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Shaler HS Titans Aren’t Afraid to Talk About It!

Shaler HS Titans Aren’t Afraid to Talk About It!

Shaler Area High School is returning for its second year with Stand Together. We were impressed with the impact of their ‘truth booth’ project last year and the vulnerability of the entire student body. This year, of course, the ‘truth booth’ is being resurrected, along with a few other activities for another great year.

 

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Many of the students returned from last year, but there were plenty of new faces that joined theIMG_20181109_085422 team this year. One of my favorite moments was when two students connected over a discussion about therapy; one student was asking questions about partial hospitalization (that means when someone can go to school or work, but still has extensive amounts of group and individual therapy, usually 3 or so hour/day) and another student willingly shared some of her own experiences. This was incredibly powerful. Stand Together sees the incredible value in youth that have experienced these difficulties, whether themselves or someone they know, and their great opportunity to enact change from a lived-perspective. Sharing our stories helps others know it’s okay to not to be okay, you’re not alone, and help is out there; it can get better. There is hope; there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

 

IMG_20181109_104449We also had a lot of fun. The ‘fan favorite’ Ships & Sailors resulted in hilarious outbursts as students dramaticized movements and reactions. We had a lot of theater participants in the room and it clearly showed! The students also learned how to work together. Like many of our groups, the Stand Together team at SAHS was a diverse team of students. But after the first day, they were well on their way to forming a unified front against stigma.

 

One of my favorite parts of the day is the time we spend inIMG_20181109_122059 circles. I know it sounds cliche, but this ‘circle time’ is where a lot of the ‘magic happens.’ Students find out that they have more in common than separates them, they get to know each other, and more importantly, they get to share pieces about themselves and how they’re going to use their passion and the information they learned to help others. This is always a moving time for me as students share things they learned, what they’re going to change, and what they’re going to contribute to the project. By the end of the second day, these students were ready to go.

 

IMG_20181116_104028These students also came up with some amazing ideas during their project piece. Using some of the activities we facilitate in trainings, as well as some creative new ideas, the students planned some amazing events for this year. We’re looking forward to this year’s visual, student activity fair, and newest version of the ‘truth booth.’ Thank you, SAHS, for not being afraid to #talkaboutit and #standtogether against stigma.

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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North Allegheny Tigers Talk Truth-Awareness & Inclusion

North Allegheny Tigers Talk Truth-Awareness & Inclusion

Another first year school, North Allegheny High School was incredibly impressive. Right off the bat, the students were already aware of many of the myths and were prepared to counter them with facts as early as the first activity. It was such a privilege working with such a passionate and aware group. Most of the team is also members of the school’s S.A.D.D. group. Even though they had some bonds and connections (and a decent knowledge of mental health), there were still plenty of new people to meet and new information to learn and share.

 

IMG_20181101_135505Although the students were very quiet at first, with some encouragement they quickly opened up. Everyone was willing and excited to participate in the trainings. One of our larger groups (30 members), it can be intimidating, especially for more reserved students. The most memorable moment for me was the discussion after Cross the Line. IMG_20181101_133950There were so many different perspectives and each student had a unique story to share. The group was vulnerable with each other and left the day feeling empowered to challenge others’ thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to decrease stigma in their school.

 

IMG_20181113_102404The team couldn’t wait to start planning their projects. As a large school with many staircases, the students decided to use them to their advantage to kick-off the year by grabbing the students’ attention. Stand Together will be decorating each fourth step with green tape to provide a visual representation of the ratio of individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder (1:4). The students plan to follow this activity with a video of both students and faculty sharing their own personal experiences with mental health, whether their own or someone they know. This will also serve as a transition to a form of Truth Booth the students will facilitate later in the year. The team also has a few other small activities throughout the year, so they’re definitely going to be busy!

 

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A special shout-out goes to Mr. Longo, one of their advisors. He spent almost a year trying to get Stand Together into N.A. and it’s definitely paid off. The group is great, the advisors are invested, and leadership is abound. We can’t wait to see their projects in action this Spring!

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Flashback Friday: Avonworth Antelopes Leap Into Stand Together

Flashback Friday: Avonworth Antelopes Leap Into Stand Together

Avonworth High Schools’ interest in Stand Together was many months in the making. After meeting with their SAP team for the first time last February, Lacey and I facilitated mini-sessions at their Teen Summit to introduce the students to mental health, stigma, and Stand Together. We were incredibly impressed by their emotional intelligence and almost every group had a student share their experiences. It was moving for both the students and our staff. I couldn’t wait to work with this group!

