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Introducing Mental Health Awareness to Teens

May is Mental Health Awareness month and a good time to introduce mental health awareness to teens and young people. The reality is stark: the legacy of Covid is a huge uptick in mental health issues for our children and their families.

Understanding mental illness and how and where to get help is a vital skill for teens and young adults. Knowing where to get help and overcoming the stigma of asking for such help can—quite literally—save someone’s life. This lesson will help you introduce mental health awareness to your students and provide them with resources should they face a mental health crisis.

Help Teens Understand Mental Illness

Teens who know someone or who themselves suffer from mental illness may feel isolated and alone. The numbers, however, prove otherwise. In fact, according to NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) one in five Americans suffer from a mental health condition, and one in 25 suffer from a serious mental illness. Worldwide, depression is the number one disability affecting workers. Additionally, 10.2 million Americans suffer from both mental illness and addiction, while 26% of our homeless population has a mental health condition and 24% of our prisoners also suffer from mental illness. Yet, last year, 60% of the people suffering from mental illness DID NOT receive help.

You can change that number by making your students aware of the facts surrounding mental illness. By providing these statistics to teens, you can help them understand that the problem is widespread and affects every age, race and socio-economic status in the country.

How to Help Teens Understand Mental Illness

Introduce the lesson on mental health awareness by asking students to define mental illness and speculate on what percentage of the population might be affected. Then have students count off by fives, having the fifth student stand. Explain that, while you’re not saying any of the standing students have mental illness, statistically this is the percentage of people in any given group that would be dealing with a mental health condition.

Through discussion, provide students with the other mental health statistics.

Then, alone or as a group, have students go onto NAMI’s website. Pass out the worksheet provided here. Follow the instructions on the worksheet to get to the “Teen & Young Adults” section of the website and read the paragraph describing teens and mental illness.

Use the information in that paragraph to answer the questions on the worksheet.

Help Teens to Regulate Their Own Stress and Emotions

Managing Stress is a workbook in the Daily Living Skills series. This workbook explains good and bad stress to students, provides activities to learn how to define and rate stress along with tools to alleviate it. It also explains cognitive distortions that lead to unnecessary stress and exercises and activities to deal with stress. It also has a list of helplines and resources should students feel overwhelmed with stress or the signs of mental illness.

Practicing Mindfulness is another workbook in the Daily Living Skills series that can be of benefit to students. Studies show that as little as eight weeks of mindfulness training (only about 5-15 minutes per day) decreases depression, improves health, improves academics, lessens ADHD symptoms and actually increases brain function. Easy, do-at-your-desk activities are included to help students create their own personal mindfulness practice.

Written on a 3rd/4th grade level with airy pages and lots of bullet-point information, this book nevertheless respects teen sensibilities and humor while meeting federal mandates for transition skills and Indicator 13 requirements. Find the books by either clicking the titles above or our store.

5_1 Mental Health Awareness Month Worksheet
Download DOCX • 17KB


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