15 Tips for Student Mental Health Support

15 Tips for Student Mental Health Support

Key Takeaways

  • Positive reinforcement helps students thrive. Acts of kindness and emotional growth should always be celebrated.
  • Nutrition, physical activity, sleep hygiene, and mindfulness all have proven correlations with students’ mental health.
  • Encourage a sense of community and build social support in schools in order to boost self-esteem and reduce feelings of social withdrawal.

Why does student mental health matter?

According to research cited by the American Counseling Association, “a student living in the United States, in comparison to the Scandinavian countries of Finland or Sweden, is 13 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide.” And, based on the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education’s Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States, “69% of those committing violent acts using a gun within the school setting were between 10 and 19 years of age.”

Research further reveals that many of the student-attackers studied “wrote cryptic messages, engaged in behaviors that caused others concern or indicated a need for help, or disclosed to peers that they experienced loneliness or anger prior to the attack,”—all signs of dwindling mental health.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the biggest school shooting threat within schools is just that: within schools. A large portion of the assailants are just children themselves. This reality leaves school administrators, teachers, parents and communities with a key question: what can we do to help improve student mental health, so these tragedies don’t occur?


15 Student Mental Health Strategies for School

1. Promote a Positive School Culture

Promoting a positive school culture helps build a strong foundation of support for mental health for all students. Students who feel safe, respected, and valued are more likely to bond with each other and thrive socially and emotionally. You can promote a positive school culture by creating anti-bullying policies (and enforcing them), encouraging and subsidizing participation in after-school activities, and involving students by asking them what would make them feel more supported at school.

2. Mental Health Education

The best way to teach students about mental health is to integrate the concept into their curriculum. This integration doesn’t have to begin and end with health class, but health, fitness, and Physical Education courses should certainly include information on the topic that can be applicable to and actionable for young adults. Mental health education can also be incorporated into other subjects, such as history and literature. Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in May each year, offering schools an opportune time to focus on talking about the topic, bring in guest speakers, and more.

3. Access to Counseling Services

According to data drawn from the 2022 School Pulse Panel, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, “most public schools offer mental health services to students, although utilization remains unclear. In the 2021-2022 school year, 96% of public schools reported offering at least one type of mental health service to their students.” If you have mental health and counseling services at your school, create a push to have them used by the students who need it most. Emphasize that the use of these services are always confidential.

4. Peer Support Programs

Peer support programs can offer students a way to bond with each other and create a sense of community and comradery. One way to facilitate peer support is to create a buddy system between older and younger students at school. This “big” and “little” mentorship program can help build bonds and provide communal support.

5. Mindfulness and Relaxation

Often, when we think of the traditional physical education course, our memories are centered around physical fitness benchmarking, comparing results to other students, and other activities that bring up feelings of humiliation (like dodgeball). P.E. doesn’t have to feel this way for kids in 2023 and beyond—we can also incorporate mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and relaxation as a way to learn about and support the fitness of growing bodies.

6. Physical Activity

According to the research published by the National Library of Medicine, “exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.” Self-esteem and social cohesiveness are two absolutely critical assets of healthy, happy students. Increasing physical activity can be as simple as encouraging students to walk around outside the lunch room during breaks, or as ambitious as continuing to offer recess.

7. Healthy Eating

According to research published by the American Society for Nutrition, “a healthy diet provides more vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, which can reduce inflammation and alter neurotransmitters to reduce symptoms of depression.” Teaching students about nutrition and offering nutritious options at mealtime is a necessary two-pronged approach.

8. Sleep Hygiene

The University of Michigan reports that “chronic poor sleep quality is associated with depression, anxiety and other conditions. If it’s possible, urge your school board to consider adjusting school start times to better align with the longer (and later) sleep needs of adolescents and teenagers. In fact, the University of Rochester Medical Center has recently reported that later school start times (after 8:30 AM) are actually likely to reduce the risk of adolescent depression and anxiety.

9. Clear Communication

Clear communication is critical for everyone at school, from teachers, to students, to parents. Encourage students to anonymously report concerns about their peers, allow parents an avenue to reach out if they notice withdrawal in their students, and keep your community informed about all available resources, including mental health and counseling services.

10. Anti-Bullying Initiatives

One of the most important components of an anti-bullying initiative is education. Students must be taught what bullying is and isn’t, how to spot it, what to do in the moment, and how to report the event after. There should always be a clear focus on encouraging students not to bully, but an emphasis should also be placed on how students can stand up for others in a bullying situation in real-time.

11. Conflict Resolution Skills

Teaching students conflict resolution skills imparts wisdom that will stay with them for life. It also helps them to navigate interpersonal issues more effectively. Consider using the month of May (Mental Health Awareness Month) to put on a conflict resolution workshop, or a short class that teaches students how to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts at school, at home, and within themselves, as well as how to build positive bonds with others.

12. Time Management

Time management skills help students reduce levels of anxiety, build a sense of pride in themselves, and more. Strong time management skills surrounding school work can also help reduce overwhelming academic pressure felt by many students, especially around busy times like finals or college application season.

13. Positive Reinforcement

You can never give too much positive feedback to students. Where possible, recognize students for their accomplishments and growth inside and outside of the classroom. Care should be taken to include everyone in incentivization programs, and not to just reward those students who are already thriving. Acts of kindness and peer support should always be highlighted and rewarded.

14. Support Groups

Do you have particularly supportive teachers and/or parents at your school? Consider forming a volunteer support group for students to access when they need a caring adult outside of their family to speak with.

15. Regular Check-Ins

One of the best ways to encourage strong mental health is to let students know you care. Frequent teacher-student touchpoints, and even schoolwide survey check-ins (anonymous or not) are great ways to keep a finger on the pulse of your students’ wellbeing.

Bottom Line

When it comes to increasing positive mental health practices in schools, there isn’t a one-size fits-all solution. But with a multi-faceted approach, all education institutions can improve feelings of happiness and wellbeing for their students.

At School Safety Solution, our priority is assisting school administrators in making sure that school campuses across the country are as safe as they can be. 

We know this starts with mental health, and we are proud to complement your efforts to build a stronger student community by offering solutions designed to protect children and educators safely through reliable, high-quality, and life-saving equipment.

You’ll never regret having effective safety protocols in place. If you would like to review your school’s safety and security equipment, the tools available to your school’s staff, or any other security consideration, we would love to assist you. We offer products like protective window shadesdoor locksbleed control kids, and access to education on safety practices. Evaluating your needs begins with a comprehensive threat assessment. You can call our team of safety experts any time at 888.733.0406 or send us an email at info@schoolsafetysolution.com for more information.