School-based Mental Health Promotion
Supporting mental health promotion in schools is an important strategy to improving mental well-being for all students. The Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for school health advocates for a comprehensive ‘whole school’ approach to mental health where policies, learning, and the overall environment of schools work with families and community organizations to support the goal of helping students become healthy, productive members of society.
Mental health promotion programming can happen in a variety of ways, but should fit with the age, and learning level of students.
CMHA works with schools to support the planning and delivery of evidence-based mental health promotion programming for students.
Speak Up (formerly MILE 5) – 5 day program
Mental health literacy for youth 13+
What is Speak Up?
Speak Up (formerly known as MILE 5) is a school-based mental health literacy program recommended for grade 7-9 students (can be adapted for use with older students). Speak Up uses an evidence-based approach which works toward 3 goals; increasing students’ knowledge about mental health and mental illness, breaking down stigma towards people living with mental health problems and illnesses, and increasing students’ help seeking behaviors. Providing mental health literacy is an important foundation for young people in understanding mental health and mental illness, developing empathy and knowing how to get help early if and when they need it.
How is Speak Up delivered?
Speak Up is set up to be delivered to classrooms for one class each day over a 5 day period. The program breaks down as follows:
Day #1 – Students develop an understanding of mental health and stigma
Day #2 – Students learn about different mental health problems and illnesses
Day #3 – Person first language and empathy building activities
Day #4 – Trained speakers with lived experience of a mental health problem or illness tell their personal story of recovery from a mental health problem that impacted them in their youth.
Day #5 – Resource Day – the final session helps youth identify their own resources as well as providing resources available to them in their school, community, as well as provincial, and national crisis lines.
Speak Up uses a unique classroom delivery approach which includes contact-based education. This brings people who have lived experience with a mental illness into the classroom to educate students by telling their personal stories and allowing time for active discussion.
CMHA has developed a Training for Facilitators model for delivery of Speak Up in schools. The model is intended to be delivered using a whole school approach to mental health promotion and will ensure teachers and clinicians are supported by CMHA during implementation. This will also include access to CMHA’s Youth Mental Health promotion team, access to CMHA speaker’s bureau, and resources for parents including support to hold a ‘parent night’ at school.
Evaluation of Speak Up
Speak Up (formerly MILE 5) was evaluated in Manitoba with very positive results in the area of increasing knowledge, social acceptance (empathy) and decreasing stigma associated with mental illness. Evaluation was conducted by Dr. Heather Stuart of Queen’s University in 2014-15.
Speak Up meets several learning outcomes that are set out in Manitoba’s Physical Education/Health Education curriculum with curricular connections to ELA and MA. The specific outcomes are identified in Speak Up training materials.
For more information about Speak Up, contact Michelle Kowalchuk at email@example.com
To see biographies for the speakers of the Speak Up program, click here.
Classroom mental health promotion for children 9-11
Thrival Kits™ was developed in 2017-18 through a partnership between CMHA and the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth in collaboration with Manitoba teachers.
Thrival Kits™ are personal and classroom resource containers that include a variety of materials and activities designed to encourage simple, yet effective, mental health promotion strategies aimed at students in grades 4-6.
There is much research to demonstrate mental health promotion as an important protective factor against mental illness. Thrival Kits™ incorporate evidence-based mental health promotion practices such as personal reflection, mindfulness meditation, stress reduction and coping strategies, and interpersonal skills development.
Children are introduced to six themes that feature a variety of mental health promotion activities led by their classroom teacher. The activities are done throughout the course of a school year and are designed to help children incorporate effective coping strategies into their daily lives, strengthen their self-esteem and sense of identity, and build greater empathy and understanding of one another.
Thrival Kits™ activities are evidence-based, everyday strategies that promote positive mental health practices. These activities can be customized to best suit individual classroom needs, cultural backgrounds of youth participants, and the skill-levels of teachers. The six themes that guide the activities of the Thrival Kits™ are:
- Understanding the importance of mental health promotion
- Celebrating your gifts, talents and strengths
- Empowering yourself with knowledge of your human rights
- Feeling Grateful for the Present and Planting Dreams for the Future
- Respecting yourself and others
- Living mindfully
Students will create their own personalized Thrival Kit™ that they can use for in-classroom activities, as well as take-home practice at the end of the school year. Each personal Thrival Kit™ contains meaningful materials children can use when practicing mental health activities. The personal Thrival Kits™ are also large enough so that children can add their own materials, such as personalized keepsakes and prompts.
Classroom Thrival Kits™ include all the materials, lesson plans, and activity instructions that the classroom teacher requires to facilitate each of the mental health promotion activities. Lesson plans and activity instructions are available on-line, accessible by teachers to use in audio and videotaped formats. Teachers can select the format that works best for them and their classrooms.
For more information about Thrival Kits™ contact Terra Johnston firstname.lastname@example.org