Mental health education for students has never been more urgent than now. With the rise of technology and social media, the new generation can face a lot of problematic issues at very young ages. But not like physical health, for which schools and families have clear instructions for children to practice, mental issues are vague in terms of identification and treatment. Wouldn’t it be great if there is an interesting medium for educating young people about mental health that is both informative and easy to understand? Well, say no more! The animation is the one you’re looking for.
Why should we use animation for mental health education?
The brain, where most of the mental issues occur, is not visible for normal people to see. Hence, to explain the complicated locations, chemical reactions, etc happening inside the brain, we need a simulator. And that’s when animation comes to rescue. By using animated resources like videos, GIFs, images, separately, or integrated, we can delightfully provide pupils accurate information in an attractive way. Here’s how animation can help:
- Effectively explain abstract concepts: visual explanation helps simplify invisible mental health topics that plain-text can’t help.
- Trigger students’ interest: visuals are designed in a childlike style in order to – engage students and guide them towards valuable knowledge.
- No word required: With absolutely no words at all, or sometimes there are short reads for secondary and high school students, it requires just a little bit of effort to watch.
- Keep students stay focused: Thanks to a simple plot but impressive visuals, bite-sized video lessons help our young audiences focus despite their short attention span.
Now let’s go deeper into how animation benefits mental health education in specific examples below.
8 best examples of mental health educational video for students
As age differences affect mental health literacy, here we divide into 4 groups of the school-age audience:
- Kindergarten students
- Primary students
- Middle school students
- High school students
For Kindergarten students
1. Talking Mental Health
Before we go into the actual mental health problems and we have to make sure that children are aware of them. Often adults take for granted the language and concepts that we have so long understood — like sympathy — but children don’t really grasp. This is why a video like this from Anna Freud National Center for Children and Families can be very helpful.
It talks about the emotions that people have — whether short-term or long-term — and how they deal with it — from taking time to themselves to seeking consolation from others. By showing children that these things happen to these characters, the video teaches children that it’s all right to be having tough days, and there are always people around to help you through them. It’s a conversation starter on a topic that can be complicated and mentally exhausting.
The mental health educational video is in stop-motion style — sort of like the little stick-man sketches that children draw on the corner of their notebook before flipping through to see him running. This, combined with the child-like illustrations of the characters and the voiceover by little children themselves, makes the video more friendly and relatable. In most cases, conversations are more effective when the listener sees themselves in the speaker, rather than feel subordinated to them.
A small fault is perhaps the lack of background music in moments where there isn’t any voice-over. Those moments aren’t excessively long, but it’s enough to allow the children’s attention to falter away from the video.
2. Tom has Separation Anxiety Disorder
This animated video from TeenMentalHealth.Org delicately tackles a common problem among kindergarten-aged children: being afraid of new things. The root of this fear is from a friendly character named Worry Dragon. This positive approach to anxiety relieves the tension of mental health towards children, those who are very sensitive and vulnerable. With ordinary life scenes like the first day at school, making new friends, kindergarten students are presented how their unreasonable worries form. These fears will go away if you talk to your mom or an adult, and the Worry Dragon will be gone.
The warm colors of the animation create a soothing feeling for kids. A conversational voice-over is also a plus point for this video.
For Primary students
3. Lucy’s Blue Day
Perhaps you’ve noticed a trend: when it comes to making a video for children, colors are very important. “Lucy’s Blue Day” uses the color of her hair to signal her emotions, but this time, the emotion being focused on is a sad one. When her hair turns blue, Lucy doesn’t understand why or how to get it into another color. This imagery signifies depression, and how little control someone may have over the waves of emotions that come and go.
The animation style employed here is vector animation, which is something that even beginners can quickly learn to do. It’s not as dynamic as professional, hand-drawn animation, but it’s a sufficient addition to the rhyming story told in this video. In other words, if you have a very strong, memorable script, you can opt for a simpler animation style.
4. Child Mental Health
This video from ShinShin Tang also is an introduction to matters of emotion, but it takes a slightly more technical approach than the previous video. That may sound strange, since in the video, the main character is a fictional creature, and you’d expect the video to take a more imaginative, dreamy approach.
The video starts with a scenario, where the main character is made aware of his anxiety and nervousness. The video then goes on to explain why we feel things — how emotions come from the brain and can affect other parts of our body. Subsequently, by using scales and lively animation, the video demonstrates how young children can pay attention to simple things — like whether their stomach is churning — to come to terms with their own emotions.
An animation like this mixes elements of the real and fictional worlds to tune in to children’s wavelengths and wild imaginations. And while adults worry that children can’t make a distinction between what’s real and what’s not, many psychological studies have proven that this is not true. This means that watching a video like this is not only enjoyable for the children — they will also be able to distill important information because they’re more focused on it.
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For Middle School students
5. Inside out
You may have heard about this famous animation film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The movie tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley who has to leave her Midwest life behind when her family moves to San Francisco. The special element about ‘Inside Out’ is that the primary emotions in Riley’s head, as well as her parents, are clearly depicted and visualized as 5 different characters: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. Erin Shifflett wrote: “Inside Out, bravely delves into that intricate world in a way that effectively captures the nuances of the way people feel and think—and maybe helps them understand why they act the way they do sometimes.” Years of intensive research and consultants from top-notch psychologists were spent, resulted in various honorable awards.
The video above is a shortcut from the film trailer and producers/director Pete Docter’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Academy Awards.
6. We all have mental health
Targeted to teenagers from 11-14, Anna Freud NCCF produced an animated video with 2 different stories of Sasha and Andre coping with mental issues. The video aims to give teenagers a common language and understanding of mental health and how we should treat it.
Appropriate visuals, use of language, and small details like social media, smartphones make it more relevant to middle school students. The introduction to seeking support from mental health professions is very valuable for adolescents, those who are going through puberty with major changes in physical and mental health. In this stage, teens have to deal with complicated matters that sometimes can be overwhelming, therefore extra care from experts are needed.
For high school students
7. Teen Health: Mental Health
Statistics, data, and scientific facts in this animated video from Penn State PRO Wellness introduce young adults about mental health. 20% of the teen population suffers from a severe mental illness, that’s an alarming situation. Thus, providing help for them is just as vital as raising awareness.
8. Overcoming anxiety — BBC
Taking a turn from the light-hearted animations we’ve seen so far in this post, let’s look through this longer but elegantly animated video from the BBC. The video jumps back and forth between two student’s stories, both struggling with anxiety, which leads them to question their abilities and hinders them from fulfilling their potentials.
From the outset, you can already see that this video is solemn. The color scheme is dark, the character designs are realistic, although the experiences of the characters are emphasized by dramatic motions. For instance, when a character mentions feeling drowned out or isolated, the animation zooms into her and blurs the surrounding world, literally making it look like she’s surrounded by water. The animation makes unseeable sensations visible so as to help those who don’t know these emotions, or those who can’t describe them, better understand them. The constant movement throughout the video also signifies an urgency to the problem, demonstrating that it’s happening to people right now, today and every day.
With these solemn features, this video is definitely made for a primary student audience. But, when shown to older pupils who are better with grappling with emotions, who can focus on a topic for a longer time period, then this would surely move them into sympathizing with classmates and friends who may also be struggling with anxiety.
Students are among the most vulnerable people in society. They are not fully developed, therefore these young generations can get confused when it comes to complicated and vogue problems like mental health. Animation is an effective medium to educate them in an entertaining way, making sure the scientific information won’t turn them away.