In the Open: It’s Okay NOT to be Okay

Werther’s final scene includes an act of suicide. It is important to approach this scene carefully with students, offering ample content warning and helping them prepare for what they will see. At the same time, this opera offers an opportunity to speak with your students about depression and other mental health challenges and to create a safe space for students to share their feelings and seek out help if necessary.

The activity “Mental Health Myth Busters,” included in your Google Classroom, has a large collection of resources and statistics. Remind students that, although mental illness is often viewed as a source of shame, one in five Americans will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and by the World Health Organization’s count, around 350 million people around the world suffer from depression. Mental illness and depression can be treated, but treatment requires acknowledging the problem.

Faced with a global pandemic, students are struggling. Many face food or housing insecurity, the death of loved ones, and the challenges of remote learning. Consider having every one of your students take an online youth mental health screening quiz by Mental Health America, linked in the sidebar on this page. As you discuss these issues, remind students that they are NOT alone. Recovery IS possible, and numerous resources exist for both those combatting depression and other mental illnesses, and those whose loved ones face mental-health challenges.

One great place to look is Mental Health America (MHA). Founded in 1909, MHA is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA offers a plethora of resources with honest, thoughtful, conversational podcasts, articles, and resources to address a myriad of topics. A few of our favorites include:

The MHA podcast In the Open, especially the following episodes:

The following MHA articles:

Also check out the online Youth Mental Health screening quiz by Mental Health America, which is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether students are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition:


  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.8255
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
  • Trevor Project Lifeline Saving Young LGBTQ Lives: 866.488.7386