Created by Christopher Tou on Sep 11, 2015 10:27 PM

What struck me the most in looking at data about MI & A was the site that addresses the comorbidity of mental illness and addiction. The popular view of either of these is that the person simply lacks the effort to “get over” their problem. This morning, I heard a documentary on MPR (archived online at: about Kurt Hahn and his type of schools. What stands out is that it talked about what we mean by teaching “character,” and how it usually only refers to the “grit” kind – perseverance in adversity. I realized that this is exactly how we tend to view people struggling with a mental illness or addiction – they just lack proper character/grit. This line of reasoning suggests teachers should teach grit and perseverance to limit MI & A, but that will only lead to more stigma. What has to say, rather, is that while MI & A go together, it’s not lack of some ambiguous character trait, but rather issues with the brain’s structure/chemistry and/or because of specific experiences (from I think this discrepancy reflects a huge problem in our general understanding of correlation and causation, and luckily for me, there’s a math standard for high school that addresses this very issue. I based my lesson on the correlation/causation issue while looking at MI & A as a case study.

As to the other questions in the criteria:

Does underage substance abuse reflect an underlying mental health condition?

Not necessarily – certainly a mental health issue could lead to substance abuse, but it could happen for other reasons.

Does concealed substance abuse wear the mask of a mental health condition?

My assumption is that if its concealed it is more likely to be out of a mental health condition, but as I think about it, it could just be because we all conceal things that are illegal or taboo.

Why do teens view the abuse of prescription drugs as a "safer" alternative to illicit drugs?

Prescriptions are regulated and come from a trusted source, unlike illicit drugs. But using them without a doctor’s advice is inherently risky.

Are all students at risk for substance abuse?

Yes. Some are at a greater risk (genetics, experiences of trauma or stress, etc.), but all are at risk (e.g. all of us could experience the trauma or stress that could lead to substance abuse). I’ve been thinking about it in terms of disabilities – we should all work to make the world welcoming for people with disabilities, because any of us could be disabled (physically or mentally) tomorrow and would sure like to have that world.

 Lesson idea

A.Grade Level : 10th/11th grade Math

B. Measurable Objective: Students will be able to identify and explain instances of misplaced causation by investigating personal stories and published news reports related to the correlation between mental illness and addiction

( “Identify and explain misleading uses of data; recognize when arguments based on data confuse correlation and causation.”)

C. Procedure/Activity 5-8 Lines.

  •          Snappy launch:

o   Use this website suggesting that taking a lot of selfies causes mental illness and addiction:

o   Start the lesson by reading a summary of the above article as if it’s a recent study, and as if the teacher believes it.

  •          Each student will receive one of three stories/articles about mental illness and addiction that contain a (subtle) claim about the cause of mental illness or addiction. Here are the three:

o   A 2007 article describing issues of alcohol addiction and Native Americans, in particular the first part about the mental illnesses associated with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:

o   Clay’s story from the content:

o   The A.N. Addict story from the content:

  •          After reading their story/article, the students will get in groups of three (one student for each story/article) and briefly describe their reading and what the reading suggests are the relevant causes for the mental illness and addiction (e.g. addiction caused by mental illness; mental illness caused by addiction; both caused by brain chemistry; not related at all; etc.), as well as the article the teacher mentioned (about selfies).
  •          After the stories have been discussed, the students will discuss any common themes they see, and agree on their conclusion about the cause of mental illness / addiction (they should conclude here at least: that the selfie article is incorrect, that the other articles show a multi-faceted, complex cause outside of simple choices on the part of the person suffering from mental illness / addiction).
  •          The groups will then discuss what’s wrong with the selfie article’s use of data – what data is left out? How could someone gather better data?
  •          Finally, each student will write the implied cause from the selfie article as well as a short paragraph explaining why it’s misleading and what problems publishing such misleading data could have for the people in the stories.




D. Assessment


  •          1/3: Student accurately describes the errant causation in the selfie article
  •          1/3: Student accurately describes at least one reason the causation is incorrect
  •          1/3: Student explains at least one way in which misleading data can make mental illness and addiction even more difficult to deal with
Amelia Barrons  

Mental Illness and Drug Abuse- Amelia Barrons

I deal with mental illness on a regular basis in my classroom. It is often a piece of my students’ eligibility and diagnosis. It is a constant challenge. Our school and district are amazingly suited and prepared to support students with mental illness. The students I work with, however, are cared for and managed by many providers, well versed in mental healthcare, plans, and programs.

