Posts Tagged awareness

It’s Time to Recognize! ST Teams 2019

It’s Time to Recognize! ST Teams 2019

Every year this is always the most difficult blog to write because I don’t know where to begin to describe the talent and passion of the youth that I am so blessed to work with. I usually only try to speak for myself, but I can say with 100% certainty that Montaja, Mike, all our TAs, and I are so incredibly proud of each and every one of you. This week’s Recognition Event was an absolutely magical experience and if you missed it, we can’t wait to share it with you!

 

featureA little bit about Stand Together/this year: ST has been in schools for the past six years, expanding each year to reach more and more middle and high school youth through student-driven anti-stigma projects that are increasing education and awareness, promoting social inclusion, and encouraging help-seeking behaviors. This year, ST trained 18 schools, 16 of which completed projects, and 14 were able to participate in this year’s event. The Heinz History Center was packed with youth and adult advocates that are enthusiastic about ending the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders. This was our biggest year yet, with around 300 in attendance!

 

Our schools designed and implemented so many uniqueOC table-r and innovative projects for their peers. The tried & true food and beverage stands are always a hit. Mental health fairs and presentations are making a come-back. Several schools decorated 1 in 4 stairs and their stairwells, while others created murals and plastered pledges on the walls. Some of our most creative projects for this year included Propel BHHS’s ‘Shine a Light on Mental Health’ paper lantern activity, WMHS’s ‘Toilet Talk’ booth, Shaler HS’s ‘Truth Tree,’ and SVMS’s ‘March Madness’ basketball tournament. Each year the students’ projects amaze us more and more, but the most important piece is the impact the students share about the changes that are taking place in their school culture. Take a look:

 

WMHS presenters

WMHS presenters

Student presenters shared that students are more comfortable talking about mental health and are more apt to reach out to ask questions and seek help. Students are using less stigmatizing language and aware and respectful of the invisible challenges they may be facing. The school culture is more accepting, encouraging, and supportive. Teachers and staff are forming relationships with students and challenging their own assumptions and stigmas. Lives are being changed daily thanks to the work of these students and advisors and we couldn’t be more proud.

 

Stigma is not gone, but little by little, our teams

N. Allegheny students at the photo booth

N. Allegheny students at the photo booth

are ‘chipping’ (cookie joke) away to break stigma and create better mental health environments in schools and even their communities. Events like these help the students see that they are part of something bigger than the projects in their individual schools-they can and are making a difference. As our keynote speaker remarked, ‘You may never know the ripple effects of your work,’ but we can already see the changes that are taking place-and we look forward to an even ‘brighter’ (lantern pun) future for mental and substance use disorders.

 

We can’t thank you enough for all the time, talent, and commitment you’ve contributed to this cause. We’re lucky enough to be able to lay the foundation-and then you run with your ideas and plans and turn this into something marvelous and meaningful. To our all teams, congratulations on another amazing year stopping stigma, one project at a time.

 

 

Special thanks to our school teams:

 

ST TY poster-r

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Propel BHHS: Stigma is Sour-Support is Sweet

Propel BHHS: Stigma is Sour-Support is Sweet

Stigma is Sour-Support is Sweet! This is the motto echoing in the halls of Propel Braddock Hills High School after their recent slushie event. Monday morning, Stand Together students hosted a snow cone stand for their peers in each lunch period. The group members ran different stations of the stand to guide their fellow classmates through the activity, educate them about mental health conditions, and reward them with a fun treat to ‘ice out stigma.’

 

 

20190325_113717The snow cone event was the first event of this year’s activity week. The group also used their video editing skills to piece together an educational video about the events to be advertised in each classroom. Another event, entitled ‘Shine a Light on Mental Illness, ‘ took place after the students viewed the clip in their ‘crews’ (like homeroom). Paper lanterns were given to each ‘crew’ as prompts to engage in conversations about mental illness. Teachers and students were asked to write statements and questions about mental health on the lanterns. Later in the year, these lanterns will be displayed in the school to illustrate the importance of inclusion, support, hope, and encouragement (S.H.E.).

