Defining “mental health”

April 21, 2017

Good mental health is not the absence of mental illness. Rather, it can be seen as a state of well-being that allows one to flourish and fully enjoy life.

Some of the factors that affect student mental health include

Feeling loved

When young people feel loved, trusted and ­accepted by their parent(s), guardian(s) and other adults, they are far more likely to feel comfortable, safe and secure. They are also better able to communicate and develop positive relationships. Supportive people also facilitate help-seeking behaviour for any trouble that may develop.


This is the value we place on ourselves, our positive self-image and sense of self-worth. Students with healthy self-esteem generally have a positive outlook and are satisfied with themselves most of the time. Being able to identify and challenge negative self-talk positively affects our self-esteem.


Having the confidence to face challenges and take risks is important. Students should be encouraged to discover their own unique qualities and find confidence in themselves. Being entrusted with important responsibilities and others having high but attainable expectations of them are both ways to develop feelings of empowerment, as is having skills so they feel capable of developing relationships, resisting peer pressure and dangerous situations, and resolving conflict. Feeling that they have control over their actions and the outcomes of those actions is important.


It is important that students feel they are reaching their potential. They should be encouraged to use their best abilities to enhance their lives. Students, and all people, need to value themselves and believe they are worth caring for.


Having a positive outlook on the world means that students can enjoy life and focus on the positive aspects. Being optimistic also includes being accepting that some things can’t be changed. Being flexible to change helps a person adapt and make the most out of life.


Life can be full of tough times. To be resilient, ­students need the skills to learn from difficulties and bounce back from adversity. These skills can be taught and practiced at school.

Safe spaces

Physical safety but also having spaces where a ­person feels valued and cared for is essential to well-being. Being connected to an ethnic, spiritual, school or other community group and knowing of resources for support is important.

Not only should teachers and staff enhance the areas listed above for their own benefit, but we should do so because students need good role models in promoting good mental health. Making these aspects a part of everyday activities is one way to promote mental health in the classroom.

Refer to the Hats On! lesson plans for more ideas on how to promote good mental health in your students at

Mental illnesses are treatable, so asking for help is critical to regaining optimum mental health.


Treatment for mental illness

Just as there are different causes and symptoms of mental illness, there are also many different ways to treat it. Remember, mental illnesses are treatable, so asking for help is critical to regaining optimum mental health. Healthcare professionals can work with their clients to determine the problem and ­prescribe the best treatment options for them. To contact a mental health ­professional, see our list of resources.
The Canadian Mental Health Association advocates for all types of care that help people find optimal mental health. The treatments that a mental health professional prescribes could include one or more of the following:

• Psychotherapy and/or counselling
• Medication
• Holistic treatments
• Community support services

Help is available

Kids Help Phone
Rural Distress Line
Suicide Crisis Hotline
Bullying Helpline 
Mental Health Helpline 
Child Abuse Hotline 
Addictions Helpline 
Health Link 
Local crisis line 
1-800-387-KIDS (5437)
(check online to see if your area has one)
If you have questions, contact the Canadian Mental Health Association in your community.


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