What is Mental Health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Source: www.mentalhealth.gov

Signs & Symptoms

  • Feeling sad or down

  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate

  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt

  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping

  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations

  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Major changes in eating habits

  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence

  • Suicidal thinking

Quick Wins

The following are evidence-based strategies that can be used in the classroom

Allow students to have extra time or submit work in sections, provide feedback

Allow flexibility in assignments, for example, type rather than hand-write, write rather than speak or speak with a peer as support, offer options for assignments

Structure is important and can help reduce stress and anxiety by giving the child a resource so he or she knows what the day will look like and can be socially and emotionally prepared – no surprises

  • Extra-curricular involvement – a number of studies indicate that the highest achieving students spend more time in structured, adult-led activities.
  • Exercise and other physical activities produce endorphins (chemicals) in the brain that help reduce stress and improve sleep
  • Being part of a group or team provides the child with a sense of belonging
  • Model reflecting, rather than reacting to situations
  • Model patience and perseverance
  • Do not engage a child to talk in the middle of a meltdown
  • Model good self-control, explain why you are upset and discuss solutions
  • Set and agree to acceptable ways the child can express anger or frustration
  • Provide a calm space where the child has the opportunity to calm down and  self-regulate
  • Be firm but do NOT yell
  • Identify consequences in advance and be consistent

Designate an area that is comforting and inviting where the child is more likely to self-regulate and go there to calm down. It can be a corner or book nook, and have objects of interest to the child such as books, fidgets, etc. The child should be allowed to leave the area when they feel calm, not by a time limit set (not a time-out spot). In the beginning, children may need prompts; a gentle reminder to go to this space to calm down, but they should not be forced into the space. (This would make the space feel like a punishment).

Resource: https://www.rainbowccc.com/teaching-and-modeling-self-control/

  • Have high expectations
  • Set up fair and consistent processes
  • Focus on building positive relationships
  • Use effective, evidence-based practices
  • Foster positive relationships with parents/caregivers
  • Encourage positive peer relationships

Resource: https://thehighlyeffectiveteacher.com/6-ways-to-build-a-positive-classroom-culture/

Beginning of the day and end of the day check ins – if you have identified a child that may show signs of “not being okay” at the beginning of the day, be sure to check in with them privately.  You could use cards with a smiley face, straight face, or frown at the beginning of each day and have the child indicate which one represents them.  Check in with them and check out before they go home.

Some students find journaling as cathartic and helps them to recognize and define thoughts, and can provide an opportunity for self-reflection and reframing of negative thoughts or feelings.

Long Term Solutions

  • Promote safety and equality
  • Remember to check-in
  • Informally conference with students
  • Work to increase personal connections through content – relate topics to students
  • Ask questions
  • Express your belief in the student’s abilities


Fidelity – the degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced.

To evaluate fidelity, the school must consider:

  • Fairness
  • Consistency of teachers are in awarding points
  • If certain teachers need coaching
  • What students may be missing out on points due to easy-going demeanor
  • Rate of referral for major infractions

Resource: http://wvpbis.org/

WVDE Disclaimer

Please Note: Links to resources outside the West Virginia Department of Education’s website do not constitute an endorsement by the WVDE. Users should vet linked resources to meet audience needs.