The Problem

Stigma surrounding mental illness and a lack of general conversation around the issue has been linked to a hesitancy in many adolescents in seeking mental health help (Salerno). This is especially worrisome considering the mounting prevalence of mental health issues in teenagers. According to a United States survey, half of all teenagers 13 to 18 will experience a mental health disorder (Park).

Survey I Conducted of High School Students:

How is mental health awareness best spread?

Narratives. A study was conducted to examine the role of narrative persuasion in promoting mental illness acceptance. Narratives were found to be more effective than non-narratives in promoting favorable attitudes towards people with mental illness (Nan). Narratives are more effective because of ‘transportation’: there is more imagery and more intense emotions present, which reduces the motivation and ability to counter argue (Nan). Narratives help to foster empathy and reduce stigma.

A similar second study was conducted with nursing students. Stigma towards psychiatry and people with serious mental illnesses is prevalent in healthcare providers and can adversely affect patient care (Amsalem). In an attempt to reduce stigma in a group of nursing students, theses students interacted with stable patients with serious mental illnesses. This gave the nursing students exposure to individuals with lived experiences of mental illness. Previously, a general psychiatric course wasn’t useful in changing stigmatized perceptions about mental illness, psychiatric care, and mental health nursing as a profession (Amsalem). The study found that the education of nursing students should be enhanced through this method (Amsalem)

How do middle schoolers learn best? (Vawter)

How do high schoolers learn best? (Fine)

How should mental illness be incorporated into schools? (Park)


The Goal: To overall encourage not just more awareness, but more understanding within society about this issue. Ideally, we want to facilitate meaningful learning in middle and high school so that rising generations of citizens feel a connection and understanding with the issue of mental health / mental illness and are empathetic in all careers and personal aspects of life. 

What You Can Do: Educate Yourself

Over the course of this online experience, a big takeaway I have is the sheer amount of resources and information one has access to online. Often times, the hardest part is sifting through it all to find important things to read, watch, consume, etc. You don’t have to become an expert and you don’t have to know everything. Every step you take counts, no matter how small. So what can you do to help? Just click on a couple links below. Be curious and open-minded and learn about the issue. If our schools don’t provide the education for us, it is important to go seek the information ourselves.

After you have learned more about the subject, bring it into the scope of others’ awareness. Tell your friends about what you’ve learned, send them the link to the TedTalk you particularly liked. The important thing is that the topic spreads as much as possible into the public’s consciousness and acceptance. Every time information is talked about and shared, we move one step forward.


•National Alliance on Mental Illness:

•National Institute of Mental Health:

•What Is Mental Illness?

•Mental Health Disorders:

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Read: In class we read Crazy Like Us (Ethan Watters), which was extremely interesting and informative. I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about this subject.

Potential Email Template:

Dear (Administrator),

My name is (Your Name), and I am a high school student at (Your School). This semester, I have enrolled in a course in an online program called Global Online Academy. During this time, I have learned a lot about mental health and mental illness disorders, and became concerned with the lack of education on this subject to the student body at our school. I wanted to bring this to your attention, and let you know that this is something that concerns me and my classmates. We implore you to consider how we might integrate an education on mental illness into our curriculum moving forward, as understanding it eliminates stigma around the subject and helps us become individuals with higher degrees of empathy and awareness.

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to student voices.

-(Your name)

What Schools Can Do: A Larger Scale

Middle School

-Middle School is the time when students’ brains are rewiring and forming new connections. It is an important time to begin the conversation around mental health and mental illness. They are impressionable and largely free of long-lasting stigma. An important step in mental illness awareness is the mild introduction of the subject into middle school curriculums.

-A suggested approach / curriculum of middle schools:

High School

-It is also important to continue these conversations in high schools. At this point, students are able to achieve a broader range of understanding and can handle more in-depth learning. It’s important that students feel they have a sense of the subject so it’s not so foreign and hard to understand.

-Suggested approach / curriculum for high school:


In order to help me learn more about this topic, please answer the following questions below in the comments: 

•Is mental health and mental illness a part of your school curriculum?

•How do you feel about the amount of mental health education your school provides?

•What’s something you would like to see your school do in terms of mental health / mental illness awareness and education?

Works Cited

Click Here.


  1. Hi Samatha! I really like the simplicity of your question, this topic is so important and I am really happy that you addressed it because it definitely needs to be better implemented in all schools. To answer your first two questions, my school provides very limited education about metal health which frustrates me because, as your survey showed; people want to learn more. I have never heard of the 5 T’s before but they seem like something simple that could yield great results of teaching. Do these steps first start with the teachers and administration or is this an idea that needs an entire schools involvement to work best? How do you think they could naturally be implemented into schools? Great job!!

