Mental health is an important thing to talk about, but it can sometimes feel uncomfortable for people to start discussing. It is an important subject, however, as an increase in societal mental health awareness can have positive outcomes. For example, one study examining a British anti-stigma campaign found that people who were more familiar with the campaign were more likely to feel comfortable disclosing mental health issues to family, friends, or an employer, and were also more likely to seek professional help (Henderson et al., 2017).
Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to learn about mental health issues, whether one is an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between. This article will cover tools that can supplement mental health interventions, worksheets and activities to help people learn about mental health, books dealing with mental health for adults and children, Facebook groups for mental health issues, and finally World Mental Health Day activities and events.
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5 Tools for Mental Health Interventions
Here are some tools that will help a psychotherapy treatment plan go more smoothly for both the client and the clinician:
CBT Thought Record
This PDF is a way to record one’s thoughts and reflect on them. It asks the user to log their emotions and thoughts as well as what was going on to make them feel that way, then has the user reflect on whether or not there is evidence to back up their automatic thoughts. This could be a valuable supplement to a psychotherapist-led CBT treatment, but could also help people teach themselves about CBT. In fact, one study has shown that thought records are an effective way to modify beliefs, even when used by themselves and not in conjunction with a CBT treatment plan (McManus et al., 2012). (This worksheet will be available for download soon.)
This is a simple printout with several faces depicting emotions from happiness and sadness to anger and confusion. This can be an excellent tool for psychotherapy clients who have difficulty expressing their feelings. While this can make it easier for clients to describe their relationships and experiences outside of therapy, it can also help clients give immediate feedback on how they feel during a therapy session. Using faces like this to help identify emotions is a technique often used in play therapy (Kaduson & Schaefer, 2003).
This mood tracker was developed for people dealing with anger management issues but can be helpful for anyone who wants to track their mood. It splits the day up into several two-hour blocks and asks the user to track their emotions, as well as allowing for notes to explain these moods. This can also be helpful for clients who have trouble expressing themselves but can provide valuable self-reflection opportunities for anybody. Interestingly, some research has even shown that depressed clients can improve their mood by tracking it (Harmon et al., 1980).
Preparing For Your Appointment
This is a self-report form that therapists can give their clients after each session, in preparation for the next session. The client is meant to fill it out just before their next session so they can reflect on how their lives are going as well as how they feel the therapy itself is going. Clients can either keep these to themselves or directly share them with the therapist to provide feedback. These forms can be particularly useful if a client feels they are not satisfied with their progress, as giving feedback to their therapist can help improve treatment outcomes (Lambert, 2015).
Understanding Mental Health Relapse
This is a worksheet that can help clients learn more about possible mental health relapse. It can be used near the end of a therapy treatment plan to help the client recognize a relapse when it is coming, but can also teach strategies to avoid relapse. This would likely be most helpful for mental health issues that flare up at specific times (as opposed to more chronic mental health issues), and can also be helpful during treatment changes. For example, patients with anxiety disorders receiving both psychotherapy and antidepressants are at risk of relapse when they discontinue their antidepressant treatment (Batelaan et al., 2017).
5 Mental Health Worksheets & Awareness Activities (PDF)
It can sometimes be difficult to talk about mental health issues with children (and adults). One way to get around this is to have them complete worksheets or participate in activities related to mental health awareness, so they can learn in a more hands-on way. These worksheets and activities are excellent for cultivating mental health awareness:
Mindfulness Exercises For Children
This is a collection of seven (easy and free) mindfulness exercises that children can do to learn more about mindfulness. It is meant for teachers who want to introduce their students to mindfulness, but can also be used by parents or children themselves. This is a good way to get children thinking about mindfulness, but can also serve as a subtle introduction to more broad mental health issues.
Walk In Our Shoes Lesson Plans
For teachers who found the above worksheet helpful, this PDF includes several lesson plans that teachers can use to introduce children to mental health issues. The first lesson teaches children that mental health issues are just like physical health issues, and should be treated as such. The lesson plans also include quizzes and tests to solidify learning.
Mental Health Awareness Assignment
This PDF constitutes a complete group project that teachers can assign to their students to learn more about specific mental health issues. The project assigns each three-person team a disorder (such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and tasks them with learning about it from the patient’s perspective, from the patient’s family’s perspective, and from the perspective of a medical expert. This is an excellent way to teach older students about mental illness and how they can support people around them with mental health issues.
