• Students will learn various elements to create a safe space
  • Students will learn strategies to be an approachable, non-judgmental person of support
  • Students will engage in authentic conversations

Having authentic, meaningful, and progressive conversations about culture require a safe space, so people can sit with being uncomfortable. The same is required for reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

To facilitate a safe physical space that removes all implications of power, have everyone sit in a circle.

Part of feeling safe is knowing something about the people in the room or the person of potential support. The idea is to find a connection point with someone with whom you are about to share something personal. For our purposes, we are going to answer some get-to-know-you questions with various partners.

Distribute the Get-to-Know-You questions handout.

“On your handout, look at the questions under ‘Getting to Know Each Other.’ Turn to the person next to you.

Answer Question 1. Each person will have 30 seconds to answer.

Next, find another partner, and answer Question 2. Again, each person will have 30 seconds. We’ll keep going until every person has answered at least four questions.”

Get back together with the group: “Say your name and one thing you shared with a partner.”

Another way to create a safe space is to create some agreements and set ground rules. Post the Ground Rules and review, as a group. Feel free to add any additional agreements or rules. Remember this is a conversation and an exercise in feeling safe. This is not a problem-solving session. This is also a beginning and not means to an end or the end.

Four Agreements: We will…

  1. Stay Engaged-Listening for the group’s benefit, not just your benefit.
  2. Speak Our Own Truth-Have the courage to share your experiences/perspective and ask questions of the group that will encourage them to share theirs.
  3. Experience Discomfort-Searching out experiences/perspectives different from your own. Having the courage to ask the group to ask questions of you.
  4. Expect/Accept Non-Closure-Not looking to solve/answer all of the questions. Not looking for the solution/answer. Looking for a different question that will help us find a different solution.

Ground Rules:

  1. Speak for yourself. Don’t try to speak for others or for “your group.”
  2. If you feel hurt by what someone says, say so, and say why.
  3. It’s OK to disagree
  4. Don’t use names if you talk about someone who is not in the group.
  5. Some of the things we talk about in this group will be personal. Unless we all say it is OK, we will not talk about each other’s stories outside of this group.

Read the Time to Change essay and use it as a starting point to answer the following 4 questions.

By a show of hands, has anyone experienced or personally know anyone who has experienced a similar story to Cara’s?  Allow a few minutes for anyone to share their own story if they wish.

  1. What ideas are missing? In our school, what is the main thing that makes it difficult to break the stigma surrounding mental health?
  2. Why does stigma around mental health exist? What are its consequences?
  3. Why do people see things in different ways? How do you know if different perspectives are valued equally?
  4. What are some individual and/or group actions that can be taken to reduce stigma and break barriers to people seeking support? Need ideas: see below:



  1. Talk to someone you’ve never talked to before.
  2. Fight stereotypes by getting to know different kinds of people.
  3. Reach out to people who are alone.
  4. Volunteer with a community organization.
  5. Become a mentor to younger kids; give them a hand or advice when they need it.
  6. Join a new club. Get to know different kinds of people.
  7. Speak up when you hear someone make a put-down or unfair remark.


GROUP Actions

  1. Start a club that brings together people from different groups.
  2. Ask a local organization to sponsor a “community youth night” each week, with sports, homework help, and other activities.
  3. Have Mix It Up Dialogues as a regular part of school life to address all kinds of issues.
  4. Hold more Mix It Up at Lunch days.
  5. Get the school to mix up grades at school events.
  6. Get clubs and organizations in the school to do joint projects and events.
  7. Create a “school climate” committee that includes both students and teachers.

  • What is one new idea, thought, or perspective that you leave this conversation with?
  • Determine one individual action to take and group action to take with your club.