What is Mental Health and How Can You Promote It in the Classroom?

What is Mental Health and How Can You Promote It in the Classroom?

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Most people have learned ways to stay physically healthy, but not nearly as many have been educated about what it means to be mentally healthy. Mental and physical health are closely intertwined and are necessary for people’s well-being. Many ABE students are faced with multiple barriers in their lives, which can impact mental health and learning.

To stay mentally healthy, it is important to have coping strategies when challenges arise. There are several ways students can learn techniques to combat mental health challenges. The following methods can be shared with students in class to help them manage life challenges in a positive manner:

  • Manage stress: 
    • Delegate duties to others when you can and trust they will do it well enough.
    • When overwhelmed, take obligations off our plate, if you can.
    • Ask for help to solve problems.
    • Identify what you can and cannot control. Stress/anxiety often increases when people worry about those things which are out of their control, particularly past or future events. For instance, thinking about “what if…” or “why didn’t I…” does not solve anything. Put energy on those things you can control, which gives you more power and reduces stress/anxiety.
    • Do more exercise-this helps reduce tension and builds endorphins (the feel-good chemical).
    • To learn more about strategies for managing stress
  • Set boundaries:
    • Use time-buying phrases to give yourself time to decide if you want to participate in activities. For instance, rather than having a knee jerk response by saying “yes” to invitations or work obligations, use phrases, such as, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you”. An example of a response when you decline to do something could be, “Thank you for thinking of me, but I have another obligation”.
    • Determine what you will and will not tolerate from others. We teach people how to treat us. If we tolerate poor behavior, we are teaching people to do more of the same. By expressing your needs and wants you are educating others about how to treat you. We all have personal rights that need to be respected. Check out this “Personal Bill of Rights” handout.

The following suggestions are strategies teachers can use to help build student mental health:

  • Build a support network:
    • Get to know students and their background, families, and barriers.
    • Use community building activities to help students get to know each other.
    • Create peer mentoring to encourage friendships.
  • Foster expression of thoughts and feelings about personal difficulties:
    • Encourage journaling as an outlet.
    • Develop a writing project about how to manage personal challenges.
    • Refer students who need professional support to a local mental health clinic. See mental health resources on PANDA’s website (link below).
  • Build resilience:
    • Have students share stories of overcoming challenges in their lives.
    • Teach problem solving skills.
    • Educate students about how to adapt to change and life’s challenges.

To find out more about mental health and find community mental health resources, go to PANDA’s website.