Mental health plays a vital role in the complete wellness of children, families and communities. To ensure optimal mental health into adulthood, it is important to build a strong foundation by equipping students with knowledge and resources for handling stressful situations, making healthy decisions and knowing how to seek additional help.


In the Charlotte region, five schools recently began implementing Mental Wellness Basics, the first comprehensive, no-cost digital learning program designed to help educators incorporate mental wellness topics in their classrooms, grades eight through 10. Powered by international technology company EVERFI, Mental Wellness Basics provides a library of resources for students, teachers and parents including digital activities, classroom-ready lesson plans and a parent toolkit to incorporate mental health in the home.


Nicole Cooksey, a school counselor at Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte, chose to use Mental Wellness Basics in her classroom as a way for students to have self-paced, informative activities that serve as a mental health check-in.


“The interactive lessons are engaging for students, allowing them to participate even when working alone,” Cooksey said. “The program focuses on the importance of mental health, providing students with healthy reminders to utilize their resources as well as the mechanisms that they can use every day.”


As of April 2021, over 400 local students have completed the Mental Wellness Basics program. They have learned about the science behind mental health, the impact of stress, how to identify mental health disorders, effective coping strategies, how to overcome the stigma of mental illness and ways to seek help from others and support friends in need.


“Mental health education is an important element of overall health and wellness,” said Jessica Richter, EVERFI K12 schools manager for the Carolinas. “Research shows that equipping students with cognitive-behavior skills and knowledge to build, maintain and promote positive mental health improves their ability to deal with stressful situations but also lays the groundwork for preventing future mental health issues.”


As communities continue to see an increase in the need for mental health resources, particularly for youth, Cooksey sees the benefits of keeping Mental Wellness Basics in her classroom.


“My students completed the unit feeling informed and confident to be able to utilize their counselor and other resources,” Cooksey said. “They also walked away having an understanding of the greater impact mental health can have on themselves and their classmates.”


Since 2016, United Way of Central Carolinas and the Carolina Panthers have teamed up to bring EVERFI’s Character Playbook digital education program to schools across the Charlotte region. To date, 17 area schools have used Character Playbook lessons to teach students how to build and maintain healthy relationships.


United Way is committed to setting young minds up for success and strengthening the overall well-being of our community by supporting initiatives and programs like Character Playbook and Mental Wellness Basics. To change the future of our community, we need to ensure students have the knowledge, skills and resources to create a successful path from school to career, and beyond.


“Mental Wellness Basics a great tool that can be utilized in any classroom. It is a great conversation starter and can easily be turned into a temperature check for a group of students or individuals,” Cooksey said. “Students are appreciative in knowing we, as educators, care about their mental health on a larger scale.”


Learn more about bringing the Mental Wellness Basics program to your school or district.