May is Mental Health Awareness Month which encourages everyone to examine their mental well being and bring awareness to mental illnesses. When students are aware of and work on their social and emotional skills, they are better equipped to handle everything life throws at them which improves their chances of mental wellness. This post focuses on encouraging:
- Helping Others (compassion, empathy, service, kindness etc)
- Anti-Bullying (acceptance, citizenship, fairness etc)
- Leadership (respect, responsibility, integrity, etc)
These three skills can give students an edge up on the way to strong mental wellness over those not engaged in these practices.
Psychological research has shown that prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination can have adverse effects for both the targets and the offenders. Furthermore, hate speech and hate crimes affect more than the immediate victims; they also affect those who hear about it, witness it or are part of the group being discriminated against. The flip side of this is how empathy, kindness and acceptance of others can have positive effects on mental health.
Martin Seligman, a pioneer of the psychology of happiness, suggests that connection with others in meaningful ways can improve our mental health. Neurological studies show positive brain changes and increased feelings of well being more so when we give or observe someone give to charity than if we receive money ourselves. Dr. Edward Dreyfus has found that people who live without integrity lead less fulfilling lives, wrought with stress, anxiety and depression.
What does this mean for students?
- It is never too early to impart strong social and emotional skills in children.
- Teach compassion, empathy, service and kindness through acts of helping.
- Encourage acceptance of others, fairness and good citizenship by setting up your classroom or school culture to be team oriented, where everyone looks out for one another.
- Increase students’ overall leadership skills by holding them to high standards of integrity, responsibility and respectfulness. We know from the research, these skills can have the same trickle down effect on others as hate, intolerance, bullying and antisocial behaviors.
- Set your students up for success – improve their mental health now and set them on a course for strong mental wellness throughout life by integrating these essential skills and traits.
What can you do?
- Reinforce small acts of kindness and praise students when they show compassion for others or help someone in need.
- Model empathy and share your own experiences of helping others.
- Foster a culture of acceptance by celebrating individual differences that make us special and unique.
- Help students learn about and understand each other and get rid of the ignorance that can grow into hate.
- Have open discussions about the importance of being a good person and how it can lead them down a successful, happier path (Our Cards in the House can help!)
- Show students how important these things are now and in their futures and make social and emotional skill embodiment just as important as academic achievement.
For information about how TEAMology seamlessly integrates these skills into the fabric of the school day, through the use of characters and symbols, please contact us here.
Written by Lisa DiBernardo – Director of Education, TEAMology