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It's time to talk about mental health

International Youth Day (12 August 2014)

by Hannah Knight

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4


To promote awareness of mental health issues affecting young people.

Preparation and materials


  1. With good mental health, children and young people do better in every way. They are happier in their families, are able to learn better, do better at school, and enjoy friendships and new experiences.

    This quote is from the YoungMinds website (

    On 12 August each year, it is International Youth Day and the role of young men and women as contributors to change is celebrated. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and hardships facing the world’s youth. Each year there is a focus on a specific topic and this year the main focus is on mental health.

  2. Ask the students what words they associate with mental health.

    Mental health can be a difficult and upsetting subject to talk about. Indeed, it is feared by many, but the main reason for this is a lack of understanding and awareness. 

    Ask the students to fill in the blanks in the following sentences. 

    Display the list below, if using, or simply read the sentences and take the students’ responses.

    (a) Approximately ______children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder (and that’s just the ones who have been diagnosed).
    (b) One in ____ will have two mental health problems – such is, anxiety, depression.
    (c) There are approximately ______ cases of young people with mental health issues in the UK.

    The answers are:

    (a) three
    (b) three
    (c) 80,000.

  3. There are many factors that contribute to mental health problems. Some of these are:

    – problems in the family (illness, parents separating)
    – problems at school (peer pressure, bullying)
    – consumerism (pressure to have money, the ‘perfect body’ and lifestyle)
    – violence within communities (war, inequality). 

    We are all individuals, we are all different and we all have different coping mechanisms in times of distress. Some of us may shout and stomp our feet, some of us may cry and some of us may struggle to socialize with our friends or commit to our responsibilities. 

    The thing to remember is that we are not alone; we are all part of one big community and, as a community, we can support each other and contribute to the each other’s well-being in some way. 

  4. Some of you may think it’s easy to distinguish who has a mental health problem and who does not, but, unfortunately, it is not always that simple. 

    Many people feel too embarrassed or afraid to declare they have a problem, which makes it very difficult to help them. Things to look out for in your friendship groups are:

    – regular tearfulness
    – sudden violent outbursts
    – lack of confidence
    – inflicting pain on themselves
    – being unwilling to participate in activities.

  5. If you see any of these signs in your friendship groups, here are some things you could do.

    Smile A simple smile could brighten someone’s day and stop them from thinking horrible thoughts and could even encourage them to socialize. It is also scientifically proven that if you pretend to smile on a regular basis, you trick your own mind into thinking you are happy. Try smiling now, do you feel happier?
    Remind the person that you care Sometimes small acts of kindness can make people feel loved and appreciated. Isn’t it great that something so small could make such a big difference? This could include sharing a game, making a card, giving someone a compliment, inviting someone to your house or even helping someone carry their bags.
    Listen Sometimes thebest medicine is being a good listener. Talking with a friend can help them work out what is really bothering them and explore possibilities. So, if you’re friend is sad, ask them if they would like to talk about it.
    Be patient Mental health is not something that will go away overnight. Managing your mental health is a journey and the journey will be a lot smoother with support from friends and family.
  6. Show the image of the six ways to well-being in the Wheel of Wellbeing.

    The Wheel of Wellbeing shows six ways to achieve well-being. Each section of the wheel has a symbol for one of the areas we can work on to achieve happiness. The aim is to use the Wheel as an everyday guide to help us achieve well-being in all these areas.

    It is worth doing as one of the best ways to manage mental health in our communities is to learn how to look after our own well-being. If we are happier as individuals, it is likely that our positive outlook will rub off on others around us. Did you know that improving your well-being could add seven years to your life? So, what are you waiting for, print off the Wheel and ‘WoW’ yourself and others every day.

    Body – be active.
    Mind – keep learning.
    Spirit – give.
    People – connect.
    Place – take notice.
    Planet – care.


Time for reflection

Close your eyes and think of something you could do that would brighten someone’s day. Maybe you could smile at a stranger, help an old lady across the street or include someone in your friendship group. Maybe you could be more helpful at home, take time to listen to a friend or even compliment someone on how lovely they look or what a lovely person they are.

After this assembly I want you to think of a compliment you can give to one of your friends. You never know, you may get one back.


‘You’ve got a friend in me’ by Randy Newman
‘With a little help from my friends’ by The Beatles 

Publication date: August 2014   (Vol.16 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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