 

The last event of the year is a visual representation of the 1 in 4 ratio of individuals that are affected by mental and/or substance use disorders in a given year. Students are encouraged to ‘X’ out stigma as they become aware of this ratio. Using their student body, 25% of the school will display an ‘X’ on their face. Those students who volunteer will be gifted a ‘Shine a Light on Mental Health’ t-shirt for participating.

 

 

Stand Together team members are working hard to create a safe and inclusive environment for individuals with-and without-mental and substance use disorders in their school. Remember, #itsokaytonotbeokay’ and #itsokaytoaskforhelp. Propel BHHS ST group has got what it takes to bring people together and to be a beacon of hope. Great job! Keep promoting mental health awareness!

 

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Avonworth Antelopes are Attacking Stigma-One Activity at a Time

Avonworth Antelopes are Attacking Stigma-One Activity at a Time

Avonworth Senior High School leaped into its first year with Stand Together with a lot of energy, fun ideas, and passionate youth. This year’s plans included two Food 4 Thought activities and a photo booth. The Stand Together team was really excited to share their knowledge with their school to stop stigma.

 

Screenshot_20190313-135256The group kicked off the year with classroom presentations to acclimate their peers to the Stand Together group and give them an idea of what will be going on this year. Around the same time, the students implemented their first give-away activity. Students selected a random slip of paper from a large bowl and they had to determine whether the statement was a fact or myth about mental and/or substance use disorders. The ST team hoped that they would be able to eliminate the stigma created by myths and replace them with facts. Afterwards, the students received a ‘Jolly Rancher’ candy and one to put in a jar. Once the jar was full after the activity, students were encouraged to guess the number of Jolly Ranchers in the jar to win the jar. That’s a lot of candy!

 

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The group also had a S.H.E. Cookies event. Students wereScreenshot_20190314-150744 incentivized to come up to the stand with a promise of free cookies, but first they had to talk about S.H.E. with the ST team members. It’s not only important to know how to recognize the signs/symptoms of a mental and/or substance use disorder, but also how to respond when someone you know is struggling. That’s where S.H.E. comes in: Support, Hope, and Encouragement. We’re not counselors or mental health professionals,Screenshot_20190314-150757 but we can be there for our friends and family and support them with a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, hold hope for them when they struggle to do so themselves, and encourage them to get help from a trusted adult when it’s interfering with their daily life. S.H.E. doesn’t ‘sell sea shells by the sea shore;’ S.H.E. helps others when they’re struggling.

 

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The group’s final event, which I had the pleasure of attending,props crop was their photo booth. There were three green streamers for every purple streamer, signifying the 1 in 4 individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder in a given year. Also on the background were thought bubbles with their social media info. Students could also choose from various props to have fun while learning about mental health and taking a photo to remember their experience. The photos will be printed out for the students to keep and another copy will also be used to create a collage to display in the school. Mara did a great job explaining the reason for the fun:

 

 

You had a great first year, ‘lopes, and we can’t wait for next year! Keep up the good work and see you in a couple weeks at the Recognition Event! (Shameless plug: for more information on the event, click here.

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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South Park: Holidays are for Mental Health Awareness

South Park: Holidays are for Mental Health Awareness

South Park High School used holidays to their advantage their first year in Stand Together, planning events around less busy times in their school that could better reach students with clear minds and change their hearts. This years’ events occured around the winter holiday season, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. Last week, with some ‘luck of the Irish,’ the ST team raised awareness about mental and substance use disorders with their peers.

