Back-To-School Toolkit Highlights Mental Health Issues Young Students Face

By John Lavitt 08/26/16

The toolkit includes infographics of dos and don'ts for parents to use in sensitive discussions, and fact sheets on eating disorders, body dysmorphia and self-injury.

Back-To-School Toolkit Highlights Mental Health Issues Young Students Face
Photo via Mental Health America

As a community-based nonprofit that focuses on providing mental health services and information, Mental Health America (MHA) sees the challenges that a new school year can present for children and adolescents.

In order to raise awareness of the importance of proactively addressing issues related to low self-esteem and body image—and how physical and emotional health relate to each other—MHA designed a Back-To-School Toolkit for parents, school personnel and teenagers, to promote positive adolescent mental health.

By highlighting effective online tools that can be shared across social media platforms, MHA is speaking the language of its intended audience.

The Back-To-School Toolkit highlights the importance of a person's self-worth that helps to form a consistent identity. Young people with a strong sense of self are less likely to fall prey to the dangers of negative peer pressure or bullying.

MHA wants to educate both students and parents about the importance of self-esteem, particularly in relation to body image. By trying to combat the negative thoughts and behaviors engendered by advertising imagery in a teenager’s world, the goal is to prioritize the importance of mental health.

2016 Back-To-School Mental Health ToolKit

“Issues of low self-esteem and distorted body image often develop during adolescent years, and some youth develop dangerous and destructive habits that should be addressed as soon as possible," said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. "As students head back to school, they can be dealing with a host of emotions. MHA has created simple, web-based resources that can … provide hope for those dealing with the negative feelings and destructive behaviors that sometimes accompany them.”

2016 Back-To-School Mental Health ToolKit

If low self-esteem and body image concerns are allowed to fester, they often lead young people to a bevy of dangerous activities like self-injury, potential over-the-counter diet pill abuse, and unhealthy eating habits. In addition, obsessive-compulsive tendencies can be generated by negative body images, causing repetitive behaviors like hair pulling or skin picking. The goal of the toolkit is to offer resources to identify problems early on, and stop them from worsening.

If you want to know more about these problems and access more information, MHA provides screening tools available for both youth and parents.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.