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9 Strategies to Increase Mental Health in the Classroom

Why Focus on the Mental Health of Our Children?

In today’s fast-paced and increasingly complex world, the mental health of our children is more important than ever. Understanding and implementing key mental health strategies will change the way your students interact and succeed in the classroom.  From the pressures of home life to the challenges of the school environment and the broader community, every aspect of a child’s day can significantly impact their emotional and psychological well-being. As educators and caregivers, it’s crucial to adopt a holistic approach that not only supports academic achievement but also fosters emotional and social health.

This comprehensive focus is essential because mental health is foundational to a child’s ability to develop, learn, and grow into a well-rounded and resilient adult. Schools, being one of the primary environments where children spend a significant portion of their day, play a pivotal role in this endeavor. By implementing targeted strategies that increase mental health awareness and support within the classroom, educators can make a profound difference in their students’ lives.

This is a guide for all educators to have a toolkit of ten practical strategies that are rooted in evidence-based practices. These strategies are designed to enhance mental health in educational settings, turning classrooms into sanctuaries of learning and emotional growth.

The Importance of Prioritizing Mental Health in Schools

Focusing on the mental health of our children within the educational system is not just beneficial; it’s essential. Here are some key benefits of integrating mental health practices into school environments:

  •  Enhanced Academic Performance: Students with good mental health are more likely to perform well academically. Mental health support helps children concentrate better, process information faster, and retain knowledge more effectively.
  • Reduced Absenteeism: By addressing mental health issues proactively, schools can significantly reduce the number of days students miss due to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions
  • Improved Behavior and Social Skills: Schools that prioritize mental health see improvements in student behavior and social interactions. These environments foster greater empathy among students, reduce bullying, and build stronger interpersonal skills.
  • Increased Resilience: When children learn to manage their emotions and stress effectively, they develop resilience that helps them overcome challenges and adapt to change throughout their lives.
  • Better Lifelong Health: Early mental health support can set the foundation for healthier lifestyles. Children learn to cope with stress in healthy ways, reducing their future risk of developing mental health disorders.
  • Stronger Sense of Community: Schools that focus on mental health often foster a sense of belonging and community among students. This inclusive atmosphere encourages students to support each other and collaborate more effectively.
  • Support for Diverse Learning Needs: Recognizing and supporting mental health allows schools to better address diverse learning needs, ensuring all students have equal opportunities to succeed.
  • Preparation for Future Challenges: Equipping students with tools to handle mental health positively prepares them for the complexities of adult life, enhancing their ability to navigate future personal and professional challenges.

9 Strategies to Increase Mental Health for Educators and Students

In today’s educational landscape, prioritizing the mental health of students is as crucial as their academic success. Implementing daily mental health practices is not just beneficial—it’s necessary to foster a nurturing and productive school and life environment. Below, we have provided 10 easy and effective strategies that educators can use to increase mental health support in the classroom, ensuring every student can thrive both emotionally and intellectually. These strategies can help teachers meet curricular goals incorporated into lessons like:

  • Emotional Regulation and Self-awareness in Health Education
  • Communication and Collaboration in Social Studies
  • Critical Thinking and Empathy in English Language Arts
  • Stress Management and Physical Wellness in Physical Education
  • Creativity and Emotional Expression in Art Classes

1. The Role of Giving in Enhancing Mental Health

Incorporating acts of giving into the classroom not only fosters a community spirit but also significantly improves students’ mental health. Studies have shown that altruism in the classroom can lead to increased feelings of happiness and well-being among students. Here are a few practical ways to integrate giving into daily classroom activities:

  • Peer-to-Peer Appreciation Notes: Encourage students to write notes of appreciation or gratitude to each other. This simple act can create a positive classroom atmosphere and boost self-esteem.
  • Classroom Community Projects: Organize projects that contribute to the local community, such as a charity drive or a community clean-up. This teaches students the value of giving back and promotes a sense of achievement and belonging.
  • Sharing Circles: Implement a weekly sharing circle where students can offer help or resources to each other, fostering a supportive environment and enhancing empathy.

Source: Post, S. G. (2005). “Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to Be Good”. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

2. Creating a Supportive Classroom Environment

A supportive classroom environment is pivotal for promoting mental health. Here are strategies educators can use to create a nurturing space:

  • Inclusive Decor: Ensure the classroom environment reflects diverse cultures and backgrounds, making all students feel represented and welcome.
  • Open Communication Channels: Establish open lines of communication where students feel safe to express their feelings and concerns.
  • Responsive Teaching Methods: Adapt teaching methods to meet the emotional and educational needs of each student, which can include more personalized learning plans or group activities that promote collaborative learning.

Source: Allen, K., & Kern, M. L. (2017). “School Belonging in Adolescents: Theory, Research and Practice”. Springer Singapore. This book covers how supportive environments in schools contribute to better student outcomes.

3. Integrating Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation can significantly reduce stress and anxiety in students. Here’s how teachers can integrate these practices into the classroom:

  • Daily Mindfulness Minutes: Start the day with a minute of mindfulness, asking students to focus on their breathing or a positive thought.
  • Guided Meditation Sessions: Incorporate short guided meditations before tests or stressful activities to help manage anxiety and improve focus.
  • Mindfulness Reminders: Place mindfulness posters around the classroom or have mindfulness cues at certain times during the day to remind students to remain present and centered.

Source: Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., & Walach, H. (2014). “Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis” This meta-analysis evaluates the effectiveness of mindfulness programs in school settings.

