Pittsburgh Allderdice High School’s mascot is a DRAGON and and these students are ready to DECREASE the STIGMA in their school by breathing education/awareness, social inclusion, and encouragement to reach out to an adult when someone is worried about themselves or someone else (aka Stand Together’s goals).
A very diverse group of Juniors and Seniors met on Oct. 24 and 31 got to know each other a little better and found more in common than they ever would’ve imagined, while learning about mental health and substance use disorders and exploring how to stop the stigma associated with them. Students played Stop the Stigma BINGO, used M&Ms to understand substance use disorders, and decorated shoes to learn about empathy and listening skills. Students confronted the myths and facts head on during an activity called, Where Do You Stand?, in which students are asked to move around the room depending on whether or not they agree with a particular statement and discuss this with the group. Students tend to learn a lot when their thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes are challenged by their peers. Most of these myths and facts are not black and white, and sometimes heated debates ensue. Either way, these discussions light a spark that sets the fire of anti-stigma in the students.
The students really enjoyed the Common Ground activity, in which students play a sort of musical chairs, but instead of music, they have to find things they have in common with their peers.
Despite this being their first year in the program, Allderdice’s students are attempting to do a more advanced toolkit, the Peer-to-Peer Anti-Stigma Workshop. This project is like a mental health fair in which several activities are implemented at once. Students rotate through the stations to experience different games/tasks and learn about mental health and substance use disorders and decrease the stigma attached to them. Some of the students are active in the school’s sports programs (the football coach is one of the advisors!) and they are planning on having an activity that involves physical activity. Another group wanted to combat social exclusion with activities that promote teamwork and communication, both things the students have experienced during their training experience.
We look forward to follow up with them in a few weeks as they start finalizing their project plans and are even more excited to see their ideas in action! Thanks, Ms. Noll and Mr. Matson, for leading these youth and thank you, Allderdice students, for showing up, speaking up, and speaking out against stigma!
(written by Danyelle, Coordinator & Trainer)