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Lesson Plans

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Resources for Curriculum Development

Consistent with the NYS Education Department, the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center is not recommending any particular mental health curriculum. Information about a variety of resources for mental health education can be found HERE

Schools are encouraged to explore the options and choose a program that best meets their needs.  Most programs will not cover all recommended content knowledge and skills as outlined in the Mental Health Education Literacy in Schools:  Linking to a Continuum of Well-Being (pages 13 to 24).  Often programs will need to be supplemented with additional lessons.

We All Have Mental Health: Lesson Plans

MHANYS is pleased to provide schools with a set of K-12 lesson plans focusing on:

  • Multiple dimensions of health
  • Identification and expression of feelings
  • Understanding self-care and the development of coping strategies
  • Recognizing when and how to access help

These lesson plans are not meant to be all inclusive of the NYSED recommendations for k-12 mental health education outlined in Mental Health Education Literacy in Schools:  Linking to a Continuum of Well-Being. They are a sample of the resources available to help schools teach students about mental health. MHANYS encourages schools to take a integrated, ongoing approach to mental health education that supports a culture of wellness. Visit the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center often for additional resources, technical assistance and to learn more about the law.

Please consider a few things when using these lesson plans:

  1. These lesson plans were developed with attention to vertical and horizontal alignment. We hope that school districts will make an effort to use them for kindergarten through 12th grade.
  2. Student support staff and community mental health professionals can be valuable resources when talking with youth about mental health. Invite School Social Workers, School Counselors, School Psychologists or School Nurses into the classroom to help facilitate instruction. A collaborative approach allows the classroom teacher to be attentive to the reaction of students to this sensitive and sometimes personal topic, and introduces the school support staff or community professional as an important and approachable resource.
  3. When delivering instruction, do not qualify emotions as positive or negative; in reality we all experience a range of emotions. Empower students to understand and manage their emotions.
  4. We welcome your feedback; please complete this online survey about your experience using these lessons.

MHANYS would like to express sincere thanks to Jessica Hull, Amy Preston and Dustin Verga, Health Educators from the Shenendehowa School District in Clifton Park, NY for their efforts in developing these lesson plans which are provided at no cost, with funding from the NYS Legislature and Executive.

Mental Health Matters Day: Lesson Plans and Webinars

In recognition of the MHANYS’ Mental Health Matters legislative advocacy day, the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center is providing a series of lesson plans to teach middle and high school students about legislative advocacy at the state level. Three webinars and 7 lesson plans were designed to be used during Health, Government and US History classes, as well as student clubs. Lesson plans can be modified to different grade levels, with some being more difficult and time-consuming than others. It is highly recommended that educators use the lesson plans in the order presented below as they were developed to correspond with the content of the webinars.

Each webinar is 15-20 minutes in length and is taught by MHANYS’ Director of Public Policy John Richter. The webinars are designed to teach students about the basics of public policy and legislative advocacy. Click on the links below to access the webinars:

  • Public Policy: What is it?Introduces students to the concept of public policy and how governments establish them to solve certain problems in society.
  • Advocacy Part 1: The Importance of Your Voice – Discusses how advocates play a role in shaping public policy.
  • Advocacy Part 2: How to Be an Advocate – Describes steps you can take to become an advocate and influence the decision-making process in the state Legislature. It also talks about how to schedule and prepare for a meeting with your legislator, how to conduct the meeting and how to follow up afterwards.

Mental Health Matters Day Lesson Plans

Mental Health Matters Day Social Media Toolkit

For more on advocacy, visit MHANYS’ Legislative Advocacy Community.

World Mental Health Day: Lesson Plans

According to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of illness among people ages 10 to 19.  Even in the best of circumstances, childhood and adolescence can be a difficult time period because of stressors at home and in school, and in developing meaningful relationships. This is compounded by the serious struggles children face worldwide, including human rights violations, wars, natural disasters and epidemics.  If not recognized and managed early, feelings associated with these stressors can lead to mental health problems.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day on October 10, we have developed a set of lesson plans to raise awareness of mental health issues around the globe. These lessons can be incorporated into Health, Global Studies and other courses.

World Mental Health Day Lesson Plans

All Emotions Matter: Lesson Plans

We are not born knowing how to read and write. Likewise, we are not born knowing how to express our emotions. It is a skill that needs to be taught, and a skill that needs to be practiced.  These slides were developed for educators to use as a lesson in the classroom.  They include practice opportunities and printable activities.  These lessons will help students:

  • validate feelings and emotions
  • manage their response to emotions rather than change how they feel
  • understand that we are not our emotions.

All Emotions Matter: for the Elementary Classroom

All Emotions Matter: for the Elementary Classroom: Notes

All Emotions Matter: for the Secondary Classroom

All Emotions Matter: for the Secondary Classroom: Notes

Book Selections

Books are a great resource for educating K-12 students about mental health and for exploring themes of hope, compassion and recovery.  When using literature to promote mental health awareness, it is recommended that teachers leverage the expertise of School Social Workers, School Counselors, School Psychologists, School Nurses and/or Library Media Specialists to identify helpful community resources and talking points to educate themselves and to help students better understand the issues.

K-6 Book Selections for Classrooms

Picture books are an opportunity to introduce young readers to topics in mental health in an age appropriate manner.  Educators can use these selections to build lesson plans around mental health themes and social emotional learning, including feeling expression, coping strategies and help-seeking skills.

K-6 Book Selections for Counseling

These book selections offer school support personnel resources to introduce topics of grief, mental health and behavioral health challenges, as well as coping strategies when counseling individual students or small groups.

Middle School Book Selections

High School Book Selections

Young adult books, both fiction and non-fiction, often include mental health-related themes and provide an opportunity to raise awareness about such topics.  These books can be used by educators to develop lessons for English, Health or Psychology, among others.  For example:

  • students select a book to read and write a report
  • students select a book and conduct research for class presentation or poster projects
  • teachers assign one or more books from the list and divide class into discussion groups
COVID-19 and 1918 Influenza: Comparing the Physical, Social and Mental Health Impacts of Two Pandemics

This lesson plan is intended for a middle or high school Health or Social Studies classroom to gain a better understanding of the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic and to draw comparisons to the global Influenza of 1918-19.

Presentation (PDF)

Facilitator Notes (PDF)

Worksheet (PDF)

Creating a S.A.F.E. Space: Lesson Plan for Youth

A Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) Guided Lesson Plan designed to prevent bullying in schools through the advancement of SEL skills. In this presentation, students will learn about creating a supportive, accepting, friendly, and empathetic space to promote positive school culture. Throughout the presentation, each focus area is connected to Core SEL Competencies that promote mental health and safety of everyone in the school.

Presentation (PDF)

Facilitator Notes (PDF)