• Bring awareness to students that there is a stigma behind discussing Mental Wellness
  • Recognize the power of positive vs. negative words when discussing Mental Health
  • To be able to identify positive ways to describe Mental Health

words hurt 5-10 min

Distribute multiple sticky note pads out to students.  Have students write out as many negative words or phrases that they have heard to describe mental illness. (ie, crazy, lazy, stupid, can’t sit still, just need to get over their bad mood) for about 2 minutes.Then, use the bulletin board paper and trace a life size outline of another student.  Post that poster on the wall or a table, and ask students to come up and place all of their post-its on the image (even if they are repeat words).

Once everyone has posted their words, review the processing questions.

Processing Questions

  • How do you think someone may feel hearing theses types of comments on a daily basis?
  • We don’t always know who is struggling with something.  How do you think someone may feel if their friends and family are using these words and phrases to talk about mental health?  Do you think they would be less inclined to share their struggles?
  • How do you feel looking at this person filled with negative comments and words?
  • What do you think we could be doing to help change the conversation about mental health?

Have students come up one-by-one or in groups of two to respond to one of the negative words written on the post-it notes. The student can cross off the negative word and write a positive word associated with mental illness or write an encouraging message to someone struggling with a mental illness over the negative word(s).

documentary photography 5-10 min

Explain that this activity will involve looking at photographer Edward Honaker’s depiction of living with mental illness.

Introduce the title: “Photographer suffering from depression captures his mental illness in haunting series of self-portraits to raise awareness for the disorder” and then show the selected photographs from the photographer’s Anxiety/Depression Documentary Photography Collection. 

Arrange students in small groups of 4-5 and respond to the photos in discussion:

  1. What photo grabbed your attention?
  2. What feelings do you have or did you have while viewing these photos?
  3. What did you notice about the pictures and style that the photographer created in his images?

Read the opening paragraphs of the article and Honaker’s words on Huffington post:

“All I knew is that I became bad at the things I used to be good at, and I didn’t know why,” he told The Huffington Post. “Your mind is who you are, and when it doesn’t work properly, it’s scary.”

Edward’s face is blurred or covered in all of the haunting black and white photos, which is meant to portray the helplessness felt by someone who is battling a depressive disorder.

It was only after his diagnosis two years ago that Honaker began to understand what was going on in his mind. That’s when he reached for his camera to turn his emotions into something tangible. The result is a series of self-portraits that capture his personal experience with depression.

Have the group discuss:

  1. Is documentary photography a good way to fight the stigma of mental health?
  2. Did this project change your perception of anxiety or depression?
  3. Is documentary photography or other art forms a quality way to fight the stigma of mental health?

Wordle 10-15 min

Leader should explain that one way to deal with Stigma is to start to think about the language that we use when discussing a topic. Have students break up in groups of 3-4. and ask them to design a wordle (http://www.wordle.net/).  Have each group member take a minute to come up with 3-4 positive words to describe every member in the group, including themselves. Each group member has the creative freedom to use whatever words they see fit.  The group members then give each other the words they came up with to describe the other members. Each person then takes these words and creates a wordle.

If the students do not feel comfortable doing so, or do not know the other students in the group well, they may brainstorm together words that could apply to all of them.

Leader may need to help students remember that the more the students type a word in the box, the larger that word will appear in the wordle.  Five to ten minutes before the end of the meeting the leader should ask students to share their wordles. Leader may or may not decide to have students display their wordles throughout the school if appropriate.

***If computers are not available, paper and colored utencils will more than suffice.

Additional Resources

Works Cited