 

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‘Lucky to Break Stigma’ flyers hung in the hall of the school to display information in classrooms and around the school to prepare their classmates for the event. With the help of teachers in the study halls, announcements were made to encourage students to head over to the table and ‘test their luck’ on the trivia questions. Decked out in green, Stand Together advocates hosted a food table during student study halls. Students felt ‘lucky’ when they tested their chance at answering trivia questions. For the correct answers, each winner got to pick-up a green cookie and some ST swag. Not only did students walk away with free treats, but also with a better knowledge about stigmatizing behavior and how to stop it. The swag helps, too, as a constant reminder to promote ST goals in their school (education/awareness, inclusion, reaching out for help).

 

ST students were excited to use St. Patrick’s day as aMarch table 2 theme for green treats and prizes, which helped to tie the color to mental health awareness (green). For an extra boost of positivity, a team member also created a daily message on their school app to push the messages of S.H.E. and it’s okay to not be okay.

 

The team also held a ‘silent bingo’ activity before the holidays to introduce students to mental and substance use disorders. In addition, they had a ‘Mental Health is a HOT topic’ hot chocolate stand for Valentine’s day. The group is excited to attend the Recognition Event and share their projects with the other teams. All of the students are ready to come back next year.

 

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Check out this video of Keri-Anne sharing their projects:

 

 

Great job on your Food 4 Thought events and we’re excited to see what’s in store for next year!

 

Written by Montaja, trainer

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WHHS Wolverines Are Working to End Stigma

WHHS Wolverines Are Working to End Stigma

Woodland Hills High School joined Stand Together for the first time this year. Their new principal, Dr. Woods, was previously at West Mifflin HS, so he was very familiar with the program and really supported bringing it to WHHS as well. We were elated to expand the program to this school and excited to work with such a great group! This was also the first time our TA-now-new-trainer Montaja took the lead in some of the activities-it was the same HS she went to! It was quite a big day for us!

 

IMG_20190128_125752This was a broad group of students, to say the least. Many of the students were in gifted programs, the group were racially and culturally diverse, and many who have relationships with mental health and substance use, whether on their own or in their communities. Because of this, the students were very passionate, vocal, and outspoken about their ideas and experiences (which really shone on the second day!)

 

These students were attentive and asked some really good questions, especially about substance use and trauma. Montaja shared her story and the group really came together during Cross the Line. We finished the day with some motivational echoing. In this activity, students ‘echo’ statements that help to re-cap the feelings and concepts of the day and stress social inclusion while solidifying the bond of the team as they ‘Stand Together’ against stigma.

 

 

Day 2 was full of hard work and fun as the students plannedMVIMG_20190213_083335 their projects and continued getting to know each other while reviewing the information. The group enjoyed Jeopardy! and, of course, the fan favorite, Common Ground, was a hit. We like to get rowdy and excited about our work! By the end of the day, the students had planned multiple versions of two activities, focusing on a socially inclusive visual (‘Stick Together’ with post-it notes) and variations on a food stand, including lemonade and tea. Lemonade has always been a hit, but tea has been pretty popular this year. Must be that pop culture reference, ‘real te(a)’. Whatever works! We’re big tea drinkers over here. :) (all three Stand Together staff members drinks tea, not coffee!) It was a whirlwind day with a delay and a lot of movement, but the team came together and pulled it together with plans for some great events.

 

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Thanks, Woodland Hills, for taking this opportunity to improve the mental health environment at your school, one activity at a time!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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CAPA’s got ‘The Real Tea’ about Mental & Substance Use Disorders

CAPA’s got ‘The Real Tea’ about Mental & Substance Use Disorders

The Stand Together team at CAPA high school hosted their second event after kicking off the year with in-class student presentations. If you haven’t guessed what this activity entailed…it has to do with tea. Using this clever pop culture reference, students from the Stand Together group hosted a tea station in the main hallway right off their school’s cafeteria, a hotspot for student traffic!

 

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DSCN1548Stand Together students took turns at each lunch period operating the table and sharing facts- “the real tea”- about mental illness and substance use disorders. During down time students approached their fellow classmates, encouraging them to grab a drink.

