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. Speak Up 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.
There are numerous benefits of mental health promotion programming in schools. It is our goal to create a culture and climate that creates a recovery-oriented practice that honours lived-experience, promotes conversations around mental health literacy and results in connecting people to their school and community resources. Research and evaluations have shown the value of developing comprehensive school mental health programs in helping students achieve academically and have access to experiences that build social skills, emotional intelligence, leadership, self-awareness, and caring connections to adults in their school and community.
What is Speak Up?
Speak Up is a ‘whole school’ based mental health promotion program delivered in classrooms for grades 7-9, and 11 students. Speak Up uses an evidence-based approach to reach the following outcomes: increasing students’ knowledge about mental health and mental illness, breaking down stigma towards people living with mental health diagnoses, developing empathy, and increasing students’ help seeking behaviours. CMHA has developed and operates a Train the Trainer model for delivering Speak Up in schools where guidance counsellors, social workers, teachers, and others in similar roles in the education sector. Several in-person and virtual workshops take place every school year to provide new facilitators the opportunity for training and the continued coaching to delivery the curriculum. We are committed to the evaluation of Speak Up and we invite facilitators to provide feedback on their experiences, ways to better the program, and an opportunity to be included in our Speak Up Advisory Committee.
Speak Up Outline
Students learn the foundations of mental health from Western and Indigenous perspectives and complete a pre-survey of baseline understanding of mental health.
Students debunk mental illness myths and learn the power of words and empathy.
Students learn definitions of mental illnesses and examine case studies.
Trained speakers with lived experience of mental illness share their personal story of recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic challenged all of us to try new ways to deliver programs that were previously exclusively in-person, so we designed Day 4 to be primarily delivered to students virtually.
Students learn the mental health resources available to them and learn to Speak Up!
In the spring of 2020, the Speak Up curriculum entered a robust examination of the curriculum with the hope of providing greater connection to Indigenous people, culture, and values. Several community stakeholders, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Indigenous Youth, and Indigenous Practitioners were invited and brought together to provide consultation, knowledge, and direction. The result of this careful work led to an Indigenous framework and foundation within the curriculum, revision of curriculum artwork, language and new activities that reflect the foundation of Indigenous cultural values, beliefs, and practices that also align with CMHA Manitoba and Winnipeg’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We continue revising the material to be as relevant as possible for Indigenous youth.
Registration Form for Training for Facilitators
(password protected – you will receive access after registration or training)
How do we know Speak Up works?
Students complete surveys before and after taking Speak Up which provide data for evaluation. Results are very positive for the learning outcomes Speak Up targets:
- 87% of students responded that they did learn something new about mental Illness and mental health.
- Students reported they would feel less embarrassed if they needed mental health support
- Fewer students were of the stigmatizing opinion that people with mental illnesses could not get better and should be “locked away.”
- Fewer students believed that people with mental health issues are dangerous or violent during the post test
- Results indicate fewer stereotyped perceptions about mental health after the program.
- Students’ confidence in recognizing symptoms in others and helping individuals with mental health concerns was strengthened.
Connections to the Manitoba Curriculum
Speak Up meets several learning outcomes that are set out in Manitoba’s Physical Education/Health Education curriculum. The specific outcomes are identified in Speak Up training materials and can be accessed here.
For more information about Speak Up, support with facilitation, and to answer any questions you may have, please contact:
James Welsman, BSc (He/Him)
Youth Mental Health Promotion Coordinator
Speak Up Program Lead
The Canadian Mental Health Association would like to thank United Way Winnipeg for its generous support of the Speak Up project.
Classroom mental health promotion for children ages 9 to 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™ please contact firstname.lastname@example.org