Putting HEALTH Into Our Mental Health Lessons

May is Mental HEALTH Awareness month and a great time to reflect on our work as HEALTH educators. When New York State passed legislation mandating the inclusion of mental health in our programs, my first thought was, “No worries, I already do this.”

And it’s true. I help kids understand the similarities between the symptoms of stress and mental illness, as well as the differences. We discuss how to recognize warning signs of suicide in ourselves and others. We identify resources for help and even contact a few.

See, I do it. I teach mental health. But wait, do I? If I really think about it, that’s not teaching mental HEALTH, is it? All of those lessons are about mental illness – where’s the HEALTH? Mmmmm…

What about my lessons on  Stress Management, do they count? Yeah, I think they do, right? Learning how to manage our time and our emotions as well as relaxation strategies helps us to preserve, protect and maintain our mental HEALTH. Come to think of it, we even study happiness. Really, we do. Exploring positive psychology, we learn how we can practice happiness; because let’s be honest – it doesn’t come easily to all of us, all of the time.

And wait, what about Planning & Goal Setting? Does that skill help preserve mental HEALTH? Couldn’t successfully achieving goals boost self-esteem and self-confidence? Isn’t this a benefit of planning and setting goals? And if those goals relate to getting adequate sleep, limiting screen time, being physically active and eating well, they could definitely boost our mental HEALTH, research proves it.

Transitioning to skills-based health from content-based curriculum shifted us in a positive direction.  It forced us to put HEALTH at the forefront of our lessons. Sure, we still teach about illness and when things go wrong, but the beauty of teaching a skills-based curriculum is spending all of that strength-based time improving the way we live (rather than focusing on the zillions of ways we can die).

Our challenge, assuming we’ve all made that transition already, is to help students connect the dots. The challenge is to conspicuously connect the practice of these skills to the preservation and improvement of our mental HEALTH

Think about it, if we all managed our stress in health-enhancing ways, communicated assertively, acted empathically, focused on achieving manageable and meaningful goals, matched our decisions with our values and advocated for the health and safety of others…wouldn’t we all feel really great? 

If you’re ready to make the transition to skills-based health but need a little help, check out my free-guide and video: 5 Steps to Transition to a Skills-Based Program; or take a moment to connect with me at any or all of the channels listed below. Together, we can put HEALTH back into our health classes.





Teachers Pay Teachers

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Jen Mead, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com

Pair this blog post with the following:

Mental HEALTH Education by Lindsay Armbruster

Mental Health ≠ Mental Illness by Georgia Dougherty

5 Mindfulness and Meditation Apps by Andy Milne

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