Mental Health Awareness Teacher Lesson Plan

Share the importance of suicide prevention and understanding mental illness with students. MY HERO's multimedia lesson plan includes discussion guide and learning outcome.


Mental Health Awareness Week was established in 1990 to educate the public about mental illness, fight stigma and provide support.

Mental Health Awareness Day is October 10th, and the 2019 theme is Suicide Prevention.



Middle and High School students read the following stories about heroes who live with mental illness and consider the discussion questions. 


Michael Phelps

By: Amanda Kirtland

Michael Phelps is a competitive swimmer who won 26 Olympic medals, the most of any Olympian.

Carrie Fisher

By: Emalee from San Diego

Carrie Fisher worked as a mental health advocate to understand her own mental illness and to bring awareness and acceptance of mental illness to the public.

Dr. Kay Jamison

By: Claudia Herrera Hudson

Dr. Kay Jamison is both an expert on, and a sufferer of, Bipolar Disorder.

Rico, the dog

By: Anonymous

Rico's owner adopted him after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Rico helps his owner manage his anxiety and depression.


Great for ESL/ELL Students

The following story about Dorothea Dix, an advocate for the mentally ill who established the first mental asylum in the United States, is available in text and audio so students can listen as they read long. 


Dorothea Lynde Dix

By: Sean from Connecticut

Dorothea Lynde Dix was an advocate for the rights of the mentally ill.

Discussion Questions

1. Michael Phelps, Carrie Fisher and Kay Jamison are not only advocates for mental health, they also have a mental illness. Do you know anyone who is an advocate for mental health or has a mental illness? Share their story with MY HERO.

2. Rico is a service dog that helps his owner manage his anxiety and depression. Do you know anyone who uses a service animal? How does the animal help them in their daily life? Share the story with MY HERO.

3. Dorothea Dix worked to improve the lives of those suffering from mental illness. How has dealing with mental illness changed over the years?   


Learn about the artist Vincent Van Gogh, who suffered from mental illness. 

The following story about Vincent Van Gogh has text and audio, allowing students to listen as they read along. Great for ESL/ELL students and emerging readers. 

Then analyze Corridor in the Asylum and compare it to other art by Vincent Van Gogh.  


Vincent Van Gogh

By: Claudia Hudson

Story about Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world's most renowned artists

Corridor in the Asylum

By: Vincent Van Gogh

This painting from 1889 was beautifully rendered by Van Gogh while he was suffering from mental health issues.

Stories about Mental Health for Younger Readers - by Younger Readers

Vincent van Gogh

By: Michael Roberts

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

Clara Hughes

By: Alexa from Calgary

Clara Hughes is a medal-winning olympic athlete who suffered from depression. 


Students watch the following film featuring Dr. James Doty, as he discusses the positive impact compassion and kindness have on a person's mental health and overall well being. 

After watching the film, students discuss how to foster kindness and compassion within their own class and communities, create an action plan and share their story with MY HERO. 


Power of Compassion & Importance of the Work of CCARE

CCARE at Stanford University

Dr. James Doty speaks on the power of compassion and importance of CCARE's work. (4:55 minutes)

The 2019 Mental Health Awareness Day Theme Is Suicide Prevention


Students read the story about Anna and Victoria Mendez, mother and sister respectively to Daniel Mendez, whom they lost to suicide. Daniel's fellow students created the campaign 2 Cool To Be Kind in response, and Anna and her husband created the nonprofit National Association of People Against Bullying.

Then read the story about Robin Williams, a comedian whose death by suicide put mental illness in the media spotlight. 

Students should consider the discussion questions and activities. 


Anna and Victoria Mendez

By: Shannon Luders-Manuel

After the death of Daniel Mendez, his school created 2 Cool To Be Kind, an anti-bullying nonprofit for teens. His mother Anna founded the National Association of People Against Bullying.

Robin Williams - Just a Man

By: Jake Conlon

Robin Williams was an actor and comedian, named the funniest person of all time by Business Insider.


Students watch one or all of the following films that deal with mental illness and suicide, then consider the discussion questions and activities. 



Produced by:Taft High School

Dance and narrative sequences are woven together to address a serious issue affecting young people. (3:27 minutes)

The Weight We Carry

Nick Cavalier

Earl Granville does physical challenges carrying a cinder block as a symbol that none of us is alone. (11:32 minutes)

HEAL! Veterans Speak About PTSD [excerpt]

Produced by:Vicki Topaz

Veterans speak about the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder and how their service dogs help. (4:50 minutes)

Discussion Questions and Activities

1. Why is it important to have campaigns like 2 Cool to be Kind in schools?  

2. Does your school have a program to combat bullying? If so, share the story with MY HERO. If not, what can you do? Create an action plan, gain support and share your activism with MY HERO.

3. Create suicide prevention campaign in your school. Gather information about resources, get others involved and share your efforts with MY HERO. 

4. Do you know anyone who works to end bullying or is in the field of suicide prevention? Share their story with MY HERO.


Learning Outcome

Students will recognize that people who suffer from mental illness need support.

They will be encouraged to participate in anti-bullying and suicide prevention campaigns. 


External Links

National Alliance on Mental Illness Link
Credit: NAMI
World Health Organization: Mental Health Day
Credit: World Health Organization
Suicide Prevention Lifeline Resources
Credit: Suicide Prevention Lifeline Resources
Suicide Prevention Day Resources
Credit: Remind Support

Learn about a New Hero Every Day of the Year: Use the MY HERO Calendar in the Classroom

Students can share their Hero Essays, Films and Art through our Create Program

Organizer created on 9/5/2019 1:41:17 PM by Laura Nietzer

Last edited 9/24/2019 9:32:55 AM by Laura Nietzer