Mental Health

Understanding for Educators

Please check out the new resources to support the mental health of our students during COVID-19

What is Mental Health and how is it different from Mental Illness are common questions for educators. The information below will help you, your students and your families to understand the answers to these common questions.

What is Mental Health?

What is Mental Illness?

"Mental Illness is an alteration in thinking, mood or behavior associated with significant distress and impaired functioning in one or more areas of a person's life." (Alberta Education: Working Together to Support Mental Health in Alberta Schools, 2016)

Mental illnesses are surprisingly common in children and youth. In Canada, about 1 in 5 children (or about 20%) will experience a mental illness at some point. About 50% - 70% of all mental illnesses show up before the age of 18. This obviously has a big impact on brain development, how relationships are formed and learning and academic achievement.

This is a list of mental illnesses that can affect our Alberta children and teens:

Anxiety Disorders

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Conduct Disorder



Bipolar Disorder

Eating Disorders


To learn more

      • about a disorder
      • how it presents in a classroom
      • and what are common support strategies

click here or on the mental illness tab above.

What is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

Mental Health and Mental Illness are very different.

When someone is experiencing exam anxiety, or grief due to the loss of a loved one, it doesn't mean they have a mental illness

(Stan Kutcher,

The Mental Health/Mental Illness document "unpacks" the relationship between mental health and mental illness. The document could be used for students lessons, or staff development or a parent information night. Please note you will be prompted to view the template and make your own copy.