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

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depressions (sadness or irritability)

  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows

  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties

  • Social withdrawal

  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Strong feelings of anger

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)

  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments

  • Substance abuse

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, even for teens, and can help reduce stress and anxiety by giving the adolescent 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 an adolescent to talk in the middle of an outburst
  • Model good self-control, explain why you are upset and discuss solutions
  • Set and agree to acceptable ways the student can express anger or frustration
  • Provide a calm space where the student has the opportunity to calm down and  self-regulate
  • Be firm but DO NOT yell
  • Identify consequences in advance and be consistent

Whether it is a secluded place in your classroom, or if it is permission to go to another staff’s office or classroom, providing the student with a safe place to self-regulate can reduce conflicts in the classroom and help the student strengthen coping skills

  • 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


Beginning of the day or rather, beginning of the class check-ins can be helpful in recognizing a student at-risk and in need of emotional or behavioral support.  You may feel the student needs referred, or perhaps they just need a few minutes to calm down.  You may feel you want to share concerns with the counselor.  At the end of class, check-out with the student; ask him or her if they are feeling better or need additional supports

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.