Back to School Guide: Tips and Resources

At NAMI, we understand the importance of mental health for students, parents and educators. Each new school year brings new challenges—and opportunities to educate and empower students to care for their mental health.

We are proud to provide free youth programs and to offer support for families and educators. NAMI also has a comprehensive youth mental health resource library to help students navigate the challenges of academics, social dynamics, and personal growth. While students may be overwhelmed, we know we can build a resilient and thriving community. We’re in this together! Our resources aim to support educators, guide parents, and empower students on their mental health journey during the school year and beyond.

For Kids

Meet Little Monster Coloring And Activity Book: Talking to kids about mental health can be a challenge, but it’s necessary, especially during these difficult times. “Meet Little Monster” is a coloring book that was developed to help foster dialogue between children and the adults in their lives, as well as provide children with a tool for exploring their feelings in a fun and empowering way. Help kids express their feelings in a creative way by downloading your copy today available for free in both English and Spanish.

For Middle and High School Students, Parents and Educators

NAMI Ending The Silence Education Presentation: Mental health education and early intervention can make all the difference to a struggling teen. NAMI’s Ending the Silence program makes mental health education accessible and approachable so that kids know they are not alone. You can submit your request for an Ending the Silence presentation from our NAMI WLA team.

For Teens and Young Adults

How to Talk about Mental Health Guide: Mental health stigma harms the 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. NAMI’s guide helps teens open up and share the concerns and experiences.

NAMI on Campus High School club: Consider starting a club! Get information here.

Commitment Planner: A resource to help students lay out all the commitments you want and need to make for your school year to help prevent burnout and unnecessary mental exhaustion. Download NAMI’s resource.
Finding A Trusted Adult: Reaching out about mental health can be or feel overwhelming, embarrassing or just hard. Use this guide to help you choose someone to confide.Download NAMI’s resource.
Time Management Help: Tips on how to make time to balance your school, work and personal time. Download NAMI’s resource.

For College Students

Mental Health College Guide: NAMI and the JED Foundation created a guide to help college students to help students navigate some of the life changes that come with heading off to college. Going to college is a big step, and big steps come with excitement, the unknown, and, usually, a healthy amount of stress. That’s not only ok, but also to be expected. And it’s the reason for this guide designed by — and for — students. Here’s a crash course in how it’s laid out:

  • Check out Relationships and Self-Care for tips on how to adjust to your new living situation (even if it’s just living at home but in your new role as a college student), take care of yourself, and make and manage new relationships.
  • At  Mental Health, Identity and Race, you can explore information about understanding identity, bringing your full self to campus, and mental resources and tips specific to LGBTQ students and students of color. 
  • In the Self-Advocacy, HIPAA and FERPA section, there are resources that outline your rights concerning mental health and self-advocacy.
  • In Taking Care of Your Mental Health, you can find information on coping with a current diagnosis in a new environment, finding and speaking with health care providers, and learning about peer groups and other support.
  • Go to Staying Safe for resources on navigating any difficult situations you may face. You’ll find good info about recreational substance use and misuse, what toxicity looks like in relationships and how to help yourself or your friends avoid or manage dangerous or risky situations.

Social Media Guide: Social media can be a great way to connect with friends, family and your community. Learn how to engage safely and protect your mental health. Download NAMI’s resource.

Setting Boundaries: Setting healthy limits, or boundaries, in our lives allows us to take care of our health and well-being. In this resource, we’ll cover different types of boundaries, how to set them and ways to communicate to others what you will and will not allow to protect yourself and take charge of your life. Download NAMI’s resource.

For Educators and Parents

Youth Mental Health Support Guide: Our guide has tips for parents and caregivers on how to talk to kids about mental health and how to get them the support they need.

Bullying Warning Signs: Bullying is a concern with children of all ages. Know how to spot the warning signs and how to start a conversation with your child about bullying. Download NAMI’s resource.
Suicide Warning Signs: Learn the warning signs, learn how to start a conversation and know what to do in a mental health crisis. Download NAMI’s resource.
Crisis & Relapse Plan: Fill out this template to help your family and support team in the event of a crisis or relapse.  Download NAMI’s resource.

For Educators and Teachers

Three Keys For a Successful Back-to-School Transition: Resources for educators to create a safe and supportive classroom. Download NAMI’s resource.
Five Questions for School Staff to Ask When Preparing for An Active Shooter Drill: Resources for building a trauma-informed active shooter drill in schools. Download NAMI’s resource.

Often, in school, students can find it hard to focus or can be impacted by events around them. You can use these exercises to bring students back into the moment. Download for Elementary resource.  Download for Middle & High.

More NAMI Resources: Get help on how to talk to your students in the classroom about mental health, including:

  • Activities and ideas for mental wellness moments.
  • Tips for creating a classroom mental health contract.
  • The Three C’s for educators to help you and your students feel comfortable talking about mental health and wellness, identify how mental health impacts our emotions and to help overcome mental health challenges by connecting empathetically.

The California Health and Human Services Agency also has resources for educators.

For parents and caregivers, NAMI has new resources to help talk to your kids about mental health, including:

  • Wellness calendar daily to incorporate different activities into your everyday.
  • The Three C’s to help you and your child feel supported as you talk about mental health and wellness, identify concrete support, and connect empathetically at home.
  • Weekly check-in for parents/caregivers with their children.

More Information and Resources

NAMI’s podcast episode, “Hope Starts with Us: Back to School Anxiety”

The Mental Health Technology Transfer Network Center Network has informational webinars on mental health and youth support. Click here for their upcoming Back-to-School Sessions and click here for all other webinars.

The National Institute of Mental Health Resources for Child and Adolescent Mental Health includes sharable fliers and videos.

Tips on mental health coping skills from our own youth ambassador Britt Turpack.

Recent virtual conversation with the National Institute of Mental Health on the youth mental health crisis.