Teaching Self-Care: How I Dedicated an Entire Week to Mental Health

One high school teacher’s quest to show her students how to care for their mental health.


Kaitlyn Vasey, Teacher Writer

As a new teacher who is only five years older than many of my students, I have the unique ability to understand what they need since I was in their shoes not too long ago. One thing I needed more than anything in high school was a break; I needed my teachers to recognize how far I was stretching myself between academics, friends, activities, and family. I saw that same need in my students, so I dedicated an entire week of instruction to mental health: what it is, how to manage it, and a chance to practice what they learned. 

  • Planning the Week

I approached this week knowing that I wanted to put focus on self-care. I opened up the week with a TedTalk about emotional first aid. The next day brought a Kahoot about self-care, which springboarded us into a slideshow breaking down the four buckets of self-care: mental, physical, social, and spiritual. After the slideshow, I would tell my story about why this is so important to me. The following two days would focus on different self-care activities: coloring, meditation, journaling, socializing, and creating a self-care plan. On Friday, the students would write a reflection asking if they used self-care before this week, how they felt during the week, and if they could see themselves using it in their future. 

  • Implementing my Lesson Plans

Opening Monday with the video prompted mixed engagement; I had many students who checked out, but some were genuinely interested. The interest increased with the Kahoot on day two. Students enjoyed how easy it was to answer the questions since they were apparent compared to the distractors. I had a few questions during the presentation, but I had almost everyone’s attention when I started telling my story. The most successful part of the week was the self-care days. Students were laughing, discussing which color would be best for their coloring page, and some were using the time to rest their minds and bodies. When it came time to write the reflection on Friday, some went back to their coloring pages after they finished writing.

  • Feedback

Reading through the reflections, I was thrilled to see so many students who saw value in what they had been doing all week. I also had parents reach out to me to express their happiness that time was being spent on such an important topic. I had some slight pushback from a few students who didn’t see the purpose of it, but most students were grateful. Some students enjoyed the break, while others learned new ways to manage their mental health by utilizing self-care. Many students mentioned how meaningful it was to hear about my experience with mental health. While it was terrifying to be that vulnerable in front of my seniors, it was one of the most impactful moments of the week.

My freshmen and Speech class told me that they would also be interested in taking time to talk about mental health. The best comment I got from one of my freshmen was, “They get to learn about self-care? When do we get to do that?” I felt that the week with my English 12 class was so successful that it only made sense to revise the lesson to fit my other courses. The Mental Health Week received praise from my other classes proving that this is a lesson worth keeping.