There is a strong connection between social-emotional learning and mental health. Strong, social-emotional skills increase a person's resilience, which contributes to improved mental health. But what is meant by mental health? To help define this term, The University of Minnesota Extension provides a narrative, referencing the "mental heath/illness continuum," (shown right).
They state, "The term mental health is often confused with the term mental illness. These two are on opposite ends of one spectrum. Everyone has a state of mental health, and that state changes throughout life. Sometimes a child’s state of mental health includes a diagnosis (approximately 20 percent of children and youth have a clearly identified need for mental health services, although only one-third of these children actually receive services).
As illustrated, the mental health/illness continuum describes mental illness and mental health as creating four quadrants; children can experience good mental health with a diagnosis, and poor mental health without a diagnosis. Importantly, children both with and without mental illness can reach an optimal level of mental health. "
This means that every human being falls somewhere on this spectrum and their position on this chart will fluctuate over time. Understanding this concept is the first step to reducing stigma around mental health. It also highlights the importance of teaching social-emotional skills to all students, across various developmental levels, to best equip them to handle life's challenges. For more guidance in how to embed social-emotional learning, visit www.casel.org.