 

IMG_20181105_082119Another diverse group, the students really enjoyed getting to know each other outside of the classroom. Activities such as ‘Candy Gram’ encourage students to learn more about another participant and find qualities, interests, and views they share. Candy is randomly distributed and students have to find their ‘match.’ Then, they have three minutes to find three things they have in common. The catch: they can’t be obvious! (i.e. same school/grade, visible traits, etc.) More often than not, students can find more than three items to share with the rest of the group in just that short amount of time. Although a simple exercise, this activity really increases the students’ ability and experience of social inclusion.

 

In addition, this was the first time our new assistant Ami shared her recovery story with the group. Many students could relate to her experiences and life choices and it greatly made an impact. We’ve found that exposure to a first-person narrative of someone with lived experience with a mental and/or substance use disorder is the most effective way to challenge stigma. This part of the day also lends itself to the afternoon’s activities, in which students participate in activities where they are asked to be vulnerable with each other. The workshop experience is incredibly important to the cohesiveness of the group and the success of Stand Together; students not only learn the information and concepts they need to facilitate activities with their peers, but they also experience the ideals of social inclusion and a warm, compassionate school culture, where students feel free to be who they are and to get the help they need when they’re struggling.

 

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IMG_20181105_082212Although their first year, the students and advisors challenged themselves to facilitate three informative activities to increase education and awareness in their student body as well as with staff. Members will kick-off their year by meeting with classes to introduce the students to Stand Together and expose them to some of the myths and facts surrounding mental and substance use disorders. Their next activity focuses on S.H.E. (support, hope, and encouragement) and encouragesIMG_20181105_104116 and educates their peers on how to provide S.H.E. to their fellow classmates when they are experiencing mental health challenges-and of course, the team will use food to draw them in! (It works!) The team will also engage others in a make-shift photo booth with decorations and facts about mental health and substance use disorders to review what the students have learned in the other activities. Then the students will create a collage with the photos to display when the event is complete. We’re sure they’re really going to make a dent in stigma!

 

 

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Congrats, Avonworth, on a great training and we look forward to an amazing year!

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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South Park HS Doesn’t ‘Sleep’ on their Mental Health! #staywoke

South Park HS Doesn’t ‘Sleep’ on their Mental Health! #staywoke

IMG_3404South Park High School just completed their first year of Stand Together training! Day 1 consisted of a lot of educational pieces, but the students breezed through the material because they were already so knowledgeable about mental illness, substance abuse, and stigma! They had great responses and conversations throughout day 1 about how mental illness and substance abuse affects everyone in different ways.IMG_3418

 

Day 2 consisted of project planning! Before planning, the students reviewed the material from day 1 of training through a game of Jeopardy. I was so impressed with how much information the students had retained from the following week. Later in the day the students did an activity called Common Ground. It was hilarious to see the students rushing around to try and find an empty seat and bonus – no one broke an arm! Yay!

 

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IMG_3428Once we began project planning, the students got so hyped up! They started spit balling ideas that usually a first-year school wouldn’t come up with! My team and I were extremely impressed. The students decided on introducing themselves to their student body through a donut stand during study hall periods. The slogans that the students came up with were hysterical and so clever! I cannot wait to see their projects throughout the year. South Park High School blew me away!

 

Good luck this year students. Your passion and creativity will make an enormous impact on your student body. Thank you for supporting the fight against stigma towards mental illness and substance abuse!!!

 

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Written by Lacey, trainer

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Flashback Friday: Shaler HS Sticks it to Stigma!

Flashback Friday: Shaler HS Sticks it to Stigma!

This past year was Shaler Area High School’s first year and they did not disappoint-AND they’re bringing their Middle School with them this year! This team did an absolutely amazing job organizing and facilitating their projects and it’s been such a pleasure working with their dedicated advisors. Here’s a glimpse of what you missed:

 

The Semicolon Project (;):

To spark interest in the group and start the conversation about mental health, students placed green posters on every fourth locker to represent the 1 in 4 youth that are affected by a mental or substance use disorder in a given year. The posters read:

Semicolon (;) — where the author could have ended the sentence…but didn’t.

You don’t suffer alone.

Many of their peers were familiar with the Semicolon Project, a national campaign to end suicide, and started asking them about Stand Together and what they were going to do next.

