Schools have a unique opportunity to positively influence students through educating, role modeling, and creating healthy and supportive learning environments. Building positive mental health in school environments involves addressing the basic psychological or positive mental health needs of students, staff and other members of the school community.
The promotion of positive mental health is best achieved by:
- Addressing the 5 components of Positive Mental Health: ability to enjoy life, capacity to work through challenges, emotional well-being, spiritual well-being, and equity, respect for cultures, and dignity within social environments.
- Providing opportunities for students to practice and develop specific skills in order to build hope and resilience (e.g., effective communication, decision making, conflict resolution, coping and stress management, and mindfulness).
- Providing opportunities for interactive learning (e.g. role playing, simulations, small group work).
- Engaging students in planning and delivering of information.
- Providing opportunities for youth engagement and peer-led mentorship.
- Creating activities and experiences that provide students with a sense of accomplishment.
- Establishing clear and consistent expectations for behaviour.
- Praising good behaviour – find one good thing to notice each day and good behaviour will most likely follow.
- Providing mental health awareness activities using the School Mental Health Decision Support Tool’s essential ingredients:
- Part of a comprehensive plan, not a one-off presentation.
- Aligned with school and board mental health initiatives.
- Evidence-based or evidence informed.
- Delivered in the appropriate format for the audience.
- Inclusive and culturally sensitive.
- Parent/guardian awareness/consent.
- Risks for vulnerable students.
- Follow up support/opportunity for debriefing.
- Creating a school environment where students feel like they belong (e.g. offering roles as school helpers or as reps on school committees).
- Encouraging students to be involved in a wide range of activities that emphasize their interests and preferences (competency, autonomy).
- Establishing positive relationships with students (e.g. listening in a supportive way, expressing interest in their life).
- Supporting positive peer relationships.
- Creating/supporting school policies that address positive school climate.
- Involving families and the community to help create a positive school climate (e.g. volunteering, mentoring).
- Connecting students and families to community supports, when appropriate.
Resources to support implementation can be found in the sections below. Educators may also contact their School’s Public Health Nurse for additional support and consultation.
Kids Have Stress Too! (Grades 1–3)
This research-based program is built on an experiential learning approach. Its aim is to help educators create teachable moments to introduce stress management strategies and build emotional resiliency. The program features:
- A teacher’s guide with an overview of the program, including
- A list of supplies or materials needed
- Step-by-step lesson plans
- Tips, facts or suggestions on how to extend or modify the activity
- Photocopy masters
- A letter for parents
- A series of tip and fact sheets, curriculum connections and other resources for educators
- Links to where to find more information relevant to teachers, caregivers and others working with children
Stress Lessons Toolkit (Grades 4–6)
Stress Lessons is a free resource designed to help you teach children how to manage stress today, and for the rest of their lives. This program will help you introduce children to the topic of stress in a fun and engaging way.
Kids Have Stress Too! (Grades 7–9)
The aim of this resource is to help educators create teachable moments to introduce stress-management strategies and skills and build emotional resiliency in their students and themselves. This resource is intended for adults who work with youth who are in grades 7–9 in classrooms and other educational and recreational settings. There are accompanying resources for students, as well as family members and other caregivers.
Can You Feel It? Stress Workshop and Resource Guide (2011) (Grades 5–7)
This DVD is an engaging 20 minute video that takes students through a day in the life of today’s teen. Alex’s story can be used to initiate a discussion about all aspects of stress and how it really affects them. The accompanying Stress Workshop and Resource Guide provides teachers with resources to give their students the opportunity to start building and planning their own “life Design” and to ultimately help foster their individual resiliency.
Roots of Empathy (JK–Grade 8)
This program teaches “emotional literacy” where children learn to reflect on their own feelings and others feelings by observing a neighbourhood baby who regularly visits the classroom. They learn about social inclusion, human development and the uniqueness of individuals, how to challenge cruelty and injustice, and what a loving parent-child relationship looks like. Aggression levels in the classroom have been shown to decrease dramatically over the course of the year.
Youth/Student Development (JK–Grade 12)
Youth/student development is the process through which young people acquire the cognitive, social, and emotional skills and abilities required to navigate life.
The Health Unit can support school implementation by:
- Providing staff training and curriculum support on the following:
- body image and self-esteem
- communication, refusal and conflict resolution skills
- identifying and maintaining healthy relationships
- healthy relationships and safe choices
- stress management
- risk management, substance use, injury prevention and harm reduction
A Tool for Every Educator (JK–Grade 8)
A Tool for Every Educator resource, along with staff training, provides evidence based information to help you have a positive impact on student’s physical activity, healthy eating, body image and self-esteem. Tips in this resource focus on role modeling, teaching and creating a supportive school environment.