 

Students were more than happy to learn about stigma and sign the anti-stigma pledge poster to stop the stigma against mental illness and substance use disorders, in exchange for a cup of tea of their choice. CAPA students enjoyed the theme of the table and what it stood for. Some studentsDSCN1543 knew about the facts on the cup while others were surprised to hear them. A few students even mentioned the presentation the Stand Together team held around the school. Not only did students sign the pledge; even school security guards and teachers signed the pledge poster and enjoyed a cup of tea as well!

 

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Stand Together students were excited to see the turnout of participation amongst their peers, and even more excited to witness their classmates learn about the facts and sign the pledge. It’s clear to see that hot tea and hot facts unite people! Stopping stigma one steep at a time.

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Friday, April 29, they also did our Stick it to Stigma activity outside of the cafeteria. Students posted sticky notes to create a visual of how many lives have been impacted by mental illness and substance abuse. It was very cool—lots of students wrote nice little notes on them. For participating they also got a lollipop (1 in 4 marked with tape to represent 1 in 4).

 

Awesome job, CAPA-see you next week! Can’t wait to recognize you for your efforts!

 

 

Written by Montaja, trainer

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SciTech: Staff, Students, & Social Inclusion

SciTech: Staff, Students, & Social Inclusion

The two-hour delay on Feb. 25 didn’t stop the SciTech team from implementing their informational ‘room hop.’ In this activity, Dr. K and supportive teachers engaged in activities with students to promote relationships between students and staff and social inclusion. The team broke the students up by grades and alphabetical groups to implement the activity and ‘mix things up.’

The ‘Room Hop’ consisted of four rooms that student/staff teams rotated through discussing mental and substance use disorders. Each room/group had two to three Stand Together student advocates and a teacher monitoring the activities, videos, and Q&A sessions for their peer engagement. The hallway was also decorated with detailed posters full of facts about different mental illnesses and announcements rang overhead about the event throughout the day.

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Each room had a different activity which lasted for around eight minutes before the students ‘hopped’ to a different area. Students also received candy as an incentive/prize for participating during the activities and ALL students received cookies at the end of the rotations. We all know that treats work wonders to draw participants in! (#same) Here’s a couple of the activities:

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  • ‘Common Ground,’ Fishbowl Style: A musical chairs style game encouraged students to discover more about each other and create an atmosphere of inclusion that they could then extend to the rest of the student body. Students pulled a question from a fishbowl and had to answer it as it pertained to them in an effort to find ‘common ground’ with other students in their group. If the statement applied to that student, they would move to another chair in the circle. In this way, students had the opportunity to notice similar interests with other students.

  • Video presentation & discussion: In this room, the ST team screened a video20190225_114914 revealing some of their own personal struggles with mental illness to their classmates. At the end, the students had an open discussion/Q&A that also left their peers with tips and insight about how to stop the stigma surrounding mental and substance use disorders in their school and communities.

 

IMG_20190104_112538Each room echoed the Stand Together theme of social inclusion throughout the activities. The team also wore their #BroMeToo group shirts in solidarity for the event. This was just the first Monday that the event was to be held; each grade will also spend a day in sessions getting to know each other and learning about mental and substance use disorders and stigma. The team looks forward to presenting to their other classmates and shared some learning experience from the first event to revise the activities moving forward, navigating obstacles and increasing the impact of the event.

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IMG_20190104_105631Earlier this year, the group also had a kick-off assembly in which students participated in a free-throw contest after correctly answering questions about mental health and/or substance use disorders. The assembly was held for the entire school in the gym and students received prizes for participating and success.

 

Thank you, SciTech, for your creative ways to start the conversation around mental and substance use disorders and stigma. Keep up the great work!

 

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

You know how much we like our puns! And we know that fun slogans get students interested and help them remember the activities our teams do. We love it when students come up with their own creative ways to increase the impact of their projects and Shaler Area Middle School was no different. The first project they implemented this year encouraged students to ‘band together’ against stigma, a fun play-on-words (‘Band Together’||Stand Together).