 

Take a Bite out of Stigma:

Students created an elaborate scheme to get their fellow students to learn about mental health. Students were enticed by the rows of cookies at the ST table, but quickly found out they would not come for free. Instead of coins, the Stand Together team was asking for real change-in thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. To receive a cookie, each student had to reach into a bag and grab a slip of paper. On that paper was a myth and a fact about mental and substance use disorders. Students had to read the statements out loud and were then able to receive a cookie. What a great idea! (Random fact: if you read something out loud, you’re 4x more likely to remember it!)

 

You’re Not Alone-Look at the Numbers:

Although it was their first year, students decided to do a very intimate activity. Following the basic outline of a ‘truth booth,’ and Steel Valley HS’s project two years ago, the team set-up a stand in the cafeteria. On the table were sticky notes of various colors, each representing a different connection to mental and substance use disorders:

  • pink-personally affected by mental illness

  • yellow-personally affected by addiction

  • blue-know someone affected by mental illness

  • lime green-know someone affected by addiction

  • orange-felt excluded or disadvantaged

 

 

The participation and the impact were phenomenal. Not only were students using the sticky notes anonymously, as suggested, but some even felt comfortable enough writing the name or relationship of the person they knew that is affected. The most moving piece for me was a lime green sticky that read: Mom RIP 1.28.18, signifying that this individual had lost his mother to death by substance use. It was incredibly powerful seeing the students literally ‘stick it to stigma’ by sharing their own struggles and truly discovered that no one is alone. (On a fun note, they also gave out lollipops as ‘suckers to stop stigma.’ What a creative group! Check out the video below:

 

I’m so proud of Shaler. The passion of both their advisors and their students is phenomenal and I can’t wait to work with them again this year. I just know they’re going to have another impactful year! See you soon, SAHS team!!!

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Flashback Friday: ECS 2017-2018

Flashback Friday: ECS 2017-2018

We can’t believe summer is halfway over and before we know it, Stand Together will begin again! We’re still catching up on blogs and this DSCN1139week, we’re featuring the Environmental Charter School. ECS has been in the program for several years. Their students are always creative, enthusiastic, and passionate and find it easy to reach out their peers to enact change in their school.

 

They started their projects off with a presentation of facts about mental illness and stigma. They addressed some of the myths surrounding mental illness and introduced their classmates to Stand Together.

 

DSCN1136Since their project was implement in the colder months, ECS’s had a hot chocolate stand to entice the other students to learn about mental and substance use disorders. Each cup had a fact or important phrase they wanted their peers to know. These included things like:

  • 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness.

  • It’s okay to not be okay.

  • To help friends, think SHE: support, hope, encourage.

In addition, 1 in 4 cups were labelled in green to signify the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders. The students also created and displayed ‘table tents’ in the cafeteria so that students could learn more.

 

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Their advisors were impressed with the relationships the students developed within their group and how comfortable the group was starting this difficult conversation with their peers. Team members also noticed that students were more open to talking about mental illness, ask questions, and share their stories.

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We can’t wait to have ECS back next year for more fun and fellowship and-most importantly-less stigma.

 

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Hooray for High School! Recognition Event 2018

Hooray for High School! Recognition Event 2018

Stand Together students had another phenomenal year and our team couldn’t wait to celebrate with and recognize them for all of their hard work to end stigma in their schools! I had the pleasure of working with many of our high schools this year and they blew me away with their passion, commitment, and courage.

 

This year’s projects were innovative, creative, and incredibly impactful. We trained nine high schools, seven completed projects, and six participated in the recognition event. Here’s what the students designed and implemented at their schools this year:

 

3The Academy Charter School: The Academy chose a different approach to decreasing stigma in their school by creating a ‘safe space’ for students who might be struggling with something. This room was staffed by faculty and had many coping techniques available, including quiet music, comfy chairs, sensory objects, and inspirational MH images. In addition, the students promoted education and self-care with the faculty by giving out cups with coffee/tea, an awareness wristband, and a bookmark with the ST anti-stigma pledge on it. In working with the faculty, they hoped to increase their knowledge and change attitudes that would hopefully filter down to the students.

 

Taylor Allderdice High School (PPS): The students at Allderdice created and presented a mini-presentation about mental health and stigma to the freshman Civics classes. In addition, they worked with the art department to create a dragon (their mascot) painting. Students signed flames agreeing to ‘breath fire on stigma.’ This mural will remain a permanent fixture at the school signifying their solidarity in the fight against stigma. The Stand Together team finished their year with an 1:4 assembly, in which mental health and stigma was reviewed and the students were rewarded by pie-ing four teachers in the face for their participation in the year’s activities.

