Mental health has become a prominent issue in society in recent years, especially among young adults. Long considered a ‘taboo’ subject, anyone of any age must know it’s OK to get the support they need.

That’s why we believe mental health awareness is one of the most crucial aspects of high school teaching. By educating your students on the dangers of poor mental health and giving them the right tools and exercises to better their own, you take a stand against this silent killer.

This article tacks mental health issues with these great activities for educators to implement in their classrooms. By actively encouraging students to acknowledge and address their mental health problems, you’re setting them on a path to better management and control of their emotions, which may have seemed too hard to bear otherwise.

A problem shared is a problem halved, and you help your students get the help they need by providing them with the proper guidance and support.

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Activities for mental health awareness that you can use in your high school classroom

You could try to implement many different activities in your classroom that are designed to raise awareness of mental health struggles in young people, as well as create safe environments for your students to better their mental well-being and understand their emotions. Some of these are:

’Calm Corner’ toolbox

Some teachers believe having a designated area for students to seek peace and calm is crucial for their mental health. This is why you may want to introduce a ‘calm corner’. The calm corner is a safe space for students to pause and control their emotions and feelings.

It may be helpful to enrich this area with positive activities and exercises your students could implement to better their mental health and understand and accept it. These tools could be items they can use to distract, calm or understand themselves. They could also be positive affirmations you wish to instill into your students’ lives. Some examples of these ‘tools’ include:

  • Yoga and meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Feel good pictures
  • Puzzles
  • Journaling templates
  • Emotion charts
  • Coloring pages
  • Positive words of encouragement

Nature walks

Research has shown that exposure to nature and time spent outdoors has been proven to lower depression and anxiety. We recommend designating a portion of your class time to take your students on a nature walk. A weekly walk in nature could do wonders for your class’s overall mental health and significantly reduce stress-induced anxiety.

A class garden

With this being said, why not take that one step further and bring nature to you with a class garden? This could be an area outside that is reserved for your class specifically. Some studies have shown that gardening can help reduce cortisol levels, which is likely to help students who suffer from anxiety.

Introducing gardening as a school activity can be a great way to encourage your students to practice their emotional well-being while actively contributing to the environment. Activities such as gardening also teach students skills such as patience and time management, which they can transfer into other areas of their life and help them feel more in control.

Self-care coping methods

Teaching high school students some coping mechanisms could set them up for much better mental health and self-care. Self-care is essentially the little things they can add to their daily or weekly routines that will subtly improve their mental health over time. These can be techniques that boost their confidence and self-image or help them stay productive and on track.

There are many different tips for self-care for high school students that you can introduce, and some of these include the following:

  • Staying hydrated and eating well
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Taking breaks from social media
  • Spending time outside every day
  • Reading for fun
  • Exercising
  • Making time for friends
  • Asking for help
  • Keeping a journal
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Meditating

As their teacher, you could quickly help them with these by incorporating them into your classes and creating a welcoming and open environment.

Have a classroom pet

This example depends entirely on the logistics of your school. It will help if you consider your students’ allergies, your class’s fondness for the particular animal, and the school’s rules on pets – as well as who will be the primary carer. That being said, if it’s possible to do this, having a classroom pet could drastically lower cortisol levels among your students.

It has been proven that pets reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Having a classroom companion could also assist during panic or anxiety attacks, so this could significantly improve your students’ mental health.

Tea station

Why not use tea to help lower cortisol levels? It’s proven to work, and it’s easy to implement. Just set up a station in your classroom and grant your students free access to it.

Art projects

Art is a great activity that can help students manage their mental health. Not only is it a wonderful distraction, but it may help some students share their feelings without having to say them out loud. By assigning time for group art projects, you’re combining the benefits of creating art with the benefits of group work. Encouraging them to work together can help with loneliness or isolation and means students may feel supported by their peers.

Why not try a project that will also help with their self-esteem? Encourage your students to work together to create a magazine cover that offers reinforcement and motivation. These covers should intend to uplift and contain positive affirmations and quotes to make them feel better about themselves.

Positivity notes

This example is one of our favorites. Encourage your students to spread positivity and support by asking them to write messages of appreciation and encouragement to each other. They should write these on post-its and display them on a bulletin board for everyone to see – make sure they’re anonymous! This will uplift your students individually and as a group as you create a supportive and united environment for them.

Affirmation station

Daily positive affirmations are a great way to improve anyone’s mental health. They act as a constant reminder that your students are doing their best, that their best is good enough, and that things will get better. Spreading positivity and encouraging these uplifting reminders can incredibly benefit a young person’s mental health. That’s why we suggest that you introduce daily affirmations into your classroom.

This can be done by sticking decorative post-its around your classroom or creating a designated area they can escape when they feel low. Make sure this is adorned with kind messages to remind your students that they will get better even if things don’t feel OK right now.

Kindness gnome

Another innovative activity that we like is the kindness gnome. The kindness gnome is a teddy gnome that visits your classroom and delivers daily kindness missions for students. This is a great way to encourage them to be kind towards themselves and others. Why not try this over the festive season as a trial run?

More activities you can try in your classroom

You can try many activities with your class that could help improve their mental health.
Some of these include:

  • Bullet journals
  • Gratitude journals
  • Coloring books
  • Writing prompts
  • Reading hour
  • Art therapy
  • Group discussions
  • Circle of control
  • Tennis ball toss

Mental health matters, and in today’s modern society, it matters more than academic progression. By spreading awareness regarding mental health and educating future generations on how to manage their own – as well as how they can support their friends and family – we can hope for a brighter future.