Mental Health Matters
by Linsey Bové
The struggle is real, y’all. Since the start of the pandemic, emergency departments around the country have seen a proportional rise in patients, especially children, showing up in the midst of mental health crises. Pediatricians and child and adolescent psychologists and psychiatrists have treated exponentially more kids with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicidal thinking and attempts over the past year. It is a truth that, as an educator, weighs heavily on my heart. So, as I planned and percolated over this past summer, I found my concern for these kiddos becoming louder and louder. I longed to just reach out and hug every single one. Then, in prayer one morning, it hit me — a God nudge am I so glad I did not ignore. He said, So, do something about it. Who me? How could I even begin? Then, He reminded me.
As an English teacher, I stand uniquely poised to help my students connect to themselves through reading and writing. Education truly comes to life as we do our part to produce compassionate, engaged young adults with powerful literature and imaginative texts as our catalysts. The development of empathy is rooted in storytelling. I teach reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and bear the unspoken task of helping kids navigate their relationships with others, carve out their identities, and grapple with what it means to be human. Reading (and writing, and talking about what we read) can help make that process meaningful. So, I decided to marry that charge with all of the training in Project Based Learning that our campus has been blessed with over the past few years. That’s where Mental Health Matters was born.
The driving question of this project was: “How can we educate our community about mental health and help to lessen its stigma?”
First, we experienced a Mental Health Background Gallery Walk. Around the room hung collages I created of various infographics, articles, poems, social media posts, pieces of art, and thought bubbles, all about mental health. Students spent time interacting with all of the various texts and graphics and responding by sharing their thoughts, questions, wonderings, and personal thoughts on sticky notes. This entry event jump-started our foray into reflecting more, reading more, discovering more, and sharing more about mental health, as it is such a huge struggle for students (and really all people) across the country, especially right now.
Throughout September, they had constant access to various novels, nonfiction books, textbooks, articles, poems, pieces of art, etc., and interacted with those texts in a pattern of read, think on paper, question, discuss, and reflect. An expert panel of adults working in the mental health field also visited with them via Zoom.
We then worked as an 8th grade class to design a campaign, create a podcast channel, and work in small teams to create episodes in which the students presented information, strategies, opinions, etc., to bring awareness to and lift the stigma of mental health struggles among our community. We then published our podcast, Okay Not to be Okay, on Spotify!
My teacher heart is so full! I am so proud of these 8th graders! This project came to fruition with so much passion, purity, and professionalism. I could not be happier with the outcome. This project truly had more of an impact than I anticipated. It has already helped people. Kids opened up, have been passionate, and have learned so much. Their. Episodes. Are. So. Good. It’s been a magical experience and every bit as impactful as I hoped.
If you are interested in listening, please click on the picture below to be taken directly to Spotify. The cover art was designed by one of my 8th graders as well!
About Grace School
Grace School is a private, Christian school in Houston, Texas serving students from ages 20 months through Grade 8. Uniquely combining a faith-based STEM curriculum, Grace School fosters an environment where children develop the skills and mindsets to become compassionate innovators, problem solvers, creators, and changemakers.