Free resources to develop mental health literacy for secondary schools and colleges

BrainWaves has developed a unique series of evidence-based lessons to support mental health literacy for secondary year students. It is a multi-year mental health initiative and is free for any school to access. The lessons are designed to improve students’ mental health and wellbeing.

We have just launched our lessons for students aged 11 – 14, and 14 – 16, which sit alongside existing lessons for students aged 16 – 18. They are all available now and can be accessed via our dedicated schools portal:, where you can also find all our teaching resources and support for teachers.

Educational experts and researchers have helped design these lessons, basing them on topics resonating with young people and drawing on in depth focus groups and research.

Real-world scenarios and videos are used to present the most up-to-date science, as well as practical strategies to help young people cope better with the challenges of modern teenage life. Each BrainWaves lesson challenges students to think critically about a range of mental health issues. The relationship between their own thinking and real-life data is examined, helping them to think independently about how they can reduce any risk to themselves.


Our educational approach

The goal of the BrainWaves curriculum is to provide a programme of lessons that are evidence-based, engaging and empowering for students. We aim to give young people more agency in learning about and managing their mental health, by creating optimism about change and their potential to flourish. The lessons support students in the development of:

A positive self-concept and self-awareness

Relationship and social and emotional skills

Resilience and persistence

An understanding of the relationship between mind and body

Ability to think beyond one’s own concerns and focus on and engage with others

Critical thinking and information literacy

The BrainWaves curriculum

The BrainWaves curriculum is built around the principles of positive psychology, notably the work of Martin Seligman, and the idea that ‘curing the negatives does not produce the positives’.

Rather than focusing on learning about mental health disorders per se, the BrainWaves curriculum helps students understand the positive strategies that can help them promote their wellbeing and truly thrive.

Specifically, we aim to encourage the five elements of the positive psychology ‘PERMA’ model of wellbeing. Click for more information on how we use these themes in the BrainWaves curriculum.


Positive emotions

In this curriculum strand, the BrainWaves lessons emphasising positive mindsets, thinking and possibilities. They help students understand the connection between happiness and wellbeing – that by intentionally choosing activities that make us feel good, and by focusing on being positive and optimistic, we can help manage our mood and wellbeing.

Lessons within this strand include:

  • Positive thinking
  • Learning to be optimistic
  • Managing low mood
  • Managing worry
  • Managing stress
  • Boosting your mood


Within the PERMA model, ‘engagement’ represents the pursuit of happiness by being fully immersed (or finding ‘flow’) in an activity that requires our strengths, skills, and focus.

Lessons within this strand of the BrainWaves curriculum include:

  • Finding your flow
  • Achieving flow through creativity
  • Creating flow through being outdoors


In this curriculum strand, the BrainWaves lessons help students realise the importance of relationships to our wellbeing,  any that intentionally investing in positive relationships can help us manage the ups and downs of life.

Lessons within this strand include:

  • Talking about mental health
  • Listening and responding to friends
  • Coping with change
  • Managing conflict and repairing relationships


This part of the BrainWaves curriculum focuses on developing purpose beyond oneself. Within lessons, students learn that by having a sense of purpose in our lives and serving a cause that is bigger than ourselves, we can achieve ‘meaning’, wellbeing and happiness.

Lessons within this strand include:

  • Thinking about others
  • Connecting with and helping others
  • Being a mentor


In this curriculum strand, the BrainWaves lessons help students understand why achieving goals that are important to us can help with our overall wellbeing. Students work to identify and use their own personal strengths, as well as developing the confidence and resilience to achieve their goals.

Lessons within this strand of the BrainWaves curriculum include:

  • Understanding your strengths
  • Playing to your strengths
  • Setting goals and working to your strengths
  • Turning failure into success
  • Building your confidence

Brain and body

In this further strand of the BrainWaves curriculum, students learn about the physiological processes that can affect their mental health. Lessons include:

  • My changing brain
  • The teenage brain
  • Why sleep matters
  • How to build good sleep habits

Mental health literacy

In this further strand of the BrainWaves curriculum, students discover how to think critically about the range of information available about mental health. Lessons include:

  • Finding out about mental health
  • Navigating social media
  • Dealing with harmful content online
  • Negativity bias in the media
  • Thinking traps

Teacher Resources

One of BrainWaves’ goals is to ensure teachers have the confidence and skills to teach lessons about mental health to teenagers. Our resources include:

  • Clear and accessible lesson plans and teacher notes
  • Scientific guides summarising the key science behind the strategies advocated
  • A series of webinars to help teachers understand the scientific background and content of the lessons. These webinars are useful for continuing professional development (CPD).
  • Guidance and advice on pedagogical issues, such as differentiation, questioning techniques and encouraging student discussion about sensitive issues.

School-based Interventions

A key element of the BrainWaves study is the trialling of school-based mental health interventions within our BrainWaves Research Schools and Colleges. Young people are invited to take part in a carefully monitored and analysed programme of mental health and wellbeing activities and learn about the value of research. Teachers are provided with in-depth training and support to help implement and manage the interventions. By taking part in the BrainWaves study, young people and schools can help shape the evidence-base behind these interventions and feedback into their future design in a very real way.

Get involved! If you’d like to find our more about becoming a BrainWaves Research School or College, please contact our team at