Our Top School Mental Health Tips By Students, For Students

Active Minds
Active Minds

Active Minds is adding mental health to the list of things to check off your back-to-school list. To help, our two “Mental Health Prep” YouTube lives shared tips for managing your mental health at school, with a focus on anxiety, depression, and self-care.

During our first live panel, Active Mind’s senior manager of K-12 student leadership, Annie Hobson sat down with college students Zoe Tait and Anushka Gupta to discuss “How to Prioritize Your Self-Care at School.” The lively discussion provided insight on advice and techniques for maintaining self-care and managing your mental health during the transition. Here are the key takeaways:

What self-care looks like for you may change in the transition from summer to school, or from high school to college, and that’s okay. 

Both Zoe and Anushka discussed their experiences with the transition from summer to the school year as well as from high school to college. Self-care for me definitely changes when I go back to school. I think one of the most important things about that change, is I have to actively think about implementing self-care into my routine,” said Zoe. Anushka further elaborated on the circumstances that may alter what effective self-care feels like, saying, “The transition from high school to college is so significant… Learning to kind of set your own routine in college is something that I struggled with… Give yourself that grace and the space to kind of let yourself figure it out.”

Educators play a key role in student mental health, whether they realize it or not.

Anushka and Zoe also emphasized the importance of educator support. More specifically, they share how educators can support their mental health. Anushka shared that some of the best professors she’s had in college weren’t memorable because of the course they taught or the tests they gave – rather, they made an impact because of the vulnerability they showed in the classroom, reminding students that they are not alone in their mental health struggles. She also shared that professors can make a difference in the mental well-being of their students without jeopardizing their own mental health or overstepping their boundaries, simply by ensuring that students know the resources available to them – such as counseling centers and crisis numbers. 

Self-care might not always be easy or convenient, but it’s always worth it. 

The two students also shared reminders that support them when thinking about self-care. “Self-care is really important for you to function as a human and to reach the goals that you desire you really need to take care of yourself first. And ultimately, I think, self-care is a mindset,” said Zoe. Anushka also spoke on the importance of self-care in everyday life and moments, saying, “Setting boundaries has been so transformative for me because I’ve learned that saying no is okay and that putting yourself first is a form of self-care.” We might not even always realize the actions we are taking are self-care, but the truth is, anything that sets us up to be more mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy can be self-care.

Our second YouTube live, again led by Annie Hobson, was titled “How You Can Deal With Depression and Anxiety at School.” Students and Active Minds mental health leaders Geela Ramos, Jaylen Waithe, and Zainab Zarnish take us through the ways mental health is discussed in their school, how they cope with anxiety and depression, and their favorite school year mental health tips. Here are the key takeaways from their discussion:

Communication is key: with fellow students, with trusted adults, and with yourself.

Throughout the conversation, the students continuously brought up the importance of open communication amongst friends, peers, mentors, teachers, and themselves. This includes going beyond the surface and being willing to be open and vulnerable when necessary. For example, Geela shared, “Usually, we always skim over the question of just “Are you okay?”, “How are you doing?” and lots of students, regardless of how stressed or anxious they are, they just say, ‘I’m fine.’ Our chapter, we are doing our best right now, to challenge those types of conversations…”.  Being open about how you’re really doing can not only help you to feel heard but can inspire those around you to be honest when they need help, rather than feeling they have to cope on their own.

Coping strategies look different for everyone – there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health.

For some of the students, coping with anxiety or stress during the school year looks like maintaining control where possible – a common theme was utilizing organizational devices like calendars to keep track of everything, relieving their minds from having to do the heavy lifting of remembering. Additionally, Jaylen shared that for him, coping during the school year looks like setting boundaries both for others and himself, saying, “I do these things called mental resets. And it’s not anything particularly proprietary, everyone kind of has their own even if they don’t use this term for it… Sometimes you kind of have to set those boundaries for yourself and say well my mental health is a priority.” 

Speaking of boundaries, respect expectations that those around you set (and respect your own needs!). 

Each student acknowledged the importance of boundaries in their life while also sharing their go-to advice for setting and maintaining boundaries. Geela emphasized the importance of respecting boundaries, and not getting in the habit of overstepping them for others, or for yourself. Zainab further elaborated, sharing that she often has to remind herself to be lenient on herself and give grace where appropriate. Jaylen concluded by sharing that for boundaries to be effective, they must be effectively communicated. This isn’t always easy but is always necessary.

To learn more about our top mental health tips in the back-to-school season, check out our YouTube lives at the links here: