One thing that distinguishes humans from other species is that we keep getting scared by our own technology.

Over history we’ve worried about the effect of snaps, tweets, texts, email, television, radio, telephones, printed books, even writing itself. But it would seem, on balance, that most of these have turned out to be pretty useful.

So how do we embrace new technologies to improve mental health in school?

There’s no single answer. The landscape is always changing, and it’s hard enough just to keep up, much less feel confident to make the right choices about particular apps or websites.

The complexity gets easier to manage if you have a way to help you classify the possibilities.

For instance, technology can provide access to information. It can help you practice a specific skill or behaviour. And it can help you communicate with other people.

Information can help students understand their own mental health and take care of their friends and peers.  

It can help staff deepen their professional understanding and help schools develop strategies that promote positive wellbeing.

What’s hard to underestimate is the power of having all this information available instantly, on your phone, while you’re in bed on a Tuesday night.  

Equally we’ve never had so many easily–accessible tools which can help us practice the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of good mental health. Whether it’s sleep, exercise, meditation, nutrition—there are apps and devices that can provide guidance, structure and feedback.

Finally, technology can help us communicate and get support when we need it. Young people communicate constantly on their devices, but in times of crisis they can use chat services, phone lines and online forums to get immediate support from professionals or more experienced peers.

With all this choice and access, technology can be incredibly empowering for both students and staff. But we also need to keep in mind that young people are young, and just because you grew up with the technology doesn’t mean you fully understand how to use it effectively or safely.

Young people need guidance and support to use high-quality resources and this is a lot easier when adults themselves are exploring some of the options and incorporating them into the culture of the school. If you spend even a little bit of time looking at sources of information and support, and trying out a few behavioural apps, then you’ll see ways you can harness digital technology to improve student mental health.

So what opportunities can you find for technology in your school? And if you’re not sure where to begin, who at your school might be able to help you get started?