How to Put Mental Health First This School Year (And Get Others to Join You)

Laura Horne
Laura Horne

Pencils? Check. Notebooks? Check. The planner you were obsessed with that you’ll use diligently for one week and then forget about? Also, check. As you prepare to head back to school this fall, it’s just as important to check in with your mental health (and the well-being of your friends and peers!) as it is to check off all the items on your back-to-school shopping list. The good news is that Active Minds is here to help set you up for success in creating a positive mental health culture to keep you feeling safe and happy this school year. Check out the upcoming events, new resources, and exciting opportunities we have below (for the individual, at your school, and in the community), and start planning for how you’ll make mental health part of your every day this year: 

Building Your Skills as an Advocate:

  • Stay in the Loop: The Active Minds Newsletter has all the updates in the world of mental health you need, delivered straight to your inbox. From ways to get involved in advocacy to advice from national staff and more, signing up for our newsletter is the best way to make sure you don’t miss any of the exciting opportunities we have coming up.
  • Get Mental Health Certified: Validate-Appreciate-Refer® (V-A-R®) is Active Minds’ simple and revolutionary tool that will help you learn how to navigate difficult conversations about mental health. If you are interested in becoming certified and learning the tools you need to support others, join us at our next training session on Sept. 13, taking place at 6 PM ET for students and 12 PM ET for everyone else.
  • Learn How to Effectively Build a Movement: All high school and college students are invited to learn from fellow Gen Z advocates the best way to recruit and retain peers to be part of your mental health advocacy efforts. Whether you’re a regular on Capitol Hill or just getting started, this session will provide important insight into how to build a mental health movement that can create lasting change in your school, community, and country. High school students are invited to register here for a session on Sept. 28 at 5:30 PM ET, and college students here for a Sept. 15 session at 12:00 PM ET. 

Prioritizing Mental Health This School Year with Your Peers: 

  • Prepare Your Chapter For the New Year: Our wonderful Active Minds chapter members and leaders are invited to attend one of our fall orientation sessions, taking place Sept. 20 at 12 PM ET and Sept. 21 at 8 PM ET. At these virtual meetings, you’ll have the chance to connect with fellow advocates, learn about new resources and opportunities, and discover innovative ways to bolster engagement in your school or on your campus.
  • Start a Dialogue with the Help of an Expert: Hosting an Active Minds speaker at your school is a great way to inspire others to speak up about their mental health. Additionally, if funding is an issue, consider applying for our Program Fund to help bring a mental health speaker to your community.
  • Dive Into De-Stressing: Start planning your fall Stress Less Week® event (taking place across the country from Oct. 23 through Oct. 27!) with the help of our free downloadable toolkit. There you will find tips and resources to help you lead your friends and classmates in practicing self-care amidst even the busiest of midterms and finals weeks. 

Scaling Conversations to Your Community:

  • Advocate for Systemic Change: This year, Active Minds’ unveiled our new policy platform, giving youth and young adults an easy way to find current legislation that promotes mental health and is in need of support. Familiarize yourself with the bills currently listed on our tracker, and voice your support for increased access to mental health resources and care by contacting your representatives. 
  • Learn About Lived Experiences (and Share Your Own!): Behind the Backpacks is the virtual accompaniment to the Active Minds traveling suicide prevention exhibit Send Silence Packing®. Learn more about suicide’s impact, find actions to take for suicide prevention in your community, and share your story to remind others that they are never alone.
  • Engage Your Community in a Fundraiser: By creating a Team Active Minds fundraiser, you can show others in your community that their mental health matters and deserves support. Get creative — a fundraiser not only supports the work that Active Minds is doing across the nation, but it also gives your community a simple way to take part in mental health advocacy right in their neighborhood. 

There are many ways to get involved in taking mental health action this school year. Whether you’re new to advocacy or a seasoned veteran, you have the power to tackle mental health issues, in yourself, on your campus, and in your community. Start small and see how far you can go — Active Minds and the resources listed above will be here to support you.