Talk about Mental Health

Character Traits to Compliment
Blair Turner

Make 'positive mental health' a part of everyday conversations.

One way to increase awareness of mental health, is to make a point to talk about it in positive and meaningful ways throughout the day – either with groups of students or individually. Talking about mental health can promote mental health literacy – by helping all students and adults develop a working knowledge of positive mental health as well the signs of mental illness.1,2 Mental health is everyone's business.3

Think about creative ways to teach all children and youth about the four characteristics associated with positive mental health3 and ways to promote feeling good emotionally:

  1. Positive emotions – feeling happy (create academic and non-academic experiences that promote enjoyable participation)
  2. Positive psychological and social functioning – feeling good about oneself (e.g. aware of strengths); getting along with others; having at least 1-2 good friends
  3. Engaging in productive activities – doing well in everyday activities (school, play/leisure, rest)
  4. Coping with life stressors – having strategies for dealing with life challenges (e.g. relaxation strategies, thinking positive, etc.)

Make a point to emphasize that taking care of one's mental health is as important as taking care of one's physical health!

Simple suggestions:

  • Use the words 'positive mental health' or 'mental well-being' when opportunities arise throughout the day. Give specific examples of what students and adults can do on a daily basis to take care of their mental health, such as: get enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and doing an enjoyable activity. Example: "It looks like everyone enjoyed reading that book today. Doing things that we enjoy is good for our mental health!"
  • Have students visit and use materials on reputable websites to learn about positive mental health based on positive psychology, such as the 'Action for Happiness' website ( Students can read about each of the 10 Actions for Happiness and the research that supports each action.
  • Print out posters focusing on positive mental health and happiness and hang them throughout the school. See the Actions for Happiness posters at or our Every Moment Counts posters – Be Kind to Your Mind.
  • When reading books in class, make a point to talk about how the characters' did things to take care of their mental health such as: talking about feelings, doing healthy and enjoyable activities, and being kind to others. Also tune into ways in which they demonstrated positive coping strategies, such as thinking positive and doing calming strategies (e.g. yoga, deep breathing).

1 Barry, M. M., & Jenkins, R. (2007). Implementing mental health promotion. Edinburgh, Scotland: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
2 Jorm, A.F., Korten, A.E. , Jacomb, P.A., Christensen, H., Rodgers, B. & Pollitt, P. (1997). "Mental health literacy": A survey of the public's ability to recognize mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of treatment. Medical Journal of Australia, 166, 182-186.
3 Weare, K. & Wolfgang, M. (2005). What do we know about promoting mental health through schools? Promotion & Education, Vol. XII, No. 3-4, 118-122.
4 Keyes, C. L. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62, 95-108.