Strategies to Support a Peer, Friend or Family Member With a Mental Health Disorder

Strategies to Support a Peer, Friend or Family Member With a Mental Health Disorder





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

Lesson Title: Strategies to support a peer, friend, or family member with a mental health disorder


Brief Summary: Students will view a video of a celebrity discussing personal experiences with mental illness. Students will learn that talking about mental health disorders doesn’t diminish their impact or encourage them, so we shouldn’t avoid these discussions. The lesson reminds students that everyone wants to feel included, so we should invite others to join us in activities, look for the positives and offer hope. It also guides the students to seek a trusted adult for assistance, discusses reasons teens might seek counseling and reminds them to listen without giving judgment of the person’s situation.  Students are given the following guidance:

  • Calm down before reacting
  • Give time to cool off if there is conflict
  • Think things through
  • This isn’t forever
  • You are not alone


PLEASE NOTE: 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, 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 be able to define depression. 
  2. Students will learn basic steps to supporting a peer/friend/family member with a mental health disorder
  3. Students will be able to identify specific things they can do to support someone who is living with a mental health issue


Shared vocabulary:

  1. Depressiona common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable.
  2. Anxiety- a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an event or something with an uncertain outcome.
  3. Mental health disorders are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). 


Key Takeaways:

  1. Many people struggle with mental health disorders
  2. There are many different types of mental health disorders
  3. You can make a difference to someone who has a mental health disorder


Upon completion of viewing online content:


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:










Strategies to support a peer, friend, or family with a mental health disorder



Question: Describe steps you can take to support a friend or family member with a mental health disorder. 



Grading rubrics for all grades are attached at the bottom.