School-based activities are simple and impactful initiatives that promote mental health and wellness, raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health, and engage the students and staff in the school community. School-based activities encompass a wide range of initiatives and ideas, from quick announcements in the morning at your school to mental health awareness weeks or poster contests hosted by the community.
The following are a few school-based activities you can try for yourself. Some of these ideas are drawn from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) School-Based Activities toolkit, others are from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s WellAhead initiative, and the rest are ideas we've collected from students and teachers in BC. Hopefully these will inspire you to organize some school-based activities of your own and begin promoting mental health and wellness in your school community. Whether it is something small or large, every initiative makes a difference.
Stress-kits (for more information download the MHCC School-Based Activities toolkit)
Select a strategic day in which to distribute granola bars and juice boxes as well as stress management tips, especially during exam time. This can be an opportunity to strongly deliver a clear message telling students they are not alone, they should try and engage in positive thoughts and exercise their mental health. Include yoga instruction and mindfulness meditation to reduce stress. Let them know there is always hope and know where they can find help.
Monday Morning Connection (for more information visit the WellAhead website)
Monday Morning Connection allows time and space for a teacher and students to come together in a safe and non-judgmental way with the intention of reestablishing connections with one another after the weekend. The main purpose behind establishing the Monday Morning Connection practice is to try to create a greater sense of inclusion, belonging and personal connection for our students through this Student -Teacher and Student-Student interaction.
Some basic tenets of this practice include that this practice takes place the first day back to school following a weekend or break and requires participation from all members of a class. Students may have “the right to pass” should they not feel comfortable sharing but are expected to be actively engaged in the exercise. Some possible discussion topics are:
- How are you feeling today?
- What are you looking forward to today, this week?
- What is a goal you would like to achieve this week? What actionable steps do you need to do to achieve this goal?
- What is a highlight from your weekend?
- How do you feel/what do you think about … current event, subject
PEDAW (Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness) Event Ideas
The Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness (PEDAW) campaign is a BC Province wide effort to raise awareness around prevention and early intervention of eating disorders as well as media literacy, resiliency, building healthy body image and self-esteem. The PEDAW in a Box toolkit provides you with unique, engaging, and accessible ideas to promote eating disorders awareness and education in your school or community. Join the love our bodies, love ourselves movement in promoting health and preventing disordered eating and eating disorders by downloading the toolkit and trying some of the activities for yourself!
Place sticky notes with encouraging messages, kind words, and notes that support positive body image on bathroom mirrors. Replace the notes every so often in order to keep the messages fresh. Another option is to ask school staff if you could use dry-erase markers on the mirrors.
Themed Gratitude Display
Create cut-outs on which students can write one thing they’re grateful for and add it to a larger display. Creating themed displays around different holidays is one way to make this exercise a little more fun and interesting. For example, during Halloween students could write their gratitude messages on pumpkin or ghost shaped cut-outs and add it to a larger Halloween themed display (giant cobweb, witch, etc.). You could give Halloween candy to each student that participates. During the winter, you could have students write on candy cane cut-outs and place them on a large snowman display. You could also give the students real candy canes in exchange for participating.
Mental Health Quilt or Collage
Start with a question related to mental health and wellness that can be answered in a few words. Pose this question to students and have them add their answer to the collective to create an eye-catching collage or display. This could be done with colourful sticky notes or paper cut-outs. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try using pieces of felt that can be attached into a quilt once the answers have been collected.
Host a Mental Health Awareness Week
You can host a week-long mental health awareness week at your school. You can have posters, different kinds of events or other creative ideas to promote mental health awareness. These types of awareness weeks are impactful. They reduce mental health stigma, promote recognition of mental health, and create a school culture fostered in trust and openness.
Create a "Wall of Fame."
Showcase different celebrities that are open about their mental health challenges and advice they have to offer on reaching out and their experience with treatment. Ensure that celebrities showcased are popular with you (ask them first!).
Daily Mental Health Tip
Teachers, students, or any person at the school could start their class or morning by sharing a mental wellness tip, strategy, or resources with their students. Simple tips can make a big difference.
With permission from school administration, cover a wall in the school with paper (preferably at the main entrance or in front of the main office or cafeteria). Encourage students to write kind messages addressed to a friend, peer, teacher, etc. A kind message goes far in making someone feel care for and not alone.