouldn’t be taken lightly or swept under the rug. Overall, the information provided is super helpful!

  2. I feel like mental health, especially in schools, is typically glossed over. Administrators will play a video or two and give a little speech about how important mental health is and how much they care, but then when it’s time to follow through and take action, they fall short. Learning how to make school a safe place for students to voice their issues and seek help, as well as showing teachers how to identify certain issues on their own is definitely the way to go. As a former student who had to sit through those videos and then watch as the school stopped caring and taking notice as to how students were doing, I am hopeful that we’ll see more involvement and effort to create the best environment possible for students to address and improve their mental health.

  3. I think this is a very important topic. I like that this article points out that mental health is such a taboo topic, and in order to solve problems with mental health, talking about mental health issues needs to become more normalized. I think that it can be really hard to talk about something that is bothering you if you feel like it is embarrassing, but if people talked about their mental health problems more than people are doing, I think it would be easier for more people to open up about their struggles. I think this is especially important for teenagers and other young people because many people may have mental health issues that have become normalized in their head, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. They may have mental health problems without knowing it. If they can talk it out and realize that they have them, they may be able to get better.

  4. I think this is a very important topic to be discussing right now! Mental health is a serious issue happening these days and it is important that we stay on top of it. Everyone in my opinion has had or does have some type of mental health issue, especially over these past couple of years, and they should seek help when needed so things do not build up and become worse than they should. It was interesting to read that Gen Z is the loneliest generation on record because I did not know that. Phones and the internet have been the biggest reason for this. It is great that this topic is becoming more aware to everyone.

  5. I love this topic and I love how mental health is becoming important to society. I, myself, have struggled with mental health most of my life. The fact that awareness and information are continuing to be acknowledged by others makes me feel better about the younger generation. I feel like in today’s society, it is great that we teach a younger audience (and everyone in general) how to deal with emotions and struggles that can occur in everyday life. We learn how to deal with stress, depression, and more that could become a major hill to climb if we don’t focus on it now.

  6. 1.
    Mental health awareness is very important in today’s society. Even before the pandemic, the number of people killing themselves yearly had been increasing with every passing year. The headlines on my Apple News app just read “Child suicide is on the rise in America”. People are increasingly feeling lost and without hope and the most ignorant part of it that tends to ultimately leads to unfortunate suicide is the denial of society that this problem does not even exist. In other to face this problem head-on it is imperative to attack the issue from it’s roots. Helping the younger generation to become more and more aware of these issues can put them in a better position to fight this cankerworm

    2.
    Most people struggling with mental health issues feel like they will be judged as even weaker by their peers, friends and loved ones if they open up about their mental issues. In addition to fighting mental health issues, the refusal or denial of this problem has caused a lot of people to remain in the state of mental illness.

  7. I love this topic and I love how mental health is becoming an importance to society. The fact that awareness and information is continuing to be acknowledged for others. I feel like in today’s society, it is great that we teach a younger audience (and everyone in general) how to deal with emotions and struggles that can occur in everyday life. We learn how to deal with stress, depression, and more that could become a major hill to climb if we don’t focus on it now. Overall, I feel that the sources provided and the information given was extremely helpful!

  8. I was excited to see that this was a topic of yours this month. Mental Health is such an important topic that a lot of people tend to overlook or feel ashamed to voice. It should be looked at the same way that diabetes or heart disease are looked at. I like that you provided links to resources.

  9. Since May was mental health awareness month and this is something I have a passion for, I was excited to see this article posted this week. I think it’s super interesting that when you look at numbers, current generations are lonelier and more depressed than previous generations. Yet these new generations are the ones who have access to the internet and are supposed to be the most connected group yet. I’m glad that this article provides several resources for educators and possibly students alike.

  10. I feel as if mental health awareness is very important in todays society, not only for they youth but for all ages. Many people suffer from mental health and do not realize that it is what it is and if they do they are afraid to talk about it as they will be shunned. Mental health needs to be a public awareness and taught in school at the middle school age or even the last of the elementary school. Education today is so worried about the “core curriculum” that they loose focus on the education for everyday life, it struggles and how to make it in the “real world.” We need to talk about how students are feeling, what they do as stress relief, who do they confide in if anyone. Where do they turn? Many turn to the streets and take a road that is not one that they should be traveling. Once they get a taste of the street life with drugs and alcohol they realize that they can escape from their feelings. It can lead to suicide and overdose. Without knowing who they can reach out to we are fighting a never-ending battle.

    • I feel that mental health awareness is very important especially in todays society. There are many teens and young adults who have mental health disorders that they don’t even realize they have. I feel it is hard to monitor this in teens due to the hormone changes that go along with being a teenager. I also feel that teens have more trouble asking for help in fear of worsening peer pressure. I do feel that the Covid pandemic has played a big role in the increase in mental health issues with our youth today. It seems as though the age for suicide is getting younger and younger. Mental health issues is a topic that I am very passionate about because my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Borderline Personality disorder when he was only 17 years old. Mental health illnesses are a very hard thing to watch your child go through. I feel that it is very important for public schools to have more resources to and knowledge related to mental illness. My son was in high school when he was first diagnosed with his disorders and the school had a program they put on the computers that sent a notification to the principle and guided counselors if any student search the web for anything pertaining to suicide or harming themselves or others. I thought this was a very goods idea. I think that schools should require a class on the effects of bullying and on mental health disorders so more people can understand mental health better. I do feel that the stigma against mental health does prevent a lot of people from getting treatment, in fear of what others may say or fear of being made fun or or looked down upon. This is one of my favorite articles and I’m very glad it was on the site.

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