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The Impact Of Our Words: Ways to talk about Mental Health in the classroom

Our words carry enormous weight, more than we are actually aware.

The things that we say to people often stick with them for years, either in ways that teach them to push on and become a stronger person or another reason why they should give up. You have the responsibility to make your words to others count.

Helping people especially children understand how powerful their words are, is imperative in raising awareness of how words can impact others. Understanding that mental pain has the same effect as physical pain, will help your pupils understand what power their words carry.

The old saying goes “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me“… but how many of us can actually remember a time someone said something that really hurt our feelings ? Something that has stuck with you, ingrained in your day to day thoughts. Now, think back to a time (if any) that someone physically harmed you… harder isn’t it? As a matter of fact, this old saying couldn’t be more inaccurate. Words CAN and DO hurt us.

The impact of either of these has equal weight. The things you say to someone has the same effect as a physical harm. So how can you demonstrate the power of words to your pupils? Do your pupils fully understand what impact they are having? Getting your pupils to talk about mental health in ways that they can understand, is the positive step in the right direction we need to help improve mindfulness and wellbeing in schools. To help get you started we have provided some helpful classroom activities that can used to help engage students in this topic.

Classroom Activities

Resource One: The Paper Activity

  • STEP 1: Give each student a plain piece of paper. Explain that this piece of paper represents a person. 
  • STEP 2: Now get the students to scrunch the piece of paper into a ball.
  • STEP 3: Once the paper has been scrunched up, get your students to attempt to form the paper back to normal no crinkles p.s. they won’t be able to! Explain that each crinkle in the paper represents every unkind thing you or others say to a person, no matter how much you apologise / flatten the paper what you have said (the crinkles) will still be there. Even though you may have only said one unkind thing you don’t know how many crinkles the paper/ the person already has.

Resource Two: The Mirror Activity

1.Go around the room and pair students together with people they may not usually work with person A and person B.

2.Get them to stand up opposite their partner (mirror image). They will then take it in turns to tell the person opposite every hurtful comment they feel about themselves or that has been said about them and aim into at their partner.

The point of the activity is for them to understand the impact of their words on themselves and the other person. How did the other people feel about what was just said to them? how did that person feel saying those things to their partner ? If you wouldn’t say the things you feel about yourself to someone else why do it to yourself?

Resource Three: Reflective Activity

This activity is aimed at making students aware of the impact their words have. If the words you spoke were tattooed on your skin would you still be beautiful? 

Get the class to reflect upon their own actions and things they have said in the past were hurtful. Get a piece of paper and get students to draw around their hand, now they are to fill the hand with all of these words.

This acts as a visual way of them being able to recognise and think about things they have said. Ask your class if your “hand was a person would you be proud”.

Here at SPD, we recognise the importance of ensuring help and guidance is provided to support the education sector in improving mental health in schools. Our Better mental Health in Schools Conference aims to provide unique insights into a growing problem in our schools. 
Developing a whole school approach to improved SEMH and student welfare will go a long way to preventing and managing the social and emotional wellbeing of its pupils. If this is something you wish to attend Register here.

Posted in Education
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