STOP Stigma Survey
This was part of a mental health stigma survey partially operated by the National Health Service (NHS), but it can work just as well in a classroom setting, or even with a single person filling it out. It asks several questions about mental health that are meant to (nonjudgmentally) gauge someone’s understanding of mental health issues and stigma surrounding them. It is best used in concert with the corresponding fact sheet that aims to subsequently educate the survey taker about mental health stigma.
Mental Health Awareness Quiz
This quiz is similar to the STOP Stigma Survey but is aimed at an older audience (as it discusses issues like suicide). It also differs from the above survey in that it asks a multiple-choice question about mental health, and then immediately provides the correct answer. The Mental Health Awareness Quiz also focuses more on specific mental disorders than the STOP Stigma Survey. This is an excellent way to test one’s knowledge of mental health issues and learn more about subjects that some might find uncomfortable.
5 Most Popular Books About Mental Health
Benas, A., Hart, M. (2017). Mental Health Emergencies: A Guide to Recognizing and Handling Mental Health Crises. Hatherleigh Press.
Written by a mental health associate and a social worker, this book aims to help people recognize mental health crises in the people around them. This book also aims to teach the reader how to support people in the midst of a mental health crisis. The authors targeted this book to teachers, human resources workers and other professionals who are concerned with the mental well-being of other people, but it can be helpful for anyone who wishes to know more about mental health.
Bly, N. (1887). Ten Days in a Mad-House. New York: Ian L. Munro.
This book details investigative reporter Nellie Bly’s exposé of a New York City insane asylum in the late 1800s. In the book, the author details how she checked into a boarding house, feigned insanity and was promptly declared insane and sent to an insane asylum. Bly spent 10 days in the asylum, during which she uncovered the horrific conditions that patients were subjected to, causing the city and the country to reevaluate how they treated the mentally ill. This book illustrates how horribly mental health patients were treated in the late 1800s, but can also cause the reader to think about how society treats mental health issues today. Ten Days in a Mad-House is in the public domain and can be read online for free here.
Bruce, J. (2016). Stigma: The Many Faces Of Mental Illness. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
This book, from a doctor with a mood disorder, aims to educate people about mental health issues and ultimately destigmatize mental health issues. The book describes various mental health disorders and the nuances of them, making it a great educational book. The author also discusses a wide variety of people with mental health issues, breaking down stereotypes about mental health along the way. This is a great book for someone who wants to understand more about mental health issues in themselves or others.
Robison, J.E. (2008). Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. Three Rivers Press.
This memoir discusses the author’s experience of living with Asperger’s syndrome. The author was not diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome until he was 40 years old, so before then he just lived as someone who felt that he could not connect very well with others for some reason but displayed an affinity for machines and electronics. This book is an excellent way to gain some insight into the world of Asperger’s syndrome and may help the reader better understand someone in their life who deals with Asperger’s syndrome.
Sacks, O. (1998). The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. New York: Touchstone.
This book from Oliver Sacks is a pop psychology classic. In it, Sacks discusses a few different cases of mental health disorders, focusing on the person rather than the disorder the whole way through. This is an excellent book for learning about mental health disorders in a way that doesn’t necessarily otherize people with mental health issues. The book’s scope also makes it a great introduction to mental health disorders.
5 Most Popular Children’s Books About Mental Health
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Weissman, J. (2009). Can I Catch It Like a Cold?: Coping With a Parent’s Depression. Toronto: Tundra Books.
This book from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada is aimed at children whose parents struggle with depression. The book describes what depression is and is not, and gives the reader strategies to cope with the situation. It is aimed at children as young as five years old and can be a child’s first official introduction to mental health disorders.
Flinn, E.N. (2016). Dear Allison: Explaining Mental Illness to Young Readers. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
This book discusses mental health in an adventurous, conversational way that can help children start to understand the subject. Written from the perspective of the reader’s cousin (who has teamed up with an ant to explore mental health issues across parts of the United States), this is another excellent book for introducing children to mental health. The book is partially a collection of letters from the narrator to her nine-year-old cousin, “Allison”, so this book is definitely appropriate for children as young as 9 to start learning about mental health.
Melmed, R., Sexton, A., Harvey, J. (2016). Marvin’s Monster Diary: ADHD Attacks! (But I Rock It, Big Time). Familius.
This book is an excellent way to teach children as young as 7 years old about attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), particularly if they have it. Aside from helping children understand ADHD, it offers a mindfulness-based solution the author calls ST4 – “Stop, Take Time To Think”. This book is an excellent resource for children with ADHD to learn more about themselves and strategies they can use every day to focus.
Rath, T., Reckmeyer, M. (2009). How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids. Washington, DC: Gallup Press.
