Feelings of shame can be heightened as children and young adults start to compare themselves to others. As children grow, they become more aware of what is considered normal—if their experiences and feelings don’t fit into this version of ‘normal’, this may result in feelings of shame.
Shame and mental health
Shame underpins many mental health issues. As mental health issues often emerge in the teenage years, Exploring Shame an ideal resource for supporting conversations about mental health in schools. Use the cards to talk about things like the impact of the media—including social media—on identity, negative self-talk, perfectionism, idealised images of attractiveness and gender stereotypes, and how this feeds into feelings of shame. The cards can also be used in educating students about social and emotional literacy—this can include recognising the symptoms of shame and how to manage these feelings.
Ideas for using Exploring Shame
In school settings the cards can be a valuable tool:
- as part of the curriculum related to health and wellbeing, sociology and psychology
- in English classes as inspiration for creative writing, dialogues, character profiles
- in sessions or workshops related to self-esteem and wellbeing
- in sessions with school counsellors and wellbeing staff
- in staff meetings or professional development sessions to help staff build their understanding of shame, how it presents in students and how to manage it.
The cards can be used to talk broadly about shame and the different ways that shame manifests. One activity to try would be divide the class into small groups. Give each group three cards and ask them to respond to the questions on the back of the cards. Invite them to consider how these concepts and questions relate to the theme of shame.
At the end of the session, invite the students to reflect on what they have learnt about shame and invite them to suggest some things they could do at school to reduce experiences of shame for students.
**Some of these cards could be triggering so make sure you have created a safe space and there are supports for students during and after the session.