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8 essential tips

8 Essential Tips for Educators to Practice Mental Health Awareness

May 14, 2024

8 Essential Tips for Educators to Practice Mental Health Awareness

Natalie Dean shares tips that you can incorporate into your educational practice to help create an environment that supports mental health awareness and well-being among your students.

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As an educator, you understand the immense importance of looking out for your students' mental well-being. It's not just about teaching lessons; it's about building a safe and nurturing space where young minds can grow academically and emotionally. As you take the time to listen, understand and offer a helping hand when needed, here are eight tips to help you practice mental health awareness effectively:

1. Educate Yourself

Being informed about mental health issues is the first step toward effective support. Take the time to educate yourself about common symptoms and potential strategies for support. Attend workshops, read books, or take online courses on mental health.

Resource: Share My Lesson offers a variety of resources on mental health awareness. Check out this resource from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Your Language Matters: Talking About Mental Health,” for a one-pager that explains and gives the best language to use when talking about mental health. 

2. Create a Supportive Environment

Foster an atmosphere in your classroom that is open, accepting and understanding. Ensure that students feel safe and comfortable expressing their feelings and seeking help when needed.

Resource: Share My Lesson offers various resources on how schools can play a significant role in positively impacting students’ mental health. Check out this blog, "Supporting Students Mental Health,” for practical tips on aiding educators and school staff in supporting students’ mental health.

3. Be Observant

Pay attention to changes in behavior, mood or academic performance. Sometimes, students may not express their feelings verbally, but changes in their behavior might indicate they are struggling.

Resource: Check out this co-hosted Young Minds Inspired webinar, "Mental Health in the Classroom,” for classroom tools to help children recognize, identify and manage their emotions. 

4. Normalize Mental Health Conversations

Integrate mental health discussions into your classroom. Make it clear that discussing mental health is as normal as discussing physical health.

Resource: Explore Share My Lesson's collection of resources on normalizing mental health conversations. Check out these “Breaking Stigmas” toolkits from Young Minds Inspired for grades K-8 and grades 6-12 to support mental wellness, and get strategies to help your students explore their feelings and discover strategies for coping with stress. 

5. Be Approachable

Let your students know they can talk to you about anything. Make time to listen actively to what they have to say. Sometimes, lending an ear can make a significant difference.

Resource: Share My Lesson offers various resources on effective communication with students. Check out this article from All It Takes, "Creating a Trusted Space in Five Days—Full Curriculum,” for tips on building trust with students.

6. Know Your Resources

Be aware of the mental health resources available both within the school and in the local community. Ensure that students know where they can go to seek help if they need it.

Resource: Explore Share My Lesson's collection of mental health resources for educators. Check out this article, "Mental Health Awareness: Lesson Plans and Professional Development,” for information on available resources.

7. Practice Self-Care

Remember to take care of yourself. You can't support your students effectively if you're not taking care of your own mental health. Practice self-care regularly and seek support when you need it.

Resource: Share My Lesson offers various resources on self-care for educators. Check out this webinar, "Holistic Approach to Self-Care: Creating a Personal Wellness Plan,” for self-care strategies specifically tailored to educators.

8. Collaborate with Parents/Guardians

Work closely with parents or guardians to support students. Sometimes, these adults can provide valuable insights into a student's behavior and any challenges they may be facing.

Resource: Share My Lesson offers various resources on collaborating with parents and guardians. Check out this article from Understood, "Conversation Starters for Teachers to Use with Families," for practical tips on how to make the conversation as collaborative and productive as possible.

By incorporating these tips into your educational practice, you can help create an environment that supports mental health awareness and well-being among your students. Remember, your effort in promoting sound mental health can make a significant difference in the lives of your students.

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Natalie Dean

Natalie Dean is the assistant director, affiliate engagement, for Share My Lesson at the AFT. She manages the site's outreach strategy and national contests, while promoting its value to AFT members to more than 3,000 local AFT affiliates.

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