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In this activity…

Students debunk the myths about mental illness and challenge stigmatizing attitudes or beliefs by finding evidence for correct answers and evidence against incorrect answers. The class will engage in a discussion to understand the correct questionnaire responses.

And the point is…

Many students have never had a safe environment to talk about mental illness. In the past, students may have avoided asking questions about sensitive topics (such as mental illness) because they were afraid to embarrass themselves, ashamed of their lack of knowledge, or because they didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Talking about mental health and mental illness is not easy because, previously, these kinds of conversations were taboo. For some students, this might be the first time to engage in these difficult conversations about mental illness and to clarify misconceptions.

By collectively reviewing the answers to each item on the diagnostic questionnaire, students are given permission to explore uncharted territory. Finding evidence for each correct response and evidence against the alternative answers further builds mental health literacy and counters mental illness misconceptions.

Materials: Projector


If possible, ask students to gather in a circle away from their desks, to create a less formal environment. Before beginning, reinforce the class values and emphasize that this is a safe environment, guided by a couple of key ideas:

  1. Wrong answers will not be approached with shame or judgement but as a learning opportunity.
  2. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
  3. Everyone’s ideas, opinions, thoughts, and voices will be heard, recognized and respected.  

For each question, read the initial statement out loud as well as the response items. Ask students to raise their hands according to the response they selected. Alternatively, take a collaborative teaching approach by asking students to take turns reading a question, identifying the response they selected, as well as why they selected that response.

Use the Questionnaire Answer Key to guide the discussion and share an explanation for the correct answer to each question. As an option, you can also use the slide deck to reinforce the correct responses and provide visual support.

Answer Key available in download section.

Once all of the questionnaire items have been discussed, give students a final opportunity to ask any questions, or to share insights, opinions, concerns, or ideas. Thank students for the courage and vulnerability that they’ve shown by engaging in this discussion. Finally, emphasize that you are available for students at any time if they are not comfortable asking questions in front of the class and if they would prefer to have a one-on-one conversation.


How is it a myth that people with mental illness are violent and dangerous when we see people on the news who have a mental illness and are violent?

Some people with mental illness are indeed violent and dangerous. However, people without a mental illness can also be violent and dangerous. The point is that having a mental illness does not predict violent behaviour. People who have a mental illness are no more likely to be violent and dangerous than people who do not have a mental illness. Saying that this statement is a myth does not mean that no one with a mental illness is violent. It simply means that violent behaviour cannot be generalized to mental illness.

If a student mocks or teases a classmate for answering a question wrong, consider engaging with the class in the following manner:

I want to remind everyone that this is a safe and nonjudgmental space. We are all entering this conversation with a different amount of knowledge about and exposure to mental illness. For everyone to feel comfortable and for this to be an optimal learning environment, we need to recognize and respect these different starting places. There is nothing wrong with or bad about getting the wrong answer. In fact, this presents an opportunity for learning to occur. If everyone knew every answer, then this would be a very boring activity. Instead of putting each other down for wrong answers or comparing yourself to your friends, think about how you can build each other up. How can you use your knowledge and experience to support each other? What strengths do you bring to this conversation? I also want to remind you of our class values and that everything we say or do should move us towards engagement and connection.

Answer Key