Mental health matters to 4-H

When 4-H members pledge their “health to better living,” it means mental health, too. Mental health is a broad term that includes mental, emotional, and social health. It means the ability to express emotions in positive ways, work well with others, make responsible decisions, manage stress, and be resilient during difficult times. Having good mental health doesn’t mean that people never go through bad times. Experiencing setbacks is inevitable; it’s part of life. It means having the tools to cope with life’s challenges.

One of the challenges everyone is dealing with now is the coronavirus pandemic. Medical, public health, and youth development professionals are concerned about the mental health implications of the pandemic. In addition to a short-term increase in pandemic-related stress, there are the long-term psychological effects to consider.

A survey commissioned by the National 4-H Council in the wake of the pandemic found that seven in 10 teens are struggling with mental health issues. The Ohio 4-H Healthy Living Design Team recognized the need to have practical tools for 4-H volunteers and professionals to use with youth. The team created Coping with COVID: Lesson Plans to Promote Mental, Emotional, and Social Health, Growing our gratitude lesson plan examplea curriculum containing 10 lesson plans and supporting information. The lessons are interactive, require a minimum of supplies, and are written to be delivered virtually or in-person. A section on the Ohio Department of Education’s Social and Emotional Learning Standards is included to facilitate use in school classrooms. And as the need to address mental health continues, a second volume is in the works. This free curriculum is available on the Ohio 4-H website.

The design team is also hosting Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month in January. This multifaceted approach consists of educational programming, a social media campaign, and written materials. Offerings include:

  • a one-hour mindful wellness session for adult and teen volunteers.
  • a four-part volunteer training series.
  • Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, a six-session SPIN club beginning Jan. 19.
  • A review of the project book Your Thoughts Matter with Clermont County 4-H member Luke Uhlenbrock. More than 4,500 youth accessed this project in 2020.
  • daily mental health tips on the Ohio 4-H Facebook page, with detailed blog posts on the Ohio 4-H Healthy Living blog.

Find all the Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month resources at go.osu.edu/MentalHealthMonth.

Now more than ever, youth need connections with positive, caring adults and opportunities to build important life skills. Would you like to support programs such as this? You can help ensure this important program continues with a donation to the Ohio 4-H Healthy Living program.