‘Just take a deep breath’: Why this class is learning mental health lessons

From CBC

Each student in this Winnipeg classroom has a kit full of mental health and mindfulness tools

 

In a middle-years classroom at Champlain School in Winnipeg, a group of students are sitting quietly on yoga mats. They’re ready for their next assignment.

At the front of the class their teacher, Catherine Siller, tells them what to do:

Anything that might be bothering us from the morning or the weekend or even from recess, I want you to focus on that energy right now. Take a deep breath in, and push that negative energy right out. – Catherine Siller

Siller is leading her Grade 5 and 6 class in a mindfulness meditation. All year long, this group of young students has been learning about the importance of caring for their mental well-being.

“What do we say?,” Siller asks as they finish the meditation.

“Namaste,” the class responds. 

Building mental health toolkits

The students have been getting help throughout the school year from a cardboard box. Each student has a “Thrival Kit“, which is filled with tools to help young people work on their mental health. 

Read more here, or listen to the story on CBC when you click here.

Q&A: How Digital Mental Health Tools Made a Difference for Hazard Independent Schools

From Ed Tech Magazine

Vivian Carter, the innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Kentucky, explains how and why her rural district adopted a digital health tool for troubled students.

Digital health technology isn’t just for grown-ups. New tools can help connect children with the private and personalized resources they need to better understand their mental health and keep it in check.

For one school district, adopting an online mental and behavioral health system has been an effective tool to better help students in a rural community overcome barriers to learning, says Vivian Carter, innovation coordinator at Hazard Independent Schools in Eastern Kentucky.

In 2014, the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC), which includes Hazard Independent Schools, received a Project Prevent grant from the Education Department that included funding to deploy and use the Ripple Effects online tool. Ripple Effects is a “Social Emotional Learning technology-based software system” that teachers can use to deliver behavior interventions and students can use to access personalized guidance and emotional resources. The technology is now being used in 70 of the 140 KVEC schools as a way to fill the gaps in mental health care for students and already has seen success in dropping the number of mental health and behavioral referrals.

Read more here…

One Sheridan school increased teacher retention and decreased students ‘falling through the cracks’ by adding mental health professionals

From Chalkbeat

At one school in the tiny district of Sheridan south of Denver, two social workers roam the hallways with handheld radios, responding to crisis after crisis.

It might be a student crying in class for unknown reasons, a disruptive student, or a fight. Less urgent requests, such as a check-in for a student who just seems to be having a rough day, usually come through email.

“It’s very much boots on the ground,” said Maggie Okoniewski, one of the social workers at Fort Logan Northgate.

The school has just under 600 students in grades third through eighth. The demographics are typical of the Sheridan school district. About one in four are identified as homeless — the highest rate for any school district in the state — and about 15 percent qualify as having special needs.

In between those calls, Okoniewski and her fellow social worker Danielle Watry check in on students they’ve identified as a priority. Every week the list includes about 60 students. In the last year, the list includes students from the heavily Hispanic population who have especially struggled with deportations or fears of separations, they said.

“And if I’m in the classroom, it’s almost certain that another student will flag us down,” Watry said.

Read more…

10 Reasons Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today

From Psychology Today

We’ve created an environment that fosters anxiety rather than resilience.

The New York Times recently published an article called, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?” The author chronicled several teens’ battle with anxiety over the course of a few years.

The article questioned why we’re seeing such a rise in anxiety among today’s youth. As a psychotherapist, college lecturer, and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, I agree that anxiety is a widespread issue among adolescents. It’s the most common reason people of all ages enter my therapy office.

Some young people are overachieving perfectionists with a crippling fear of failure. Others worry so much about what their peers think of them that they’re unable to function.

Some have endured rough circumstances throughout their young lives. But others have stable families, supportive parents, and plenty of resources.

I suspect the rise in anxiety reflects several societal changes and cultural shifts we’ve seen over the past couple of decades. Here are the top 10 reasons:

Read more here…

Anxiety disorders: Facts about the most common types

From the Kids Help Phone

Causes, signs and ways to cope with the seven most common anxiety disorders.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder makes you feel extremely uncomfortable around groups of people, like in a classroom or at a party. Social anxiety is a lot more extreme than shyness because it stops you from doing things you may enjoy. It can make you avoid places or settings where you may have to interact with others.

Causes

Social anxiety can come from a fear of being watched, judged or criticized by others. No one knows for sure why some people struggle with social anxiety and others don’t. It can be caused by:

  • Genetics: people in your family may experience social anxiety, too.
  • Past experience: social anxiety may develop after a stressful or embarrassing experience or over time.

Signs

Signs of social anxiety disorder include:

  • racing heart or a “skipping” heartbeat
  • trembling
  • sinking feeling
  • twitching or tense muscles
  • blushing
  • dizziness
  • stomach ache
  • sweating

If you’re struggling at school, skipping classes, having trouble making/keeping friends or are worried that you’re using alcohol and/or drugs to cope with your feelings, consider talking to someone you trust. Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868.

How to cope

Here are some tips that may help with social anxiety disorder:

  • Read up: get more information on social anxiety. Understanding it can help you find ways to manage it.
  • Make a list: write down the “triggers” that affect your anxiety.
  • Give yourself credit: if you do something that makes you nervous or anxious, congratulate yourself on trying. Making the effort to conquer your fears is very brave.
  • Talk about it: talking gives you a chance to work on an issue with someone else, rather than taking it on by yourself.