Throughout my high school career, three students committed suicide. While my younger sister was attending the same school, six students committed suicide. Then when I was in college, my best friend’s aunt, whom I was close to, committed suicide. Depression was the root of all of these deaths.

Depression is the leading disability among 15-44 year olds. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 11% of teens experience a depressive disorder by the time they are 18. Teens have raging hormones and can be naturally moody, defiant, testy, and dramatic. It may be difficult to see true depression from teenage angst or to know whether to acknowledge it one way or another.

The most important thing to do is to educate and empower teens. They need to know what to look for in their friends and themselves. They need to know there has never been more support and options for treatments as there are now. Teens need practice talking to each other about how they really feel and how to reach out and help each other. Mental illness needs to be openly discussed so that it loses its stigma.

Lesson Plan- 9th grade Composition/English


-          Students will know and understand the signs of depression and how to recognize them in others and themselves.

- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
  • c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  • d. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  • e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.


  1. Ask everyone to get out a scrap of paper. Here in the Midwest people ask “hey, how are you?” and people reply “good” or “fine.” Down south people don’t ask you “how are you?” unless they really want to know. Tell the students that today you want to know. Have them give a one word response.
  2. Have a pair of students compile the results. Discuss.
    1. Why do we ask “how are you?” if we don’t actually want to hear?
    2. Who do you talk to about how you are? Parents? Friends?
    3. Who really listens? Cares? Understands? How do you know?
    4. Split into groups of 4 or 5, watch a video clip, and summarize/gather the main points
      5. Share summaries. Compile a list of warning signs/symptoms of depression in teens.
      6. Assignment: Write a letter to a friend or family member to state concern for their depression. If the student doesn’t know someone to write to, have them imagine.


Letter should include

  1. Signs and symptoms of depression
  2. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  3. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
  4. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  5. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.


MI-AO Anorexia  McCalanahan


Brett Cease



Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Summary and Lesson Plan

I learned a great deal from this unit’s focus on the background of different common mental illnesses as well as the coverage of many trends that were surprising to me relating to youth substance abuse.

Several key takeaway points for me were:

  1. As teachers, we are responsible for assuming that ALL students are at risk for underage or illict use of drugs.
  2. How common substance abuse is for teens across the country. (not just of alcohol but marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, and even prescription drugs (which I think are deemed safer by teens due to their regulated origins from medical professionals)).
  3. From several of the sources, including the Children’s Defense Fund, there is a high correlation between decreasing income level and increasing risk factors for substance abuse.
  4. One of the main challenges that our country still perpetuates is the perceived stigma attached to individuals that struggle with either MI or SA.

When reflecting on these two different, yet overlapping areas of student’s holistic health, I would advocate that while student substance abuse (whether concealed or not) does not correlate directly to a mental health condition, if one is present in a student’s life, the odds are much greater that the other is also there.  From my understanding of the sources, substance abuse begins for a variety of reasons, ranging from social pressures, the desire for adventure and independence, ease of access, as well as the mental stability and level of stress in a student’s life.  Mental Illness can be a source of instability and lack of social acceptance in a student’s life and can thus influence their desire and interest in substance abuse.  However, with either of these conditions, given the right combination of academic & family support, community involvement, and self-efficacy, these risk factors can be successfully averted.

In addition to all of the research in our content area, one outside source that I deeply benefited from reading was the University of Michigan’s Youth Depression and Suicide Prevention Program (I also currently have a close friend currently struggling with severe depression and suicidal ideation). From discussing strategies ranging from increasing physical exercise, stories of successes from support groups, to specific behavioral modifications and suggestions in the home and classroom atmosphere, I feel more aware of several strategies to help be aware of and connected to resources for students that are struggling with these issues.


Lesson Plan (for High School in a Social Studies and Civics course):

A significant amount of the challenges that come with working with mental illness or substance abuse issues is related to the stigma that is often attached to discussing their presence in our lives. The goal of this assignment will be to help bring information closer to students that can often feel distant or intimidating and connect MI and SA research to their immediate lives, positively impacting their future thoughts and decisions.

