About the event
First celebrated in 1992, World Mental Health Day was initiated by the World Federation for Mental Health. Now, the day is observed by mental health charities, government organisations, the World Health Organisation, individuals and communities all around the world. The day is used to draw attention to the importance of good mental health and what must be done to improve access to mental health treatment. Often the day is used to highlight specific themes such as access to mental health services in the developing world, mental health in the workplace, investment in mental health services and awareness raising about particular mental health conditions such as depression.
How to approach it
This is a great opportunity to introduce and reinforce student’s knowledge of what ‘mental health’ is and what good or bad mental health looks like. For younger key stages start by encouraging students to list emotions - which one’s are pleasant and which ones are not? Suggest to students that a bad mental health is when we feel unpleasant for a significant portion of the time and better mental health is the opposite. Older key stages will almost certainly have heard of mental health, discuss together what the term means to them and to you. Next, ask students to think about ways in which we might be able to tell if others have good mental health or bad mental health. Ask them, how can we help ourselves to have good mental health, how can we help others?
Additionally, you could introduce the concept of mental health support and how institutions, communities and countries might go about improving the mental health of populations. As part of this you could review what mental health infrastructure is already in place. This is useful for signposting students to potential support should they need it. Start by the services available in school then move on to NHS services and charities such as Mind or the Good Samaritans. Next, engage your students in a discussion about the future of mental health services. Ask them: how could we run our institutions and systems to better improve people's mental health and access to care? What would an improved school system or business model or public services look like? How could we improve the general mental health of the world’s population? Show students that if we took mental health into account more often we might be more inclined to design kinder, fairer systems.
Everyone’s mental health is important. Can you remember a time when you were feeling down and some helped to make you feel better? The great thing about mental health is that if we’re proactive we can improve people’s mental health for the better. We can do small things like help out a friend, we can improve how we talk about mental health at school, and we can even make policies that improve the mental health of whole countries. Try to imagine a small town that makes the good mental health of its citizens a priority. What would it be like? What services would it have? What institutions? What would its citizens do?