The majority of children and adolescents experience positive mental health, and it is a normal part of development for them to experience a wide range of emotions. However, a significant and growing number of youth experience mental health issues that interfere with their academic performance, social development, and health. Mental health education is important now more than ever.

What is mental health education?

Mental health education is designed to give students of all ages the information they need to better understand, value, and protect their mental health. While there are many specific curricula available to advance mental health education, their common goals include helping students build and strengthen their own awareness and resilience, as well as learn when and how to reach out for help. Studies of several mental health education programs indicate that they are effective in improving knowledge about mental health and may help to decrease stigma and increase students’ willingness to ask for and receive help for mental health challenge (Journal of School Health, 2016).

In fact, the Pew Research Center found that in 2018, 70 percent of US teens say anxiety and depression is a major problem among people their age in the community where they live. We also know that during the pandemic many indicators of mental health worsened. Helping to mitigate the effects of significant stress and trauma on youth requires a community-wide approach. Too many young people lack the information, skills, and support needed to understand and navigate these experiences. Educating young people about their own mental health and wellness is a critical first step.

In addition, racial disparities in reported well being exist among students nationally and in the Commonwealth. In 2018, Black children between the ages of 5 and 12 died by suicide at a higher rate than white children, and more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved Black children (Black Mental Health Alliance).


48% of Massachusetts youth ages 14 - 24 in 2020 reported feeling so sad or hopeless for two weeks or more that they stopped doing some of their usual activities

Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 2021


Around 31% of Massachusetts LGBTQ high school students in 2017 seriously considered suicide in the past year

MA Commission on LGBTQ Youth: 2020 Report & Recommendations, 2020

3 in 10

School-aged children nationwide in 2020 experienced harm to their emotional or mental health as a result of the COVID-19 social distancing and close public health measures

Gallup COVID-19 Poll Parents of School-Aged Children, 2020


Around 36% of Massachusetts youth ages 0 - 17 experienced at least one form of trauma, abuse, or significant stress in the prior year

Child Health Data 2019-2020

Why is mental health education important?

A growing body of evidence shows that trauma and chronic stress can “diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities children need to succeed in school. For some children, this can lead to problems with academic performance, inappropriate behavior in the classroom, and difficulty forming relationships" (Trauma Sensitive Schools).

We know that resilience is possible when youth have information and resources to develop their capacity for coping and thriving, even in the face of adversity and stigma. In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that “children ages 6 to 17 who have had two or more adverse childhood experiences but learned to stay calm and in control when faced with challenges are over three times more likely to be engaged in school compared to peers who have not learned these skills."

Along with our partners, MAMH advocates for mental health education in K-12 schools and has compiled various mental health education resources for students to understand and protect their own mental health.