All done with this lesson? You can mark it as complete in your dashboard.

2. Set

In this activity…

Students think about their experience with physical illnesses, identifying the symptoms they experienced, the treatment they sought, and how they recovered. They then use this awareness to identify similarities between physical and mental illness.


Start by engaging students in a conversation about the last time they were sick. Ask students to raise their hand if they’ve been sick in the last year. Almost everyone will raise their hand. To help students recall their experiences, mention generic physical illnesses like the common cold, the flu, strep throat, or broken bones.

Then, encourage 3-5 students to share more detailed responses indicating:

  1. The physical symptoms they experienced (ex. fever, nausea, headache, sore throat, pain).
  2. How they treated the illness and who helped them (ex. visited a doctor, medication, rest, physiotherapy, help from parents).
  3. Recovery (ex. how long it took, whether it was instant or gradual, whether there were good days and bad days etc.).

Most students will mention these points on their own. If possible, do not directly refer to these points as it’s more powerful for the conversation to flow naturally. However, if the information students are sharing is not adequate, then use guided questions to direct the discussion.

After five minutes and several different students have shared, reinforce that students are describing, (1) physical symptoms, (2) receiving help from a doctor, professional or parent, (3) using treatments and following prescriptions, and (4) recovering from the illness.

Connect these insights to mental illness by letting students know that, similar to physical illness, there are many different types of mental illness, which are characterized by symptoms, require professional support, and respond to medication, therapy, or other treatment approaches.

Furthermore, tell students that, similar to physical illness, it’s also possible to recover from mental illness. In the next activity, students will have the opportunity to explore different mental illnesses, their symptoms, as well as the available treatments.