 

Propel-Braddock Hills High School: Propel HS has been in Stand Together for all five years! Switching things up from their typical ‘Black Out Stigma’ theme, this year the Stand Together students chose ‘BLOCK Out Stigma.‘ This theme utilized larger-than-life lego blocks for their projects that addressed all three of Stand Together’s goals: 1) ‘Block’ Stigma (education/awareness); 2) ‘Build’ Relationships (social inclusion); and 3) ‘Lego’ of Fear (ask-an-adult).  Students did activities within their ‘crews’ (like homeroom) and during a Block Party during lunch. (All those puns!) PBHHS always comes up with out-of-the-box ideas that really get the student body interested and involved in Stand Together at their school.

 

 

Science & Technology Academy: Although SciTech’s group was small, they were mighty! Students were given cups of Lemonade for Change that had mental health facts on them. The team used the lemonade as an incentive to get their peers to visit their booth and learn about mental health in a casual environment. The team also made posters that were shared around the school to remind the students of what they had learned during the activities. They mentioned they could definitely see an impact with their students and that students were very receptive and interested in what they had to say. Sounds like a success!

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 Shaler Area High School: Although it was their first year in Stand Together, Shaler did a great job incorporating two goals into two projects. DuringMaker:L,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y lunch, the team had students ‘Take a Bite out of Stigma by reading facts about mental health and substance use disorders and stigma (education/awareness) before receiving a cookie. Students also participated in a social inclusion‘No One is Alone.‘ Several prompts were provided on a large poster and students had color-coded post-it notes to anonymously respond to the statements if they applied to themselves or someone they know. These statements included such as: I have been personally affected by a mental illnessI have been personally affected by substance useI’ve felt excluded or disadvantaged. Students also received a ‘sucker to stop stigma.’ This project was incredibly moving; the post-its filled the entire poster and it was powerful to see so many students being honest about their struggles, but also have the visual to see that they are never alone in what they’re going through.

 

West Allegheny High School: A first-year school like Shaler, West A. did fantastic projects that were presented the information in fun, free food projects that were meaningful and memorable. Students not only engaged in ‘food give-aways‘ (including cookies, HerSHEy kisses, and gum>>check out their other blog for the great slogans!), but also began and ended their project season with assemblies for the student body. The first included an overview of Stand Together and mental health and the last had students participate in a ‘Mental Health Jeopardy.’ Trainer Danyelle also shared her recovery story for the group. The team remarked that students really enjoyed the activities and are excited to continue participating in Stand Together next year.

 

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Assembly 2.13.18

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I Am muralWest Mifflin Area High School: This is also WMHS’s fifth year with Stand Together. This year’s projects included an ‘I am…’ reflective mural, their annual Glow Dance so spread awareness about mental health and substance use disorders and suicide, and a Mental Health Fair, featuring a Celebrity Art Gallery, depicting and describing celebrities that are affected safe haven graphicby MH/SUD. Students have promoted social inclusion in a Worry Monster, in which students would right down a struggle with anxiety and students could see that they are not alone ; the team also responded to these with uplifting messages of encouragement and hope. In addition, the school’s Safe Haven’ program promotes relationships with adults by creating ‘safe classrooms’ and ‘safe teachers’ that are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and are willing and able to help students get the help they need.

 

Lacey and I are incredibly proud of all of our high schools and we look forward to working with you again next year! If you want to see more of these amazing projects, check out our YouTube Playlist, the individual school blogs, and the full-length Stand Together Student Project Reel 2018 below:

 

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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West Allegheny: ASSEMBLE! Stop Stigma!

West Allegheny: ASSEMBLE! Stop Stigma!

West Allegheny HS Stand Together students have been hard at work, creating and facilitating an amazing assembly for their classmates and various stigma awareness projects the last few weeks. They’ve clearly become ‘super heroes’ in the mental health revolution! Check out these amazing activities!

