Posts Tagged commitment

Throwback Thursday: WMHS Titans Training 2019

Throwback Thursday: WMHS Titans Training 2019

Earlier this month, our team headed to West Mifflin Area High School to train their students. WMHS is no stranger to Stand Together-the program is 7 years young and West Mifflin has been with us from the beginning. Although the group members and numbers have changed over the years (at one point they had 74 on the team!), their passion, commitment, and leadership has never wavered.

The first day of training is always an interesting time because a lot of the students don’t know each other. WMHS, like many of our schools, uses an application process to select their students. Students are selected for their interest in mental health and decreasing stigma and their desire to enact change. Because any one can apply and the applications are reviewed anonymously, there’s guaranteed to be a very diverse group of students and this year was no different. There were members from all areas of the student body, students with leadership potential, and even some youth that have been personally connected with mental health and substance use disorders. We consider this a privilege and a valuable experience that adds to the depth of our teams.

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This day was filled with fun activities, new friendships, laughter, and even some tears. The students explored the types of mental disorders and substances, brainstormed how to help peers who are struggling, and learned more about each other. Students connected through shared experiences and left the day empowered to address the stigma in their schools.

If the first day was full of information, the second day was packed with the students’ project ideas! Small groups came up with dozens of suggestions and additions jumped back and forth as they built on the foundations of vague ideas and dreams of a world without stigma. Students came up with ideas to increase education and awareness, promote social inclusion, and build relationships with staff and faculty so that students felt comfortable reaching out to an adult they trusted when they were worried about themselves or someone else. By the end of the day, they had at least six solid plans, including mental health a-WEAR-ness events with pjs, socks, and ribbons, reviving the infamous glo-dance, and even a unique take on meeting students where they are. (Spoiler alert: they’re putting something on the ground so students look up (literally) to support and hopeful messages! << We can’t wait to see this one!)

All in all our team had an amazing couple of days with this group. They always bring their A-game and we know they’ll engage their peers in creative and educational ways all year-long. Thanks for another great training, WMHS! We’ll be out to see your projects soon!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Students at Montour HS started bright and early the last two weeks, waking up their minds and bodies, getting to know each other, and starting to plan some incredible projects to educate their peers about mental and substance use disorders, decrease stigma by promoting social inclusion and increasing awareness, and encourage students to form relationships with adults to feel comfortable reaching out if/when they need help. 7:30 AM is early-but these youth were ready to go!

Team members were all-in from the get-go, but really enjoyed the physical games. Matching the diagnosis to the definition encouraged teamwork and tested their knowledge, while Sparkle assessed their understanding of key concepts. It was evident from the first day that the students felt a large part of the stigma in their school stemmed from the myths that perpetuate our society. We form our beliefs in many different ways: from our parents, our friends, past experiences, the media-but these ideas may or may not be true. Stand Together workshops spend a lot of time talking about what stigma looks like and how it affects individuals, oftentimes preventing them from getting help; student projects are all about decreasing this stigma and one of the ways Montour participants wanted to challenge this stigma was by demystifying mental health and confronting these myths head-on.

Students spent the second workshop in small groups working on a giveaway, a ‘truth booth,’ and a staff-student activity to engage their peers and address Stand Together’s three goals. A fan-favorite is always the Food4Thought toolkit, which utilizes incentives to entice students to have a conversation about mental health and stigma. Students were excited to think about the possibility of having students spin a wheel to decide whether a statement was a myth or fact to receive a cookie, or whether they would give away pins and ‘Put a Pin in Stigma.’ Other students were passionate about spreading awareness by creating a visual and making sure teachers and staff were informed and ready to assist students that might be struggling. We left the second day with concrete plans for six projects and it’s up to the group to decide which three (or four ūüôā ) projects they want to implement this year.

All in all the group had so much fun learning about mental health and each other and getting ready to work to end stigma in their school. Each student left with a clear commitment to how they were going to use their skills and talents within their service-learning projects. We can’t wait to see your projects in action soon! (And of course we’ll have a blog for you, too!)

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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WMAHS is Back! Year 6 was Bigger & Better than Ever!

WMAHS is Back! Year 6 was Bigger & Better than Ever!

West Mifflin Area High School is the other school in our program that has participated all six years of its existence. Each year, we’re amazed by the creativity and quality of their projects. It’s hard to believe it just keeps getting better and better.

