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3 Fantastic Resources for Teaching Mental Wellbeing in Secondary Schools

In part 2 of our series highlighting some of the best resources for PSHE, to help you teach mental wellbeing in schools, we are looking at secondary school students. The teenage years are turbulent, with a huge amount of change happening in young people’s bodies and brains, and this makes it even more important to learn how to talk about your feelings.

In fact, lots of mental health conditions first pop up during adolescence [1], so it's vital to ensure students know where to go if they, or someone they know, needs help. These PSHE lesson plans and resources will help you start these conversations, as well as fitting with the requirements for relationships education.


And if you missed it, in our last post on resources for PSHE, we shared our favourite mental wellbeing activities for primary schools.


We all have mental health toolkit- Anna Freud Centre


The video in this fantastic mental health toolkit for schools tells the story of two different young people- one who is dealing with everyday negative emotions, that can be improved with self-care, and another whose feelings are too overwhelming for him to deal with alone. It stresses how important it is to talk about your emotions with a trusted adult, and that asking for help with mental health is nothing to be embarrassed about- just like we would seek out help if we were feeling unwell with a stomach-ache or cold.


The assembly plan and PowerPoint goes into more depth, and challenges students’ assumptions about mental health with a true or false quiz. The lesson plan also includes some great activities you can run with students, including giving them the chance to create a collage to describe different feelings.


You are not your thoughts- About Kids Health

If you are looking to introduce your students to ideas of mindfulness, this video is a nice place to start. It focuses on the idea that thoughts come and go, but that they aren’t facts, and we don’t need to get caught up in them. Instead, we can notice them, and practice letting them go. To go deeper, this About Kids Health video explains what mindfulness is - not just something you sit and do in silence, but the practice of being in the present moment, whatever it is you are doing.


They also have a range of short guided meditations you could use in class including one about using the breath as an anchor


While there is strong evidence mindfulness practices can have a positive impact on mental health overall [2], it’s important to remember that not everyone finds the same kinds of practice helpful. Some students might love to sit quietly and focus on their breathing, but others might find that this makes them more anxious. For those students, mindfulness practices that focus the attention outward might work better- such as mindful walks, or mindful eating, focusing on their senses.


Confident me- Dove

Available as a single lesson or a series of 6 sessions, this workshop introduces students to how beauty ideals can lead to body image problems, and what can be done about this. It is aimed at 11-14 year olds, a time when many of us struggle with how we feel about our appearances [3]. It covers the ways in which appearance ideals have changed over the last 100 years, and how they are influenced by the media and society. It touches on the impact of both professional and social media, how these are manipulated to create unrealistic images of ‘perfection’, and the impact this can have on our body image and mental health.

Finally, students are guided to think about how they can make changes to challenge appearance pressures, and to avoid comparing themselves to images in the media and those around them. The kit includes a comprehensive lesson plan, handouts for students and a PowerPoint presentation, and there are also training videos for teachers to help you run the best session you can.


Whatever resources you choose to use, the most important thing when it comes to mental wellbeing in schools is to start a dialogue, and show young people it’s ok to talk about your emotions. We hope that these lesson plans and activity packs will help you do just that. But another option is to book one of our workshops, focused on mental health. In our ‘Building a Resilient Brain’ science workshop for schools we introduce students to how stress affects your brain , and how this can impact mental wellbeing. Then, through hands-on activities, we help them build a ‘resilience tower’, looking at all the things that go into ‘bouncebackability’ helping us bounce back when something bad happens. If you would like to chat more about us bringing this workshop to your school, please do get in touch.


And while you are here, why not join our mailing list to keep up to date with all the articles, resources and neuroscience activities we post:


References:

[1] Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literat... : Current Opinion in Psychiatry (lww.com)

[2] Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators - PubMed (nih.gov)

[3]Weight status and body image perceptions in adolescents: current perspectives (nih.gov)

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