    1. Hey Rubi, thank you for your comment and for answering my questions! For me, I think that mental health education efforts at schools really have to start with administration and teachers, since they’re the ones with the ability to implement curriculums and education requirements. However, I think that after these individuals get the ball rolling, it really is up to the whole school to be on-board and cooperative for it to really work. I think that in middle schools, since in my experience most middle schoolers learn a large variety of subjects, it wouldn’t be too difficult to naturally implement a unit on mental illness. I think in high school it might be a bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible. It might mean creating a required course on mental illness for all high schoolers, or integrating these topics into English and Social Studies classes, but either way I think it is doable.

  2. In response to your request for feedback:
    •Is mental health and mental illness a part of your school curriculum?
    It is not a direct part of the curriculum, but we often have assemblies and speakers to teach and discuss mental health.
    •How do you feel about the amount of mental health education your school provides?
    I feel it is definitely more than most, but it is still pretty lacking.
    •What’s something you would like to see your school do in terms of mental health / mental illness awareness and education?
    I feel it would be better to include in-class rather than just in assemblies because assemblies are not the best format for learning something.

    I completely agree with the basis for your presentation and I appreciate that you provided specific formats of learning. I feel the biggest challenge towards it right now is that there is no class that is clearly designed to implement this curriculum(with the potential exception of health class depending on the school). In which do you suggest the new curriculum be implemented?

    1. Hey Lulia,
      Thank you so much for your response and for answering my questions! Just hearing about different people’s experiences with their schools helps me to gain a better understanding of the problem as it stands globally, and identify some of the reoccurring issues with mental health education in schools.
      Also, I completely agree with you. I think that perhaps a unit could be included into high school social studies classes, as these tend to be the most open-ended and flexible. I think there is also room in English/Literature classes in which students could read narratives on mental illness to gain a better understanding of the experience. Overall, though, you’re right, in that there’s not a clear place for this curriculum to be implemented.

  3. Hi Samantha! Your project was very well put together, I really liked how you made it specific for middle school and high school, knowing that there are different techniques for the different age groups. As well I really appreciated that you made a email template if people wanted to help make their school more open with talking about mental health issues. Now to answer your questions: 1) My school does not have education on mental health or mental illness in our curriculum. 2) I feel like they need to talk about it more, especially since my school is international. We get put into a new environment, which is relatively conservative with what you can talk about, which makes the students feel trapped. I feel like my school NEEDS to talk about mental health and mental illnesses as it is extremely taboo in this part of the world. 3) I would like my school to allow teachers to have sit down conversations about mental health and mental illnesses. I want my school to confront the challenges with moving internationally and allow for students to be open with their emotions and situations.

    1. Hey Alizae,
      Thank you for your response, and thank you for bringing up the additional struggle students at your school face with your school being international. This isn’t something that crosses my mind a lot, as I go to a local day school, but it is very true that students at international schools or boarding schools would probably be even more vulnerable and would especially benefit from conversations around mental health. This is a really good point that you make, and I hope that moving forward, your school and other similar schools will realize how important this is and help to implement curriculums that educate and help their students with mental health issues.

  4. Ahoy Samantha. I read your presentation and knew I must put in my 2 cents to which I have many.

    How do you suggest schools keep updated mental health classes with the ever-changing field of mental health research?

    I’ve gone to schools both public and private and it has been my experience that there are no mental health classes.

    I always thought that this was strange as we had health classes on a variety of other topics like drugs and F.L.A.S.H. yet for some reason mental health was always skipped over.

    Very interesting presentation, thank you.

  5. Hey, just wanted to say that your project was very interesting and well organized! In my school mental health is talked about sometimes but I feel like it should have more light shed on it. It’s a very important topic to me and should be a concern for all schools. We don’t have any classes on it at my school. I believe maybe a class or two, or adding a lesson about it in a regular class would be beneficial. Your topic that you choose is really important and I’m glad that you choose it to give information about it too this conference!

  6. Hi Samantha,

    Thank you for all of the work on your project. As Middle School Dean of Faculty and Curriculum at Punahou, I am interested in your ideas and wondering if you can share more about how you think Middle Schoolers could learn about mental health.

    Please reach out to me, if you would be willing to meet with educators about this topic.

    Take care,

    Dr. Mitsuda

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