3. Encouraging Physical Activity

Physical health is closely linked to mental health. Here are ways to integrate physical activity into daily classroom routines:

  • Active Breaks: Implement short physical activity breaks between lessons to improve concentration and mood.
  • Classroom Movement Games: Use games that require physical movement during class to enhance learning and physical fitness.
  • Yoga Sessions: Weekly yoga sessions can help students learn stress management through physical activity.

Source: Singh, A., Uijtdewilligen, L., Twisk, J. W., van Mechelen, W., & Chinapaw, M. J. (2012). “Physical activity and performance at school: a systematic review of the literature including a methodological quality assessmentArchives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. This review links physical activity with improved academic performance and mental health in children.

4. Promoting Healthy Eating and Nutrition

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in mental health. Educators can help students make healthier food choices by integrating lessons on nutrition and encouraging healthy eating habits:

  • Nutritional Education Lessons: Teach students about the benefits of balanced diets and the impact of nutrition on the brain and mood.
  • Healthy Snack Program: Initiate a program to provide healthy snacks during breaks to ensure students get the necessary nutrients for optimal mental function.
  • Cooking Demonstrations: Organize occasional cooking demonstrations to teach students easy and nutritious recipes they can make at home.

Source: O’Neil, A., Quirk, S. E., Housden, S., Brennan, S. L., Williams, L. J., Pasco, J. A., … & Jacka, F. N. (2014). “Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review”. American Journal of Public Health.  This review examines the correlation between diet quality and mental health in young people.

5. Facilitating Art and Creative Expression

Creative activities are not only enjoyable but also therapeutic. They can serve as emotional outlets and help students express their feelings in a supportive environment:

  • Art Therapy Sessions: Incorporate art therapy activities that allow students to explore their emotions through different media, such as painting, drawing, or sculpting.
  • Music and Drama Classes: Include music and drama in the curriculum to help students manage stress and express themselves artistically.
  • Creative Writing Projects: Encourage creative writing, such as poetry or stories, to give students an outlet for expressing thoughts and feelings they might not verbalize.

Source: Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). “The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature”. American Journal of Public Health.   This article reviews how engaging in different forms of art can reduce stress and improve psychological well-being.

6. Developing Social Skills for Better Mental Health

Social skills are vital for mental health, as they help students build and maintain relationships, communicate effectively, and navigate social situations:

  • Group Projects: Regularly organize group projects that require collaboration and communication, helping students to develop teamwork and leadership skills.
  • Conflict Resolution Workshops: Teach conflict resolution skills through role-playing and guided discussions, which can help prevent bullying and improve peer relationships.
  • Social Skills Games: Use games and activities designed to enhance social skills, like empathy, sharing, and listening.

Source: Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). “The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature”. American Journal of Public Health.   This article reviews how engaging in different forms of art can reduce stress and improve psychological well-being.

7. Emphasizing Adequate Rest and Stress Management

Adequate rest is essential for students’ mental and physical health. Educators can promote good rest habits and stress management techniques:

  • Stress Management Curriculum: Integrate stress management strategies into the health curriculum, teaching students’ techniques like deep breathing, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Quiet Zones: Create a quiet zone in the classroom where students can go to relax or decompress when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Sleep Education: Educate students on the importance of sleep and strategies for improving sleep hygiene, such as regular sleep schedules and reducing screen time before bed.

Source: Denham, S. A., & Brown, C. (2010). “Plays nice with others”: Social-emotional learning and academic success”. Early Education & Development. This paper explores the impact of social-emotional learning on academic and social success.

8. Professional Development for Educators on Mental Health

To effectively support students’ mental health, teachers themselves need to be well-equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge:

  • Mental Health Training Workshops: Offer regular training sessions on mental health issues, including how to recognize signs of mental distress and appropriate intervention strategies.
  • Peer Support Groups for Teachers: Establish support groups where educators can share experiences and strategies for managing their own mental health and supporting their students.
  • Resources and Tools: Provide teachers with access to mental health resources and tools, such as online platforms or contact information for mental health professionals.

Source: Reinke, W. M., Stormont, M., Herman, K. C., Puri, R., & Goel, N. (2011). “Supporting children’s mental health in schools: Teacher perceptions of needs, roles, and barriers”. School Psychology Quarterly. This study discusses the need for teacher training in mental health to support student well-being effectively.

9. Engaging Community and Parental Involvement

Community and parental involvement can enhance the effectiveness of mental health initiatives in schools:

  • Parent Workshops: Offer workshops for parents on mental health basics and how they can support their children’s mental well-being.
  • Community Resource Fairs: Organize events where local mental health organizations can provide information and resources to students and their families.
  • Volunteer Programs: Encourage community members to volunteer in schools, providing additional support and mentoring for students.

Source: Sheridan, S. M., & Kim, E. M. (2015). “Foundational aspects of family-school partnership research”. SAGE Publications Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0020852318769143?icid=int.sj-abstract.citing-articles.7   This research underscores the importance of family and community involvement in enhancing the educational and mental health outcomes of students.

Incorporating these evidence-based strategies can transform classrooms into supportive environments that not only prioritize academic success but also foster mental well-being, ensuring students are equipped to face life’s challenges. The World Happiness Report states that the best predictor of a child’s success in adulthood is their mental health and happiness as a child.  If we want a caring, peaceful world, it starts with a new generation of children that are emotionally regulated, healthy, and thriving.

Let’s get started today!  We are here to help incorporate strategies that will build mental health practices starting today. You can sign up here today!  You can watch our educational videos and learn the importance of happiness and why practicing happiness is important every day.

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