Mental Health Awareness Month: 3 Ideas You Can Use to Support Students

Sarah SaidBlog, Connect Better, Reflect Better, Self Care Better


  • Students of all ages should be taught about mental health.
  • Teach students about the science behind your brain and mental health.
  • Find ways for them to share what they learn with others.
  • Teach them the value of mindfulness and how to incorporate it into their lives.

It’s May. Yikes! The school year is ALMOST OVER! This is when we are planning field days, preparing students for high school final exams, and getting dressed for spirit days. We have students exhibit behaviors that are much different than what we saw earlier in the year. But, what we sometimes forget is that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We need to see this as an opportunity to teach our students about what mental health is, destigmatize mental health disorders in our school, and help our students find strategies to regulate their mental health.

Give students time to do recreational activities for the sake of mental health and presence. Students at a young age need to be taught the importance of presence now more than ever. Click To Tweet

What Can We Do?

Idea #1: Teach Students About Brain Science

In order to take care of your brain, you need to know your brain. With younger students, teaching them about their five senses (I know this is done often but in a more brain-sciencey way…) and how the senses interact with their feelings is so important. This may be through going on mindfulness walks in the community as the weather becomes nicer. Stop by a tree and teach kids to appreciate the tree and its properties. When you go back to the classroom, have a discussion or writing prompt about how our brains interacted with the tree and how they felt.

Older students may learn more about the different hemispheres of the brain and how it interacts with the world around them. When we teach kids to understand the growth mindset, we sometimes forget about the neuroplasticity end of the concept. Kids need to know that their brains can change over time. Having students work with clay modeling of brains can be helpful in this.

With high school students, teach students that things like cell phone blue light can impact their brains. Students need to understand how they are being impacted by their phones. I know it is difficult to get students to take a break from their devices, but I would challenge them to do so. An idea during this month can be having “power off” hours during the school day where all students and as many staff as possible power off devices and do activities that do not require a device. Also, educating students about having a dark screen is important to educating students about the harm of blue light. After doing any of these activities, debrief with students about their feelings.

Idea #2: Work With Students To Make Mental Health Public Service Announcements

This idea can be done differently depending on the age group of students. Younger students can work with their teachers (please teachers, let the students do the work…) to create anchor charts about what to do when they feel anxious, sad, or angry. If the school does a community circle, those anchor charts can be presented to the whole school. They can also hang in the hallway for others to see and learn from.

Older elementary students can use the rocks that are used for kindness rocks to spread advice on how to handle feelings. Get the big round rocks from a craft store. Have the students use a paint marker to write the “feeling” on the top of the rock. Write tips on the rock of what to do about those feelings. Afterward, you can place them in different parts of the school. Then, classes can look for them. When they find them, they can have a discussion. The rocks themselves are a public service announcement.

Older students can actually create podcasts and movie public service announcements. My students are currently researching different topics in mental health. They are using their language arts reading skills to analyze the research they have done. Then, they are practicing claim writing by creating a public service announcement for their peers. Additionally, they are working on the concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos as they are creating their PSAs.

Idea #3: Teach Students How to Practice Mindfulness

We can tell students all we want about taking care of their mental health, but they need to learn skills to be mindful. I am a 200-hour certified yoga instructor. I use weekly yoga sessions to teach my high school students how to self-regulate. Not everyone has that access or the time in their schedule.

Here is what you can do:

Teach students about organization, schedules, and routines. We do this a lot in our classrooms already. Bringing in the mental health piece of it is important. When your spaces are organized, your mind becomes more clear, and you are less overwhelmed.

Practice breathwork with students. Teach students the life skill of breathing and how to breathe through difficult times. Something easy to teach is belly breaths. Students can learn to put one hand on their heart and one on their belly and breath in and out to feel it.

[scroll down to keep reading] Not all students feel comfortable with breathwork. If this is the case, utilizing an app like Focusable can support students in working on other reenergizing or focusing techniques such as eye blinking and neck stretching. Focusable also has a feature you can teach students to use on their phones that helps them create a self-regulation schedule.

Give students time to do recreational activities for the sake of mental health and presence. Students at a young age need to be taught the importance of presence now more than ever. Explaining to students that something like playing a game of checkers and creating mastery in it will help them develop presence. Give students a list of activities that they can try to master and develop a presence with—this is something that can be vital to help them in adulthood.

Mental Health For All

Mental health is a critical topic in schools that not only should be taught during Mental Health Awareness Month, but every month. Always remember to take care of yourself first before taking care of others. If we know the tools that can help us manage our mental health, we can teach others to manage theirs. Breathing is just the beginning of a journey.

About Sarah Said

Sarah Said has spent 17 years in public education. She has served in the roles of teacher, Director of ELL, Director of Language and Equity, Dean, and Assistant Principal. Sarah has been published on numerous educational sites including Learning for Justice, The Teaching Channel, and EdWeek Teacher. Sarah stands strong when it comes to ensuring an equitable school community for all stakeholders. She is an advocate for Multilingual Learners and their families. Lately, her writing is focused on destigmatizing Mental Health. Sarah just became an Edumatch Author. Stay tuned for her book Making Our Minds Matter, a guidebook on mental health strategies and resources for educators.