Health Information

Teaching Mental Health Skills

Young people spend a great deal of time in school while their bodies – and brains – are developing. As our kids grow, each new experience brings a new challenge to overcome and sometimes they don’t yet have the tools they need to take them on.

The majority of mental illnesses begin in adolescence – while young people are still in school – making schools an optimal setting for early identification, intervention, and learning strategies and resources for good lifelong mental health. Research shows that promoting mental health in young people early on has lasting positive impact on social and emotional assets (self-worth, social skills), well-being (social behaviour and academic performance), and reduces negative well-being (conduct problems, emotional distress)¹.

There are many programs, techniques and resources out there that claim to work but not every program is created equal. When looking for ways to teach skills for healthy minds, connect with your mental health lead and consider these questions²:

  • Does the program address your needs?
  • Does it fit with other initiatives or programs happening?
  • Do you have the resources to implement it?
  • Is it evidence-based?
  • Are you, the students and your school ready for something like this?
  • Do you have the capacity to carry it out and scale it up if it works?

Mental health promotion activities aren’t add-ons, they’re add-ins. Hear from or learn more about other educators who have benefited from promoting mental health in their classrooms through the resources below and reach out to your mental health lead to understand how you can too!

Below are few things you can do to teach mental health skills in your classroom:

  • Make promoting positive mental health a part of your everyday classroom. Discussions on mental health aren’t reserved for one day a year, make it a part of the fabric of your day.
  • Get informed. Participate in training provided by the school board, utilize the resources for staff, know the pathway for getting help in your school. There are evidence-based interventions for your school or classroom recommended by Lambton Public Health.
  • Use your team. You’re not alone in this! While Boards are still building the infrastructure to support this work, there are colleagues there to help. Connect with your Principal first and brainstorm from there.
  • Keep at it. Introducing new activities that centre around emotions can be challenging, for both you and the students. Don’t give up if your first breathing exercise doesn’t work, help the students find what works for them, it will stay with them for years to come!
  • Keep parents and caregivers in the loop. They are new to this too!
  • Keep an eye out for changes in a student that are concerning. If you notice something, speak up  You may have one piece of information that, when combined with pieces from other staff, students, or caregivers, could indicate help is needed immediately. Learn more.
  • Take care of your own mental health. In order for us to be able to give to others, we need to have enough for ourselves. Practice self-care, connect with trusted colleagues and loved ones, and seek help for yourself when you need to. Learn about mental wellness.

If you are an educator, log in or register for an online account to access specific resources for you.

For more information contact Lambton Public Health.

  1. Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School‐Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta‐Analysis of Follow‐Up Effects. Child Dev, 88: 1156–1171. doi:10.1111/cdev.12864; Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A. and Weissberg, R. P. (2017)
  2. School Mental Health Decision Support Tool: Evidence-based Mental Health Promotion Programming, School Mental Health ASSIST, 2015