Student Mental Health and Wellbeing
If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out to support yourself.
Below are resources for parents and staff to use with students when having conversations about mental health and well-being.
Maintaining Mental Health & Well-being
Mental health and wellbeing affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. 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 and aging. Below are resources for how to maintain and take care of yourself:
Some warning signs may help you determine if someone is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs or behaviors please seek immediate help:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
Below are additional resources about suicide:
When someone they love dies, children express themselves in a variety of ways.
Some ways children express grief include apparent lack of feelings, acting-out behaviors, and fear. Children may regress and all of the sudden need to be rocked to sleep, or help to do things they once could, this is usually temporary. If the child is showing explosive emotions, that is healthy and part of the healing process. It provides a means of temporarily protesting the painful reality of loss. Be supportive, understanding, and do not argue. Allow the child to let go of pent-up emotions. Healthy grief requires that we express, not repress these feelings.
Allow the child to ask questions and answer them honestly using literal language. Talk to them about death being a part of everyday life (a bird that he saw on the ground that died, a past pet, etc). Don’t say “passed away” or “person is sleeping” as then the child might be afraid to go to sleep. If the person had cancer talk to the child about what cancer is and why they died from cancer and stay away from “the person was sick.”
Many children will grieve but not mourn. Mourning is how we express our feelings outwardly. Such as drawing pictures of how they are feeling, drawing pictures of loved one and what they liked to do, write a letter to the loved one, continuing to talk about the loved one from the child’s perspective (tell me about the person), provide him with keepsakes that belong to the loved one, keep pictures up, go to places of special significance, look at photo albums, etc. You could also create a memory box or a memory book/scrapbook. Remember too that little people are more likely to experience “ghosts, spirits, or see our dead loved ones.” If the child says that they see the person at the kitchen table or that the person visited, and they find comfort in this, keep them talking (what was the person doing, what did they look like, what did they say?)
Below are resources that you may find useful in dealing with grief. Click on the link to download the documents.
Some helpful books for elementary students
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
- When Dinosaurs Die by Laurie Krasny Brown
- Where Are You?: A Child’s Book about Loss by Laura Olivieri
- The Elephant in the Room: A Children’s Book for Grief and Loss by Amanda Edwards and Leslie Ponciano
- Finding Grandpa Everywhere by John Hodge
- Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Chuck DeKlyen and Pat Schwiebert