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Mental health

Mental health is a broad area, influenced by diverse factors.


At the personal level, mental health refers to the quality of a person's psychological, social, and behavioural functioning in the world.


The Mental Health Foundation, 1995

Positive mental health is a prerequisite if students are to reach their highest academic, physical, and social potential. The implementation of programmes in this key area of learning will contribute to the development of a safe emotional environment in classrooms and the wider school, as required by National Administration Guideline 5 (i).

In this key area of learning, students will have opportunities to explore the ways in which the physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of hauora contribute to mental health.

Students will examine social, cultural, economic, and environmental factors that influence people's mental health, including the effects of media messages. Students will use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to develop strategies and safety procedures for avoiding, minimising, or managing risk situations.

A supportive classroom environment is necessary for quality learning in mental health. In supportive classroom situations, students can acknowledge diverse points of view, accept a range of abilities, and show concern for one another. Teachers should use a range of teaching and learning strategies that encourage all students to participate fully in the programme.

School-wide policies and practices that promote equality, fairness, and non-violence will support classroom programmes and help to develop a school environment that enhances students' mental health.

Students require a range of learning opportunities in mental health. These include opportunities to develop:

  • knowledge, understandings, and skills to strengthen personal identity and enhance a sense of self-worth for example, through learning about self-awareness, self-reflection, self-appraisal, and self-advocacy, and about personal characteristics, relationships, and contexts that contribute to a sense of identity
  • knowledge, understandings, and skills to examine discrimination and stereotyping, and to evaluate their impact on people's mental health for example, when recognising instances of discrimination and stereotyping, acknowledging individual differences, respecting the rights of other people, and responding constructively to discriminatory practices and behaviours
  • understandings and personal and interpersonal skills to enhance relationships for example, through learning about the range and nature of relationships and the factors that influence them, learning to use a range of communication skills effectively, working co-operatively to achieve common goals in a range of settings, and examining options, consequences, and positive responses to challenges and changes in relationships
  • knowledge, understandings, and skills to support themselves and other people during times of stress, disappointment, and loss for example, when expressing their own ideas and feelings and listening to those of other people, managing change, implementing practical strategies for supporting themselves and other people, accessing support, and understanding cultural differences associated with loss and grief
  • knowledge, understandings, and skills to make informed, health-enhancing decisions in relation to drug use and misuse for example, through learning about the effects of drugs on all dimensions of hauora, becoming aware of choices and consequences, using communication and problem-solving skills effectively, developing strategies for protecting themselves and other people, examining their own rights and responsibilities and those of other people and society, accessing support in problem situations, learning about policies and laws, and critically analysing ways in which society influences people in relation to drugs and the impacts that drug use and misuse have on society
  • knowledge, understandings, and skills to recognise and respond to situations of abuse and harassment
  • for example, through learning about causes and effects, learning about their own rights and responsibilities and those of other people, using communication skills effectively, identifying and using strategies and safety procedures, and becoming aware of policies and laws
  • knowledge and understanding of the benefits of physical activity, relaxation, and recreation in relation to mental health
  • values and attitudes that support the enhancement of mental health for the students themselves, other people, and society such as a positive and responsible attitude to their own well-being, respect for the rights of other people, care and concern for other people, and a sense of social justice.