 

The Stand Together team set-up tables outside of the lunchroom, which was a great idea since every student had to walk past them to get into the cafeteria. In addition, students announced the event on the PA system to encourage students to visit the booths. At quiet times, students even recruited friends and other students from the lunch room to participate in the activities! The team was excited to involve their peers and provide education and awareness to stop stigma.

 

 

t2 redoOnce students reached the tables, they were greeted by Stand Together team members. The student then spun a wheel to determine which question about mental health and/or stigma they would answer to get a prize, in this case, either a green or red/blue wristband to symbolize the 1:4 youth that are affected by mental and/or substance use disorders in a given year. That’s a lot! Not only could students see the visual in the basket of bracelets, but they will be able to continue to see it as they walk through the school and see all the students wearing their bracelets. Students received a wristband whether or not they answered the question correctly. The point wasn’t necessarily to ‘test’ their knowledge, but to act as an opportunity to educate the students in a casual way.

 

After the students answered a question, they were encouragedDSCN1501 to sign the anti-stigma pledge. Cards with the pledge and Stand Together logo and graphics were given to the students to sign and date as an official commitment of their conscious efforts to decrease stigma. The students then plastered the walls with these pledges as a reminder to the entire student body of how they were going to ‘stand together’ to address stigma and change the culture of their school.

 

 

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DSCN1514There’s was plenty of handouts and information on hand and the students were willing and eager to answer any questions their schoolmates may have about the topic. I overheard some really great discussion and a lot of students were very invested in talking about mental health and stopping stigma-which is great, because that’s Stand Together is all about! Ms. Coleman, one of the advisors and a guidance counselor, even got a local policeman to participate in the discussion. He candidly shared how he deals with stigma every day on the force, especially towards individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders and how he attempts to combat this at any opportunity he gets. It’s such a wonderful thing to hear that this is happening in the community as well as the school environment. Change is a continual process and take a lot of time, energy, and people, but we can stop stigma, one person at a time.

 

Shaler MS also has a Snowflakes and Snickerdoodles Against Stigma activity and give-away planned as well as another cookie event to encourage their peers to ‘Take a Bite Out of Stigma.’ We’re impressed with the passion and creativity of these students in their first year and can’t wait to hear about their other projects at our Recognition Event in the Spring! (Innocent plug, if you’re interested in attending, mark your calendar for April 10 from 10-12:30 at the Heinz History Center!)

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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W. Allegheny Connects with Staff with Snacks & Conversation

W. Allegheny Connects with Staff with Snacks & Conversation

Students at West Allegheny High School held a staff-student activity last week to form relationships with the teachers, faculty, and administration at their school. One of Stand Together’s goals is to encourage youth to reach out to an adult they trust when they’re worried about themselves or someone else. In order to feel comfortable reaching out to adults, youth need to have a relationship and rapport to do so. The WA team felt like this is something they really wanted to focus on this year. Last year, they really focused on increasing education and promoting inclusion and they felt like this was a logical step to promote help-seeking behaviors.

 

IMG_20190207_143335Staff were welcomed with snacks and water. Who doesn’t love food? It works for student projects and adults alike! The plates also had facts about mental and substance use disorders on them to set the tone. Then the students began the event by explaining what Stand Together is and what their goals were as a team and for the specific activity. To introduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders, the students had one in four staff around the room stand up to represent the one in four youth that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorders in a given year. This visual representation served as a bridge to spreading awareness of the prevalence of these disorders in their students and how much an individual’s lives can be affected, even outside the signs/symptoms that they are experiencing.

 

 

Students got administrative approval to use a staff inservice, which is required for all faculty. Even though they were required to attend, most of them were actively involved in the discussions and were exciting to engage with the students. The staff were randomly assigned to a group and the students rotating around the room in pairs presenting questions about mental health and their role with youth. Some of theseIMG_20190207_145408 questions included:

  • What signs do you look for/see when a student is struggling?