Beyond Images (Grades 4–8)
*It is not recommended that Grade 5 Lesson 2 be completed with students.
Beyond Images invites youth to engage in the world of media on their terms! Students learn how media messages are constructed both mechanically and symbolically – then learn to make their own media messages about beauty beyond the obvious. Beyond Images explores current concepts of male and female beauty and what it means to “fit in”, helping students understand and develop resilience against negative messaging.
The Student Body (Grades 4–6)
This teacher training module is designed to help alert teachers (and parents) to the factors that can trigger unhealthy dieting among children, and ways to prevent it. It addresses six areas of concern: Media and Peer Pressure, Healthy Eating, Active Living, Teasing, Adult Role Models, School Climate. These six learning modules utilize animated vignettes, videos and background information for teachers (and parents) so they can experience some of the positive and negative factors affecting body image and unhealthy eating habits.
This tool is a practical guide to engaging students in authentic leadership opportunities. It offers a simple to follow 6 step process and provides template activities, resources and evaluation tools.
*Please note that this resource was designed by Peel Public Health and some of the referenced resources may not be applicable to our area.
Emotional Care Unit (Grades 9–12)
This unit from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation contains eleven lessons that help students care for themselves by becoming aware of and managing their emotions. These lessons specifically build self-awareness and self-management skills and also focus on social awareness, responsible decision making and relationship skills. The lessons incorporate a variety of teaching methods to develop the knowledge and skills needed to regulate emotions by coping with stress, reframing thoughts, building support systems and recognizing strengths. The unit ends with a project that helps develop a more supportive school community.
This toolkit has been designed to promote positive mental health practices and perspectives within the school environment.
“Checkered Flags – Everyone’s Responsibility” is designed to assist professionals in responding effectively to students to promote a collaborative approach within our community and to increase the level of awareness and access to effective supports and services.
A guide to provide educators with the information they need to support students with mental health and addiction problems through early recognition and effective classroom strategies.
This tool will help to support the school decision-making process related to particular mental health awareness products or services, and aims to ensure alignment with the board/school mental health strategy and action plan.
This website uses online tools and resources that build capacity and promote wellness, reduce the stigma around mental health, and increases access to community supports, both professional and peer-based. Youth are empowered as their capacity is increased to reach out get help and give help through the use of technology, youth engagement and research-informed innovation.
Love My Life (LML)… Tobacco Free for Grades 6–12
Contact your School’s Public Health Nurse to request the program in your school. LML is a creative approach to tobacco prevention that engages and empowers youth in positive self-expression. It focuses on resiliency, mental health and coping skills to increase positive well-being with the goal of normalizing tobacco free environments through role-modeling and policy.
Student Engagement/Leadership for JK–Grade 12
Contact your School’s Public Health Nurse for more information. Student/youth engagement is meaningful and sustained participation by youth in an activity with a focus outside of themselves. When young people are engaged in decision-making, they feel connected to their school environment and community, they build relationships with their peers and adults, and they learn new skills. The Health Unit can support school implementation by:
- Providing resources to support student engagement
- Supporting the establishment of student groups/clubs (e.g. Gay-Straight Alliances, OSAID, Student Health Clubs)
Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds (JK–12)
Contact your School’s Public Health Nurse for more information. Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds focuses on empowering children and youth; promoting health, not weight; being a positive role model through words and actions; promoting healthy eating and physical activity in a positive way; and providing encouragement and opportunities for all students. The Health Unit can support schools with promoting a positive body image and self-esteem by:
- In-servicing parents and school staff on effective ways to address topic areas related to body image and self-esteem including: media literacy, healthy eating, physical activity, healthy bodies and eating disorders.
- Mental Well-Being Fact Sheet
- Healthy Eating Fact Sheet
- Physical Activity Fact Sheet
- A Tool for Every Educator and Training PowerPoint
- A Tool for Parenting Children
- A Tool for Parenting Teens
Clever Replies to Damaging Remarks
Have you ever walked into a room and a colleague, parent, community partner, or student makes a comment about someone’s body, physical activity, or food? This resource provides ideas on how to respond in a positive way.
A positive parenting program that gives parents simple tips to help manage the big and small problems of family life. Triple P Parenting can help with parenting questions from 0–16 years of age around topics such as sleep, self-esteem, not listening, aggression, family conflict – and many more! For support in Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, call 1-800-660-5853 and ask about Triple P or visit www.triplep-parenting.ca.
These resources provide evidence based information to help parents have a positive impact on their child’s or teen’s physical activity, healthy eating, body image and self-esteem. Tips in these resources address how to use language, behaviour and role modeling to create a home environment that supports positive Healthy Behaviour. Consider contacting your School’s Public Health Nurse to set up a parent training.