• To dispel common myths related to mental illness
  • To examine personal biases and stereotypes that prevent tolerance
  • To develop ideas to promote tolerance in their school

Could you be friends with… 5-7 min

  • Everyone start in the middle of the room.
  • Have one person (or alternate people) read the following statements. For each question, move to the left side of the room if your answer is “yes”, move to the right side of the room if your answer if “no”, and remain in the middle of the room if you are unsure.
  • Questions: Could you be friends with…
    • An athlete
    • A nerd or geek
    • Someone who practices a different religion than you
    • Someone who has different political views than you
    • Someone who is stressed
    • Someone who is anxious
    • Someone who has ADHD
    • Someone with a Section 504 plan or IEP (special education)
    • A drug user
    • Someone with depression
    • Someone with bipolar disorder
    • Someone with obsessive compulsive disorder
    • Someone with psychosis
  • As a group, discuss the following processing questions:

Processing Questions

  • Was it difficult to decide with only one descriptor of the person?
  • Did you realize that you have any biases or prejudices that you did not expect?
  • What does this activity show us about our tolerances as a school?

Dispel Myths 10-15 min

  • Activity: Dispel Myths (Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes) 

Leader shares the following: “Research shows that teens with mental health problems commonly experience social rejection at school. In one study, nearly two-thirds of teens coping with mental illness reported stigma from their peers. In another study, only half of the middle school students surveyed said they would be willing to sit next to a classmate with mental illness.”  

A study conducted by the Adolescent Communication Institute at The Annenberg Public Policy Center showed that educating people to dispel stereotypes helped to reduce stigma.

Explain that because education increases respect the group will address common myths associated with mental illness. The student leader should read each statement below and ask that if a student believes a statement is FACT they will stand-up, if they believe it a Myth they remain seated. Once everyone has had a chance to guess, the student leader will read the answer in bold.


1.Mental health problems are rare in childhood and adolescence. (MYTH)

  1. Very few students become so troubled that they think about committing suicide. (Myth)
  2. 3. Males and females are about equally likely to become depressed. (myth)
  3. Before adolescence, rates are the same. From mid-adolescence through adulthood, depression is about twice as common in females as in males. (FACT)
  4. Many people with mental disorders are not violent, and most violent acts are not committed by people who are mentally ill. Overall, they’re responsible for just 5 percent of violent crimes. Those with serious mental disorders are, however, far more likely than others to be victims of assault and rape (FACT)
  5. 6. About one out of five U.S. children has a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. (Fact)
  6. 7. People with mental illness are often violent. (Myth)
  7. 8. About one out of six high school students say they have seriously thought about attempting suicide. ( FACT)

Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Mentalillnesspolicy.org

Promoting Tolerance 10-15 min

Activity: Promoting Tolerance (Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes)

Prior to beginning this activity, the leader should copy the Spider Web design (below) onto poster or bulletin board paper.

Using the Spider Web template, displayed for the group, students will brainstorm ideas about promoting social tolerance, including: How, Why is it Important At School, and In Life. Have students come forward and write their ideas or assign a designated “recorder” and call on students to share their ideas to be recorded on the Spider Web.  After completing the web, have students discuss their ideas and how they, as active club members, can spread the message of respect and tolerance to the remainder of the student body.