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.

Mental Health Awareness
Credit: MY HERO


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

World Mental Health Day is October 10th, and the theme for 2021 is "Tools 2 Thrive", a focus on helping people find healthy ways to cope with stress.


Something more than gold: How US gymnasts earned silver

By: Noah Robertson - CSM Staff writer

Simone Biles had to make a difficult decision during the 2021 Olympics to protect her physical and mental health and withdrew from the Team competition. Read this story from the Christian Science Monitor to learn more and see how her team supported her decision.

Amid a mental health battle, sponsors side with Naomi Osaka

By: Mae Anderson and Anne D'Innocenzio Associated Press
Amid a mental health battle, sponsors side with Naomi Osaka

Helpful Resources to use During the Coronavirus

A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus

Teaching Tolerance article: A Trama-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus

Experts from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network share their recommendations for educators supporting students during the COVID-19 crisis.



Ellen Haller, a professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, discusses the impacts of the pandemic on mental health and provides advice for how cope with these challenging times.

MY HERO Eva Haller Salon Excerpt: Covid 19 & Mental Health
Credit: MY HERO


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.

Lili Reinhart

By: Brittny Barcenas
Lili Reinhart is an American actress who is open about her depression.

Dr. Kay Jamison

By: Claudia Herrera Hudson

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

Misty Copeland

By: Kyley Brandt

Misty Copeland is the first ever African American principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. Growing up, she struggled with frequent anxiety and panic attacks.

Lovey the Lovebird

By: Marcus Fennema
Lovey the Lovebird helped Marcus develop social skills to manage his ADHD and autism.

Demi Lovato

By: Brittny Barcenas

Demi Lovato is a singer and actress who speaks up about her struggles with bulimia and bipolar disorder.


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, Lili Reinhart 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. How is Misty Copeland an example of a woman who  overcame obstacles and didn't let her anxiety stop her from achieving her goals.  What obstacles do you face and how do you work to overcome them? 

3. Demi Lovato has used her struggles with mental illness as a platform to bring awareness to mental illness. Who else is working to bring awareness to the  struggles of mental illness and bring treatment to those who need it?

4. 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.


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


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)

Minimum Max

Produced by:Joshua Ovalle

A brief and powerful first-hand account from high school student, Max, who must navigate through the world of ADD and all the medications that come along with it.

Discussion Questions and Activities

1. How does Eric Granville demonstrate that people are not alone with their burdens? How does he motivate others to overcome difficulty with mental illness ?  

2. What is PTSD? Do you know anyone who has had to deal with PTSD? How do they deal with the challenges this disorder causes?

3. The film Minimum Max addresses the challenges of ADD and the effect medication has on Max, the main character. Do you know anyone who has an attention deficit disorder?

4. Do you know anyone who lives with mental illness? What obstacles have they overcome? Share their story with MY HERO.

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. 

External Resources to Help Children Cope with the Stress of Coronavirus

Downloadable Books: My Hero is You, Storybook for Children on COVID-19
Credit: IASC

A new story book that aims to help children understand and come to terms with COVID-19 has been produced by a collaboration of more than 50 organizations working in the humanitarian sector, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Save the Children.

With the help of a fantasy creature, Ario, “My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19!” explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality.

Click here for the story in English.

Click here for choice of language translations of the book.

Children and Stress During Coronavirus
Credit: World Health Organization

Struggling during the coronavirus? The Crisis Text Line is here to help: https://www.crisistextline.org/

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

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 9/20/2021 2:49:11 PM by Laura Nietzer