Stand Together is a peer-to-peer initiative that inspires and equips youth to take action against stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders. Allegheny County’s Office of Behavioral Health is engaging area middle and high school students throughout Allegheny County by providing anti-stigma training and service learning experiences. Students work to ‘stand together’ to increase education and awareness, increase social inclusion, and encourage adolescents to talk to an adult if they are concerned about their own or another student’s mental health.
Why? Mental health and substance use disorders affect everyone. One in four (1:4) youth experience these conditions in a given year. That’s a lot! This affects their ability to go to school, have satisfying social relationships, and every aspect of their daily lives. Click here for more!
How? Students spend two days in a comprehensive training learning about mental health and substance use disorders, stigma, and empathy. They also develop their own projects that they are going to implement in their schools, learning soft-skills as well. A key component of our program is that all of our staff have ‘lived-experience’ and one of our members shares their own recovery, helping the students see that individuals with these disorders are people-first, who just happen to have a condition. (More info here!)
Schools can participate at varying levels of commitment. Tiers 1 & 2 consist of one or two projects (respectively) from our arsenal of pre-designed ‘toolkits,’ which will be implemented three times over the course of the school year. We currently have seven (7) toolkits ready for schools to use. Tier 3 schools completely design their own projects from scratch and are eligible for up to a $1000 ‘mini-grant.’ No matter the tier, students must consider the impact of their projects, create a budget, and designate roles to carryout their projects with their peers.
Projects ranging from one or two, pre-designed project(s) (‘toolkits’) facilitated three times in a year or three, student-designed projects (‘mini-grants’). We currently have seven (7) toolkits ready for schools to use.
We also encourage schools to educate their staff. We can coordinate Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings for our participating schools at no charge (in Allegheny County). Many of the teachers and administrators have found this extremely beneficial for both staff and students.