 

Before they even got started with their Stand Together trainings, they were already planning an event for ‘Hello Week,’ a school-wide initiative to increase social inclusion school-wide at the beginning of the year. Students would pull a question from a fishbowl and answer with a student that didn’t know. Then the students would take a ‘selfie with a stranger’ to commemorate the event, breaking down barriers to connection and decreasing isolation by promoting new relationships. This activity allowed administration and staff to interact with the students as well to encourage youth to reach out to an adult.

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To kick-off the year a little bit more specific to Stand Together, the team held an assembly to encourage students to Speak Up! and Reach Out! Members introduced themselves and talked about mental health conditions, stigma, and the importance of getting help. Several individuals acted out a skit entitled ‘A Day in the Life of a Teen with a Mental Health Condition,’ demonstrating some struggles students and staff might encounter during a typical school-day. Students also shared resources and showed a student-created a video describing warning signs for mental health conditions, how to help, and positive affirmations for those that may be struggling. (To watch the video, click the image of the students with the signs above.)

 

Later in the year, students also held activities during lunch to reach out to their peers in a more casual setting. One of these activities was a matching game. In February, student participants would ‘race’ to match the diagnoses to the correct definitions. All players received a prize and winners were entered into a raffle for a gift card. Talking about mental health isn’t taboo-and it can be fun, too!

 

 

One of my favorite activities of the year was their twistResized_20190405_143651 on the ‘Truth Booth.’ Students designed a make-shift bathroom stall-complete with a toilet!-to change an often negative space (bullying, graffiti, crying, aggression, etc.) into a more positive one (‘safe space,’ if you will). The walls of the stall were filled with negative statements and attitudes, however, students were encouraged to cover-up these phrases with more positive messages and ‘flush away negativity.’ Students also responded to prompts on slips of paper. These included such questions as, ‘How can we make our school a more positive place for everyone?’ and ‘What negative word affected you most? Why?’ Although a funny concept, this project was incredibly impactful to the Stand Together team, the students that participated, and the school staff/faculty.

 

The team also completed the suicide prevention QPR training on March 15 to increase their skills in reaching out to peers that may be having suicidal thoughts and ideations. (Click the image below to learn more!) Other activities included a booth at their community night, Kahoot trivia game, mental health bracelet with representatives from NAMI, and a self-worth event, during which students selected a bracelet with a positive message they wanted to identify with, took a Polaroid with the bracelet, and wrote on it why they chose that bracelet.

 

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As you can see, WMAHS had a full, meaningful year! The commitment of the students and excellence of their projects, led by advisor Ms. Rowe, are a great reminder of the impact youth advocates can make to decrease stigma in their schools and even communities. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!

 

 

Written by Danyelle, Coordinator

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Propel BHHS Mixing Up Year Six

Propel BHHS Mixing Up Year Six

Propel: Braddock Hills High School is our other school that has been in the program all six years and each year they continue to surprise us with their creativity, passion, and commitment. They¬†are mixing it up this year though:¬†none of the students have participated in this group before. Several of the students participated at the middle school level, but it’s a whole new crop of students. New group = new ideas. It’s gonna be another great year!

 

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IMG_20190114_094715Most of the students in the group didn’t know each other before the training. We find that oftentimes, these teams form the closest bonds. As groups engage with each other in team-building¬† (such as Common Ground) and intimate activities (such as Cross the Line), they learn that they have more in¬†common than separates them and that no¬†one is alone. Although we allMVIMG_20190111_123145 come from very different backgrounds and have varied experiences, we can all relate to each other and play a part in ending stigma.

 

This year, we were incredibly impressed by the ideas the students came up. Students viewed past projects and took them a step further, amping them up and pushing them to new heights (literally: a balloon release!). I was particularly fond of the ‘Stigma is Sour; Support is Sweet’ idea; every student that engages in the activity gets a slushie, but one in four get a pack of Sour Patch Kids (my favorite candy). Needless to say, I’ll be out to visit that day. The group had some really catchy slogans, too, including: ‘Light the Way’ (paper lanterns with facts) and ‘Letting Go of Insecurities.’ The group also plans to do a mask activity and have 1:4 students put a large¬†X on their face to symbolize the 1:4 youth affected by mental and/or substance use disorders. This is even more meaningful as the definition of stigma means¬†a mark of disgrace. Students hope this moving visual will create a huge impact on the culture of their school by increasing awareness and social inclusion. to break down stigma and advocate for asking for help.

 

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We’re excited to see Propel BHHS projects in action later this year and are certain they’re ‘lighting the way’ to a future without stigma. Here’s to year six-let’s do this!

 

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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