What do you think of … when you hear the words “Mental Health”? Do you maybe think of illnesses like depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia? Do you think of the people suffering these illnesses? Do you think about therapy and other treatments? Do you think about the students who are suffering in the classroom because of a mental health challenge?
Here at Healthier Minds Through Songs and Rhymes, we want people to start thinking of mental health in a new frame of mind.
Of course, mental health does include things like illnesses and treatments of the people who are suffering, but we have to remember something. We ALL have mental health.
Mental health does not just apply to those with mental illnesses. We need to know about how to keep our minds healthy and fit, just like we do things to keep our bodies healthy and fit.
As teachers, we especially need to take a renewed interest in how we look at mental health in our schools and our classrooms. We often hear the statistic that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem. This statistic applies to children and youth as well. So lets suppose you have a classroom with 30 students. Approximately 6 children in your class could potentially suffer from a mental health problem. Another important statistic to note is that up to 70% of adults with mental health problems report symptoms beginning in childhood. We also know that early intervention is key in the treatment of mental health problems. So all these things together suggest a pattern. We need to put more emphasis on mental HEALTH in our classrooms.
Sometimes the words “mental health” can raise red flags for people. There is often a stigma about talking about mental health especially with children. We worry that we might trigger emotions in students who might struggle with a mental health issue themselves or have a family member who does. These are all valid concerns, so teachers need to be aware of these possibilities. Others might feel that young children are too young to understand mental illnesses.
This is why we need to emphasize POSITIVE mental health approaches. While anti-stigma about mental illnesses is incredibly important, we also need to think about introducing positive ways of thinking in our lives. We need to start children off with good patterns of thinking and behaviour that will help them in their lives in the classroom as well as later in life.
Students are only at school for part of the day, we can’t control what happens outside of school. We don’t control things like genetics and outside environmental influences and other risk factors such as poverty. There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of mental illnesses, and some of those can’t be controlled. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do what we can in our classrooms to make them as mentally-healthy as we can.
Here at Healthier Minds Through Songs and Rhymes, we have been looking at ways that we can use the arts to promote positive mental health habits. We have used music, poetry and storytelling to explore topics like: being happy with who you are, looking at situations positively, promoting pro-social behaviours, goal-setting and more. We have looked at storybooks that contain wonderful messages and have talked about how these books can be made even more effective in our classrooms if we look at them through a mental health lens.
We encourage you to …
• check out some of our creations, as well as our teaching suggestions.
• look through our selection of storybooks and how they relate to topics in mental health.
• look at our information we gathered from the “Supporting Minds” document provided by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
• look at our resource bank which provides links to organization which promote mental health for children and youth.
• think critically and deeply about how mental health is viewed and how our actions as teachers can make a difference.
Remember we all have mental health. Let’s help the students we teach by giving them the mental health habits they need for their lives so that each of them can live up to their full potential.