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Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing

This resource supports teaching children and young people about mental health, wellbeing, resilience, and interpersonal skills.   It was written with support from the Beeby Fellowship funded by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO and NZCER. 

Teachers will discover ways to enhance student learning in four broad areas:

  • personal identity and wellbeing
  • communication and relationships with others
  • social issues and social justice (especially against discrimination and exclusion)
  • health promotion and action.

The lesson plans work for multiple year and curriculum levels, and are particularly useful for Years 7–11 health education. Teachers will find relevant content for the following health education topics:

  • personal identity and enhancing self-worth
  • stress management
  • friendships, relationships, and communication
  • effects of discrimination and stereotyping on mental health
  • support of self and others during times of difficulty
  • equity issues that support the mental health of others and society
  • help-seeking
  • drug education and alcohol education (for example, the content on assertive communication, decision making, personal values)
  • leadership and effective communication.

The activities can be extended for senior secondary students and modified to be accessible for students at lower levels. Notes throughout explain how teachers can adapt, apply, and use the activities and ideas to achieve the intended learning outcomes and develop key competencies.  

Each section begins with specific achievement objectives, but teachers are free to develop their own. For this reason, achievement objectives for each activity are not specified. Instead, teachers can use the matrix showing links with the New Zealand Curriculum.

About the authors

Dr Katie Fitzpatrick is an Associate Professor in health and physical education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Auckland. She has a background teaching health and physical education in high schools and universities, and was the lead writer of the Ministry of Education policy document Sexuality education: A guide for principals, boards of trustees and teachers (2015).

Kat Wells is the head of Faculty of Health and Physical Education at Lynfield College in Auckland. She has led curriculum change in health education at her school, is a member of the national executive of the New Zealand Health Education Association, and teaches health education in Years 9–13.

Dr Melinda Webber is an Associate Professor in Te Puna Wananga in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Auckland. She is a former Fulbright/Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Scholar and has published widely on the nature of Māori identity.

Dr Gillian Tasker was the principal health education writer for both the 1999 and 2007 New Zealand Health and Physical Education Curriculum. She has been the national director of many teacher professional development projects during her two decades as a teacher  educator, and principal lecturer, in both Wellington and Christchurch Colleges of Education. She has led the development of many resources for Health Education, particularly in the areas of relationship education, sexuality education, and a range of mental health areas including change, loss and grief, and alcohol and other drugs.

Dr Rachel Riedel is in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Auckland. Rachel is a registered teacher and interdisciplinary academic. She specialises in psychology, educational leadership, health education, and  health promotion.