This year’s WMHS Stand Together club has 76 (!!!) students and we definitely started the year off right! Their fearless leader, Ms. Rowe, has been advising this group for the past 5 years and is deeply passionate and invested in this program. She’s even presenting at a national conference in DC with our staff (Danyelle & Mr. Mike)!
We know that our brains and bodies are connected, so what better way to start the day than with a physical activity?! Ships & Sailors is always a favorite of the students, even though they comment that they’re too old to be getting on the floor! This activity teaches students about isolation and exclusion in preparation to discuss stigma and how it feels to be left out or pushed aside from a group.
Students spend a lot of time learning about mental illness and stigma and challenging some of the myths and stereotypes associated with behavioral health conditions. The first goal of Stand Together is to educate and increase awareness. Our team ‘teaches’ the students and they, in turn, teach their peers. We all know teenagers are more likely to listen to each other than adults, so this peer-to-peer piece is crucial in their project implementation!
Students also spend a lot of time getting to know each other and realizing that they have more in common than they do that separates them, you’re never alone, and we share the same struggles, successes, hopes, and dreams. They also come to realize that individuals with a mental health condition are people-first, who just happen to have an illness. Montaja shared her inspiring story of recovery and the group was inspired by her courage. Sharing our stories stops stigma and brings us together. The more we communicate, the more we connect, and the more genuine relationships develop, which ultimately end up helping others feel comfortable to reach out when they’re worried about themselves or someone else.
By the end of the second day, students came up with many project ideas for the next year focusing on our three goals. Some of these included:
1) Educate/Awareness: ‘Big Picture’ collage, fact/s/feels sheets
2) Social Inclusion: Promoting Inclusion workshop, ice cream sundae bar, mask dance
3) Ask-an-Adult: Teacher Twin Day, pen pals, and staff/student field day
The students left the workshops excited to start taking action again stigma in their school-and ended with selfies with Montaja! Can’t wait to see what they come up with this year!
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