This book was written by Tom Rath, an important author in positive psychology and particularly strengths finding (as he wrote StrengthsFinder 2.0). It is a children’s adaptation of another one of his popular books, How Full Is Your Bucket?, which claims that people can either “fill your bucket” with positivity or “dip from your bucket” with negativity. This is an excellent book to show kids how social interactions can affect their self-esteem and well-being, and how the way they treat people can affect the self-esteem and well-being of others.
Zelinger, L.E., Zelinger, J. (2014). Please Explain Anxiety to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents, 2nd Edition. Loving Healing Press.
This book, coauthored by a play therapist and a child psychologist, aims to explain anxiety to children in a simplified but still accurate way. This means describing the physiology of anxiety in a way that children as young as 5 can start to understand. It also includes some actionable exercises that children can use when they are feeling anxious. This book can help children deal with their own anxiety and learn some concrete psychology along the way.
Facebook Groups for Mental Health
Sometimes, the best thing for someone struggling with mental health issues is the ability to reach out to someone who will understand them. Facebook is great for this, as people can start community-based groups focused around mental health issues. That said, as is always the case with the internet, anybody can contribute to these groups, which has the potential to be harmful to members of that group.
For that reason, we have only highlighted closed groups (as opposed to open groups), which require admin approval to join. This way, it is more likely that someone will find a group full of people who only want to help. Someone looking for a Facebook group to discuss mental health should try joining one of these:
Adult ADHD/ADD Support Group… By Reach2Change
This is a support group for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Anxiety/Depression Mental Health Support Group
This is a support group for people with bipolar disorder, people who know someone with bipolar disorder, or people who want to learn more about bipolar disorder.
Mental Health Inspiration (Support & Awareness)
This is a support group for people with all sorts of mental health issues, as well as people who wish to be an ally or learn more about mental health.
This is a support group for people (19+) with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
World Mental Health Day Activities
World Mental Health Day is held every year on October 10th and has a theme each year. The 2018 theme has not yet been revealed, so there are not yet many planned activities and events for World Mental Health Day 2018. That said, we can review some of the activities from World Mental Health Day 2017 (for which the theme was mental health in the workplace) to get an idea of what they may consist of.
- In England, Buckingham Palace hosted a reception for people who work in mental health-related fields.
- In the United States, a church in Michigan held an event which included speakers, a panel, documentary screenings, and other opportunities to learn about and discuss mental health.
- In Nigeria, a mental health hospital in Ikodoru hosted an event aiming to raise mental health awareness and also offering free mental health evaluations.
Many other places, such as workplaces, schools, and libraries, held smaller events all around the world. In other words, any space that cares about mental health awareness can host an event on World Mental Health Day. Be on the lookout for specific activities as World Mental Health Day 2018 approaches.
A Take Home Message
At the end of the day, nobody can know everything there is to know about mental health issues. The key is constantly being willing to learn, so that you know how to help when someone you love deals with mental health issues, and so that you know strategies to deal with your own mental health issues if and when they arise.
Some people prefer reading books, others prefer more hands-on learning such as worksheets, and still, others just prefer going out and talking to people. No matter what type of learning you prefer, the important thing is that you make an effort to make this world a better place for everyone, no matter what mental health issues they deal with or do not deal with.
- Batelaan, N.M., Bosman, R.C., Muntingh, A., Scholten, W.D., Huijbregts, K.M., van Balkom, A.J.L.M. (2017). Risk of relapse after antidepressant discontinuation in anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder: systematic review and meta-analysis of relapse prevention trials. BMJ, 358(1), j3927. doi:10.1136/bmj.j3927
- Harmon, T.M., Nelson, R.O., Hayes, S.C. (1980). Self-monitoring of mood versus activity by depressed clients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48(1), 30-38. doi:10.1037//0022-006X.48.1.30
- Henderson, C., Robinson, E., Evans-Lacko, S., Thornicroft, G. (2017). Relationships between anti-stigma programme awareness, disclosure comfort and intended help-seeking regarding a mental health problem. British Journal of Psychiatry, 211(5), 316-322. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.116.195867
- Kaduson, H.G., Schaefer, C.E. (Eds.). (2003). 101 favorite play therapy techniques. Volume III. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
- Lambert, M.J. (2015). Progress Feedback and the OQ-System: The Past and the Future. Psychotherapy, 52(4), 381-390. doi: 10.1037/pst0000027
- McManus, F., Van Doorn, K., Yiend, J. (2012). Examining the effects of thought records and behavioral experiments in instigating belief change. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 43(1), 540-547. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2011.07.003