Imagine this scenario

Let’s say you blushed when you asked a question in class. How bad would that be? What may happen as a result? How would you feel if you saw someone else make the same “mistake” as you? If they blushed, would you point and laugh? Would you think about it for the rest of the day or forget about it?

Remind yourself of this scenario when you’re feeling anxious. Chances are the embarrassment that feels like a huge deal to you will barely be noticed by others.

Remember, social anxiety disorder is treatable. You don’t have to face this forever. You can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 if you need to talk.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is when you experience frequent panic attacks. Panic attacks can be triggered by stressful events, but sometimes they just happen.

Causes

Panic attacks are often related to specific phobias. They can also be caused by:

  • Genetics: people in your family may experience panic attacks, too.
  • Past experience: panic attacks may start after a stressful or scary experience.

15 Books That May Help Students With Anxiety

From WeAreTeachers.com

One out of every eight kids has an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, but anxiety disorders can cause kids to perform poorly in school and/or miss out on typical social experiences because of fear. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that one in eight children has an anxiety disorder, so chances are you have more than one student who struggles with this issue.

Literature can be a great springboard for discussing ways to cope. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the most recommended books for kids with anxiety. Please note, however, that reading about characters with anxiety may be triggering for certain students. We always recommend reaching out to a child’s parents or your school counselor for further guidance.

Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!

1. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (Pre-K–2)

Wemberly is a mouse who worries about everything, but her biggest fear is the first day of school. Kids will relate to Wemberly’s fears and learn with her as she overcomes them.

Read more here…

10 apps to help kids control their emotions

From Mashable

Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with. 


Millions of people around the world can attest to the positive effects of mindfulness on their mental health and well-being. Take reduced stress levels, improved concentration and organization, and a greater ability to control emotions and experience compassion and empathy, just for starters.

These are all things we want for our kids, right? And it’s easier than ever, thanks to the range of digital tools right at our fingertips. One of these apps could be the perfect way to introduce your child to a world of calm, mindfulness and emotional maturity.

1. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame is a great introduction to mindfulness for younger grade-schoolers. With the help of a cute monster, kids learn calming breathing techniques to help them cope with potentially frustrating or distressing situations: putting on shoes, saying goodbye to parents, fixing a block tower, waiting in line and going to sleep in the dark. Each scenario can be revisited, depending on your child’s particular struggles, and there’s also a parents’ section packed with tips and strategies. The app also has a Spanish-language setting.

Available on iOS and Android.  

2. Calm Kids

Calm, which was named Apple App of the Year 2017 and Google Play Editor’s Choice 2018, ranks as one of the top mindfulness and wellness apps for adults but it also has a great section for children, Calm Kids. It provides mindfulness exercises, relaxation activities and “Sleep Stories” for kids of all ages, which are updated every week. The app or desktop version has a 7-day free trial; after that it’s $59.99 a year.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. DreamyKid

DreamyKid is aimed at kids age 8 and over, with its programs most suitable for kids who struggle with self-confidence, anxiety or settling down at bedtime. Strategies include a “rainbow body-scan,” “schoolwork mastery meditation” and confidence affirmations, and there are also a wide range of relaxing, ambient background sounds to help send your little one to sleep. The app is free, but the guided meditations are $3.99 each.

Available on iOS.

Read more here…

10 apps to help kids control their emotions

From Mashable

Millions of people around the world can attest to the positive effects of mindfulness on their mental health and well-being. Take reduced stress levels, improved concentration and organization, and a greater ability to control emotions and experience compassion and empathy, just for starters.

These are all things we want for our kids, right? And it’s easier than ever, thanks to the range of digital tools right at our fingertips. One of these apps could be the perfect way to introduce your child to a world of calm, mindfulness and emotional maturity.

1. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame is a great introduction to mindfulness for younger grade-schoolers. With the help of a cute monster, kids learn calming breathing techniques to help them cope with potentially frustrating or distressing situations: putting on shoes, saying goodbye to parents, fixing a block tower, waiting in line and going to sleep in the dark. Each scenario can be revisited, depending on your child’s particular struggles, and there’s also a parents’ section packed with tips and strategies. The app also has a Spanish-language setting.

See more here…

Teen anxiety and depression more likely in kids who don’t trust or communicate with parents

From ABC News

When children are small, their faces light up at the sight of mom and dad. But fast forward a few years, and the same parents eventually get eye-rolls.

Adolescence is a time to navigate self-identity and peer pressure from every angle, but what causes some teens to thrive while others struggle with anxiety and depression?

While previous reports have credited environmental risk factors, such as poverty and racism, for anxiety and depression in teens, a new study adds another one: a fracture in the parent-child bond.

As teen participants of the study moved through adolescence, their attachment to their parents changed significantly, with the largest drop occurring in middle school. Attachment levels stabilized by the end of high school, but the more a teen felt alienated during their adolescence, the less likely they were to trust and communicate with their parents.

Dr. Suniya Luthar, co-author of the study, told ABC News that parents can prevent these feelings of distrust from developing.

Read more here…