Mental Health 101 – A Curriculum for All Students

Wouldn’t it be strange if schools required PE Class (aka: Physical Education or Gym Class) for students with physical health conditions such as asthma, allergies, and obesity? And what if PE was optional for the so-called healthy kids? Can you imagine the shame and stigma for the kids in Gym Class?  Thankfully, schools don’t do that! But it’s a decent metaphor for how mental health is handled in K-12 schools. In the vast majority of schools, mental health is considered…

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3 Ways to Reduce Mental Health Stigma

In our new book, Mental Health 101 for Teens, all four authors talk about our personal mental health journeys, and there’s one thing we have in common: back when we were teens, we all felt some level of mental health stigma in the culture around us. Mental health stigma is the common shame, fear, and misconceptions people have surrounding the topic of mental health. Stigma permeates our culture as if mental health is only experienced by people who are somehow…

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5 Secrets to Becoming Resilient

When I was 15, I was sent to a three-week intervention program for struggling teens… rebellious teens… teens who get in trouble. That was my life, full of negativity and bitterness. I had gone through a lot of hurtful events with my family and at school, and I was basically mad at the world. That intervention ended up being the wakeup call I needed. Even after the three-week program, I continued going to counseling sessions on a regular basis. And…

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If it helps only one person, is it worth it?

Image of America's top anti-bullying speaker Tom Thelen

Are bullying prevention assemblies worth it?

Over the past five years I’ve done bullying prevention assemblies at over 800 schools, and sometimes people will ask me, “Are bullying prevention assemblies worth it?” And the most common way to respond is something like, “Ya know… if it helps even one person, then it’s totally worth it!”

But is that really true? One the one hand, I agree with this idea because every life has infinite value. On the other hand, if it only helps one student, is it worth the financial investment and the time investment for the school? Honestly, I couldn’t live with myself if my school assemblies and bullying prevention curriculum only helped a small number of kids and teens. Thankfully I’ve seen the proof and received the thank-you letters, so I don’t doubt the effectiveness of my program. But sometimes I still wonder…


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The Difference Between Bullying & Teasing

When I speak at school assemblies, people often ask, “What is the difference between bullying and teasing?” Bullying is a hot button issue for sure, and I can see why some people feel it is overplayed. If all we do is “raise awareness” about bullying (rather than teach kids how to respond to it), then guess what happens? Kids report a lot of bullying. So what is bullying? (And what isn’t bullying?)


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Can Teachers Bully Students?

A parent recently asked me, “Is it possible for a teacher to bully a student?”  In essence she was saying, “My child is being bullied by a teacher, but I don’t know what to do about it.” As a parent myself, I know where she’s coming from. We’ve had a couple (not a lot) of negative experiences with teachers over the years, and it definitely feels like bullying. The behavior is much the same: one person attempts to take power over another person in a way that is negative, hurtful, or abusive. So is it technically “bullying” for a teacher to treat a student this way? (more…)

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3 Times to Step In When Your Child Is Bullied

As a parent, I know what it’s like to have a child come home from school after being bullied. It breaks your heart. The struggle for many parents is to know when to step in and intervene, and when to step back and give kids the space to try and solve it themselves. Of course, we should always help our kids by being good listeners and providing advice for how to respond to bullying. But when should we step in and intervene for our kids? (more…)

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3 Times to Step Back When Your Child is Bullied

This article has the potential to make a lot of people angry. As a full time anti-bullying speaker, would I ever advise parents to “step back” when their kids are bullied. Well… yes. Sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we should refuse to help them. What I mean is: there are times when our help isn’t help at all – times when we can accidentally make the situation worse. (more…)

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How to Respond to a Bully (In the Moment)

How to Respond to a Bully (In the Moment)
Little girl feeling depressed after reading text message on mobile telephone in home bedroom. Concept of bullying and loneliness among preteens

A lot of parents tell their kids, “Don’t let the bullies get the best of you.” It’s a popular thing to say. It has a nice ring to it. Obviously no one wants to give the best parts of themselves to a bully. The crazy thing is: this same saying can mean different things to different people, and how you understand it makes all the difference.


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