Teacher Companion Guide: Prevention of mental health disorders and mental health awareness/assistance

Teacher Companion Guide: Prevention of mental health disorders and mental health awareness/assistance




A downloadable version of this guide, the student writing prompt, rubrics and student handout are attached at the bottom of the article


Lesson Title: Prevention of mental health disorders and mental health awareness/assistance


Brief Summary: Everyone has mental health but not everyone experiences mental health problems or is diagnosed with a mental illness.  Mental health problems and mental illness are prevalent in youth.  During the course of a school year, 1 in 5 children in your school will have a diagnosable mental health disorder. 1 in 10 children and adolescents will suffer from a mental illness severe enough to result in significant impairment in his/her ability to function.

Mental health affects how we think and feel about things.  Being mentally healthy means, more often than not, you feel happy and content.  Everyone may feel sad, anxious, or depressed at times but those feelings go away.  If someone is feeling constantly sad, anxious, depressed, worried, or unable to pay attention, and those feelings remain for more than two weeks, it could indicate something more serious that needs to be addressed.  

Just like helping a physical illness, for example taking aspirin for a headache, there are coping strategies and tools we can use to help feelings seem less overwhelming. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. Practicing self-care which includes focusing on balanced nutrition, getting enough sleep, curating healthy relationships, and expressing your feelings with words instead of impulses are all great strategies for good mental health.


PLEASE NOTE: Everybody has stressful days, happy days, and sad days. It is typical for adolescents to have mood swings and strong emotional responses on occasion. However, if changes in mood or behaviors are impairing a student’s ability to function academically or socially, and last more than two weeks, please contact the school counselor or district Mental Health Professional.


Response Guidelines

If a student asks a question or shares information that you don’t have the answers to or know how to respond to, take the following steps:

   1. Stay calm.

   2. Validate what the student said and how brave they were to share.

   3. Let them know that you want to help in any way possible while protecting their privacy.

   4. If the response indicates an emergency, get help immediately.

   5. If the response does not indicate an emergency, get help as soon as class is over.


Lesson Objectives

  1. Students will learn what mental health is and the differences between everyday feelings and overwhelming feelings.  
  2. Students will learn about common mental health problems facing youth their age.  
  3. Students will learn about the importance of self-care and taking care of their mental health in positive ways.  


Shared vocabulary:

  1. Mental Health - is a state of emotional, behavioral, and social well-being, not just the absence of a mental or behavioral disorder.  It is based on how we think, act, and feel.  
  2. Mental Illness - refers to a range of brain disorders that affect mood, behavior, and thought process and interfere with functioning at home and/or school. The terms mental illness and mental disorder are often used interchangeably.
  3. Everyday feelings - Everyday feelings come and go and are a normal reaction to what is happening in our lives.  They are always changing and don’t usually hang around for too long.  
  4. Overwhelming feelings - Overwhelming feelings hang around for a long time, changing the way we feel, behave, and may even stop us from doing what we want in life.  These overwhelming feelings can sometimes be a sign of something more serious that needs to be addressed.


Key Takeaways:

  1. Everyone has mental health and taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.   
  2. Mental health problems and mental illness are common in youth; about 1 in 5 students will experience a mental health issue. 
  3. There are many healthy coping strategies students can use to handle strong feelings.


Upon completion of viewing online content Students will learn that mental health problems affect kids their age and are treatable.  It’s not something they need to be afraid to talk about with others. 


Teachers: Please have students complete the activity on the following page. As we connect today’s lesson to our curriculum, please use the appropriate grade-level rubric to assess your students. 


Continue the Conversation:

  1. The connectivity between thinking-feeling-doing: How can we connect what we think about the content we just reviewed to how we are feeling? What actions can you take to apply this information in a meaningful way?
  2. Self, Others, World: How can you use the information you learned in this lesson to help yourself? To help your friends and family? To help other people with mental illnesses?
  3. Mental health is about awareness: What awareness did today’s content bring about in you? Identify some actions or behaviors you may be able to replace with healthier options. 


Additional activities/resources/suggested reading:






Prevention of mental health disorders and mental health awareness/assistance student writing prompt


Question: We know that there are things we can do to take care of our bodies like eating health foods and getting enough exercise and sleep. How can you also take care of your mental health?

Grading rubrics for all grades are attached at the bottom.


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