  • What are the challenges you have when forming relationships with students?

  • How can relationships with students be both personal and professional?

  • What would help you be able to better help students?

 

Both the students and staff also shared some of their own personal experiences with each other. One student self-disclosed his own mental health conditions, which promoted the idea of both youth and adults regarding each other as people-first, regardless of their other roles or diagnoses. A staff member shared, ‘we don’t have perfect lives either and that helps me relate to some of my students.’ Other faculty described how they connect with students by utilizing humor and their own life-experiences. Mental and substance use disorders affect the individual outside of the disorder, and when they are getting help and have trust in the adults that are in their environment, students are more willing to learn and these connections make a positive impact. Students and staff alike shared discussions about the importance of balance in life, both inside and outside school and in professional and personal lives.

 

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the vulnerability and willingness of both the students and staff during this event. It was evident that the activity had created a sense of understanding and feelings of connection between the youth and adults. I was so proud to be able to observe and witness this meaningful occasion. I know without a doubt this activity was a great success. Thank you for decreasing stigma so that more youth feel comfortable reaching out to adults for help!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

 

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Linton MS: Snacks Against Stigma

Linton MS: Snacks Against Stigma

Linton Middle School in Penn Hills returns for its second year. Lead by advisor, Ms. Olivis, the team was so excited to begin their trainings and participate again-the students were asking Ms. Olivis for months when it was time to start Stand Together again! As you can imagine, this group was ready to jump in to the workshops and start working together to stop stigma at their school.

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School is hard for youth in the mornings and it took the group a little while to warm up. We do physical activities that not only engage their bodies (which helps students learn), but also their brains-each activity has a purpose. In this blog’s feature, students were learning about the signs and IMG_20190115_120957symptoms of behavioral health disorders and some of the most prevalent conditions in youth. We engage the students in a breath-holding contest so that they can experience (on a minor scale) what it might feel like to have anxiety or a panic attack. We explain that this can be a very scary thing and could affect their ability to concentrate on schoolwork, hang out with friends, or complete daily activities. Students also learn that even though they could take a breath any time they wanted to, individuals with these disorders can’t just ‘snap out of it;’ they need help and support. Help and support were definitely plentiful in the room as students self-disclosed some of their difficult experiences and realized that they have more in common than separates them. The students finished out the first day with something we call Motivational Echoing, in which students gather as one to emphasize support, hope, and unity by repeating phrases from the trainer. These include statements such as: ‘I am not alone,’ ‘I am love,’ ‘It’s okay to not be okay,’ ‘It’s okay to get help,’ ‘I can help others get help,’ and, most importantly, ‘We’re in this together.’ Check out this clip:

 

 

Many of the students returned from last year, but there were justMVIMG_20190122_123921 as many new faces. One of my favorite things is to notice how much the students grow and mature from year to year, especially in middle school. This group was no exception. Last year the team engaged their peers in a lemonade stand, plastered posters all across the school, and gave away hot cocoa. They created three fun, new snack give-aways to educate their peers about mental and substance use disorders and decrease the stigma associated with them in their school. Food always works to attract attention and the students chose items they knew would draw their peers: slushies, Hot Cheetos, and popcorn. They’re slogans were even better: ‘It’s cool to talk-stigma is not’ (slushies), ‘Burn out Stigma’ (Hot Cheetos), and ‘Pop Away Stigma.’ Popcorn stands and stair decorating seem to be very popular this year-which is fine by me, because popcorn is one of, if not, my favorite foods! Food is the way to the heart, or so I’ve heard. These students are definitely going to be challenging thought, changing attitudes, and redirecting behaviors to make their school a more welcoming environment for everyone, whether or not they are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder.

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We can’t wait to hear more about Linton’s project plans and come out for a visit to grab a slushie or some Hot Cheetos and witness the team changing minds and changing hearts, all in an effort to end stigma. Thanks for standing up and speaking out against stigma, Linton! We’ll see you soon!

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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