The beginning of the unit will cover information similar to what was in the content area for this topic.  After more underlying information on a variety of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse is presented and discussed in class, students will be provided a list of community organizations/resources that deal with MI and SA issues (chemical dependency counselors, social work groups, homeless shelters, etc.).In groups they will begin a project to research an organization of their choosing and eventually present this information as well as their own personal connection to the class.

Learning Objectives: Students will demonstrate understanding of the goals and purposes of mental illness and substance abuse social services that exist in our community through presenting information as a group.

Students will demonstrate the ability to work in groups and share responsibility while conducting research, interviewing professionals, and creating a class presentation.

Students will reflect on their research and articulate connections between the information discovered and how it applies and informs their own lives.

Activity:  After receiving the list of community organizations, students will be responsible for organizing into small groups and beginning to research an organization that they choose. Groups can research their organization through online websites, phone calls to organization personnel (with the teacher’s permission and supervision), interviewing other informed family/friends, etc.

Each group will need to answer the following questions in their presentation (which should be between 5 to 10 minutes total, involve a Web 2.0 tool (with the teachers help) and each group member must be involved in the research, in the writing, and in presenting the material):

  1. What services does this organization provide? How does it connect to MI or SA issues…
  2. What clientele does this organization serve primarily? Reflections on why this is the case…
  3. How does this organization receive its funding? Details of who and what are the challenges of this type of funding…
  4. Provide an example of  one personal story/testimony of someone with MI or a SA issue  this organization has helped. Group reflections on what they learned from this in their own lives.
  5. Does this organization have a stigma in our community?  Describe why it might for some…
  6. Each group member will share one thing they discovered about SA and/or MI in our area from researching this organization.


33% Group members will be responsible for assessing each other’s involvement in the activity through a rubric provided at the beginning as a guide to help guide participation.

33% Teacher assessment of each individual’s involvement through the same rubric provided for groups member’s assessment

33% Teacher assessment of group’s presentation, based on quality of answers, depth of connections made to personal life, the level of being on-topic and engaging the audience, and the integration of the Web 2.0 technology into the presentation.

1% Wow me!


University of Michigan’s Youth Depression and Suicide Prevention Program (2012).  Information retrieved online February 15, 2012 from

Children’s Defense Fund (2011).  Minnesota Poverty Levels. Information retrieved online February 15, 2012 from:



Amanda Haugstad Feb 4, 2012 4:29 PM 


Amanda Haugstad

H.R.- Dr. Bridges 

Mental Illness and Drug Abuse:

This topic is so broad; I wasn’t really sure what approach to take.  There is so much I could touch on, but I’m going to take a more specific route.  The article on homeless youth particularly grabbed my attention; this is a group that can be affected both by mental illness and drug abuse.  I took particular interest to this group because this year our church has started doing overflow sheltering for the homeless in our community and I’ve had the privilege to volunteer.  The first time I went I was struck by the age of a few of the homeless guys.  They were over 18, but still younger than me.  It makes me angry inside thinking of the things homeless kids have had to go through because their parents were dead beats, or raped them, or beat them.  I know this isn’t the case with all homeless youth, but it seems for a large majority it is, especially with those that are alone.  As educators, we need to be prepared and know how to recognize signs of homelessness and know how to respond. 

In addition to the information that Jeff provided, I found this site to offer useful data and suggestions for helping homeless youth.

As Jeff stated, “There were a certain few teachers that seemed to take special interest in me and challenged me personally to apply what gifts I had to my academic progress.”  We need to strive to be the type of teacher he describes and not push away, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the marginalized students we will teach.  This data has helped engrain again in my mind the importance of getting to know students personally and showing them we truly care.  It won’t be easy, like he said; we have a tough job ahead of us.  My activity is meant to help raise awareness and educate students that aren’t homeless on what those that are may go through.



Level: 12th grade

Objective:  Students will understand what it is like to be homeless as a teenager.  They will collect data and then create fictitious journal entries, writing from the perspective of a homeless boy or girl in the US.  Journal entries will be completed in Spanish.

Snappy Launch: Watch this video on homeless youth in the USA: 


  1. Discuss reactions to the video as a class.
  2. I will hand out various selections of data from the article from Jeff and data that is on the site I referenced above.  Using a Jigsaw activity, students will become experts on their data and then present it to others.

Assessment:  Students will create 2-3 journal entries (400-500 words total) from the perspective of a homeless teen.  Journal entries must be written in Spanish.