On February 13, the Stand Together students held an assembly at their school to kick-off this year’s projects. The students shared facts about mental illness, emphasized that Words Matter!, and talked about the impact stigma has on individuals struggling with their mental health. One phenomenal student, Jake, talked about his depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The students also marked every fourth chair with a green paper and had these students stand up, representing the ratio that 1 in 4 youth are affected by a mental health condition in a given year. The students did an absolutely amazing job right out of the gate this year!DSCN1101

The students also held their first of three educational give-away stands to talk to their peers about mental health in a casual, fun way. In the first event, the Stand Together team manned tables and walked around the lunch periods talking about how peers could support, hold hope, and encourage (SHE) each other when they are struggling with a behavioral health concern. Students were asked if they could share what the three letters meant in order to receive a HerSHEy kiss to ‘kiss stigma goodbye.’ Students were also asked how they would use SHE to reach out to a friend. After participating, students could also receive a bonus Lifesaver mint after signing the pledge to end stigma, since they could be a ‘lifesaver’ to someone they know. There was plenty of candy, the Stand Together students were excited to talk to their peers, and everyone learned a lot-and had a great time.

Even though this is their first year in the program, West Allegheny Stand Together students are making waves at their school and are fighting against stigma, one ‘kiss’ at a time.

STAND TOGETHER…ASSEMBLE! On three…1, 2, 3…

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Time 2 Talk Day 2018: TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH!!!

Time 2 Talk Day 2018: TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH!!!

Stand Together students are having conversations about mental health, substance use disorders, and stigma all the time, but we want to take the time today to emphasize how important talking about mental health is and how much of an impact it can have on  an individual’s life.

 

1 in 41 in 4 students are affected by a mental health condition in a given year. That means out of a group of four friends, one of them will experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or trauma that year. That’s a lot! And the data shows that this is clearly a problem:
-suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in 12-18 year olds
-90% of individuals that complete suicide have a diagnosable mental health or substance use disorder
-6 out of 10 adolescents that are experiencing mental health concerns don’t receive treatment

 

And these conditions not only affect an individuals mental health, but other areas as well:
-poor academic performance (aka not doing well in school)
-absenteeism (aka not going to school)
-behavior problems (fighting, outbursts, etc.)
-24-44% don’t graduate from high school
-those that don’t graduate are 12x more likely to be arrested

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So after all of those sad statistics, what can we do? TALK ABOUT IT! Now is that time! Today is a great day to have a conversation about mental health.

-Ask someone how they are feeling and truly listen

SHE_image-Reach out to a friend that you haven’t seen in a while and see if they want to do something.

-Don’t use stigmatizing language, such as ‘crazy,’ ‘bipolar,’ ‘freak,’ etc. and when others say those words, use it as an opportunity to educate them about mental health conditions.

-Be open, honest, and genuine; share your own experiences and respond with empathy.

-If you know someone is struggling or has a mental health condition, treat them the same; they are the same person-they are just like everyone one else, but they just happen to have a MHC. *person-first*

-Most important, just be there and remember SHE: support, hope, and encouragement.

 

Check out the Time 2 Talk website for more information.

 

 

Take the time to talk about mental health today. You could be the difference in someone’s life. Don’t waste that opportunity!

 

-Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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West Mifflin High School: Breaking the Silence

West Mifflin High School: Breaking the Silence

West Mifflin High School has been ‘breaking the silence’ around mental health and substance use disorders and stigma for the past five years and have been doing a great job changing the culture of their school regarding mental health. This year they continue to deliver. Mr. Mike had the chance to visit WMAHS for their Break the Silence day last Friday, January 26. Let’s #talkaboutit!

 

Insta image 1For the last few years, WMAHS has been having a Break the Silence day, a peer-to-peer event at which the Stand Together students hold a ‘fair’ in Screenshot_20180128-083830their common area during lunch to promote education, awareness, and social inclusion and decrease stigma. Students can visit various stations that have been set-up to provide information and help the student’s understand more about mental health, coping skills, and resources, both in the school and the community.

 

The group will also hold a Mental Health Art Gallery in the spring, but at this event, senior Hayley created over a dozen posters focusing on mental health in celebrities. This has been a passion project for Hayley, as she has been in the group for four years and will be focusing on art next year in college. Great job, Hayley!

 

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In addition, another senior, Trinity, wrote and produced a short video to share with her peers. She reached out to teachers and even the school nurse to get their feedback. Over 40 educators and 20 students are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and are equipped to be ‘first responders’ when other students at the school may be experiencing a mental health concern or crisis. Trinity hopes to encourage her peers to become more aware and make proactive efforts to combat the stigma in their school.

 

 

The entire group did a phenomenal job presenting mental health and substance use disorders in a more positive light and are clearly making an impact in the lives of the students in their school, whether they are changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or helping students receive the resources and support they need to aid in their mental health. Thanks for being five-year members of the Stand Together mental health revolution-you guys rock! You just don’t stop amazing us!

 

-Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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