Posts Tagged community

OC Eagles Soar over Stigma

OC Eagles Soar over Stigma

Earlier in October the Stand Together team at Oakland Catholic HS met to learn more about mental and substance use disorders, how to help, and how to stop stigma. This is OC’s second year in the program and they are ready to come back and build on the progress they’ve made with their scrunchies against stigma and cookies that crumbled away stigma by promoting education and awareness. One student remarked: ‘Some of my friends deal with mental health issues and they were more open to talk about it at school because of the projects that the club put together.’ They are definitely off to a good start!

This team has great passion and urgency to advocate for change in their schools and communities. Students asked though-provoking and introspective questions during the trainings and had such a good time engaging in the games and activities while learning about the topics and each other. By the end of the second day, the group had the education, experience, and group cohesion to start thinking about their projects.

The team had so much enthusiasm on the second day and couldn’t wait to start tossing out ideas and planning their projects. The group had so many ideas it was hard to narrow it down, but by the end of the day they decided to focus on forming relationships with staff and increasing awareness of the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders and that no one is alone in their struggles. The group wants to plan an active discussion between the team and staff/faculty and produce a video that includes students and staff sharing their own personal experiences.

The students still want to explore creating a ‘truth booth’ styled project, but had so many suggestions, they weren’t sure which way to go! We form bonds and increase social inclusion when we connect with each other and realize that we have more in common than we think. ‘Truth booth’ projects really help individuals see these concepts visually and in action.

At the end of the day, the group couldn’t wait to get started finalizing their plans and start implementing their projects in their school. They’re excited to see the changes they will be making in their school environment and culture and make strides in ‘soaring over stigma’ in their community.

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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NAHS Tigers Talk about It: ‘We Stand with 1 in 4’

NAHS Tigers Talk about It: ‘We Stand with 1 in 4’

If you’re familiar with North Allegheny, you know that it’s a HUGE school district. This can seem daunting, but it gives our students the chance to impact even more youth in their community! As it was their first year, the advisors started recruitment with students from their SADD club, students that were passionate about making a difference and making their school a better place. And what a better place to start then with students that are motivated to enact change!

 

This year’s team implemented a visual for their peers, classroom presentations to all the physical education classes (which included pretty much every one in the school at some point), and a lemonade stand at a NA district event. The students created suspense, educated their peers, and extended their reach beyond the walls of their school to the community at large. The group also documented their activities on Twitter @NASHSADD and #stand2getherNASH.

 

1in4Steps.3NAHS has a very large building with several stairwells that are constantly flooded with students. The team decided to take advantage of this by placing green tape on every fourth step to represent the 1 in 4 individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder in a given year. They purposely didn’t advertise or provide any explanation for the project to peak their peers interest in the seemingly random decorations on the stairs. The next day, however, posters and flyers plastered the walls and the principal made an announcement to explain the meaning behind the project.

 

The group presented a PowerPointDSCN1640-r of Myths and Facts and educational pieces to share with their classmates. This presentation focused on the signs and symptoms of mental and substance use disorders, the definition of stigma and the impact it has on youth, and how students can support their peers and Stand Together. ‘End Mental Health Stigma’ wristbands were distributed for students to remember the event and handed out Resolve crisis services wallet cards. Students reminded the groups that although they might not take the cards seriously right then, they never know when they might need it. This was a very powerful, strong finish to the presentation.

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Even more powerful was the student-produced video showed during the presentations. In this film, students and faculty members alike shared their personal experiences with mental health challenges and the stigma they’ve faced. Some of the biggest discouragers of stigma is called ‘the first person narrative,’ in which individuals are exposed to and hear from individuals that are living with or have been affected by mental and/or substance use disorders. Students realize that they are not alone in their struggles, that they have more in common than separates them, and that individuals with these disorders are ‘people-first,’ that just happen to have a mental health challenge, just like someone might have a physical challenge and shouldn’t be discriminated against. It was a very¬†powerful demonstration of the bravery and strength of individuals in their own school that are living successfully with these conditions.

 

DSCN1872-rThe ST team concluded the year by giving away ‘lemon-aid’ at their district-wide diversity celebration event, which included groups from many different ethnicities, different abilities, and social groups. One out of every four cups of lemonade was pink to reinforce the 1 in 4 message. Walk-ups to the table were asked questions about some of the myths surrounding mental health and stigma in order to enjoy a free cup of lemonade. The students also played their video presentation and distributed Stand Together informational handouts, including the STIGMA acronym, Words Matter!, and How to Help a Peer. Although they didn’t reach many that night, it was heartening to me see conversations between our team, parents, and their children about mental health.

 

For their first year, NA did an absolutely fantastic job. Faculty, staff, administration, the student body, and the ST team members were moved by their participation. One youth in the program said:

The whole experience was really eye-opening.¬† DSCN1660¬† Going through training, and then giving presentations I learned a lot of things that I would probably never have known. And since, I have been trying to make changes in my everyday life and trying to help others in an effort to end the stigma. If I could’ve participated for more years, I would have. I will take what I learned with me through the rest of my life.

 

Their school principal even attended our Recognition Event and was singing the praises of their students:

Our students used a creative approach while bringing recognition to stigmas related to mental health. Their approach captured the interest of our entire student body and had a significant impact on the manner our students process their perceptions of those being treated for mental health challenges.

 

Thank you, NA, for your passion and commitment. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year-and bring on your Intermediate school too!

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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SVMS: A Full Year of Photos, Basketball, & Fun

SVMS: A Full Year of Photos, Basketball, & Fun

Steel Valley Middle School is another veteran Stand Together team that continues to excel above and beyond every year. Sports are a huge part of their school culture for those involved as well as other students and the community at large. In addition to some of their tried and true activities, the SVMS ST group decided to focus their efforts to this theme in a diverse stream of activities.

 

IMG-9598The team started with an event right after they were trained. The students participated in a community event called Funder Under the Bridge at the Waterfront. School and community groups hosted tables and booths to spread awareness about their causes and fundraise. Over 500 people attended the event and the ST team raised $240, which they combined with other funds and donated to their local counseling agency, Steel Valley Wellness, that provides community mental health services, giving back to their community on a larger scale! How cool is that?!

 

 

Throughout the year the team had severalIMG-3691 photo booths to entice students to engage in activities and remember the events. These usually co-incided with games where students were tested on their mental health IQ and received a LifeSaver candy (because they could be a life saver!) and wristband and, if they answered correctly, they even got a full-size candy bar! Each event had a theme, including: ‘Don’t be a Grinch-1:4 people have a mental illness’ for the winter holidays, ‘Share the Love’ for Valentine’s Day, and one a basketball background for their March Madness tournament.

 

The team also held a door-decorating contest coinciding with the photo booth for Valentine’s Day. Each homeroom decorated their door focusing on a specific mental illness or concept. The class with the winning door won a donut party. Over 13 classrooms participated and some of the decorations are still displayed today.

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The major theme for the year, however, utilized¬†basketball to engage the students in a myriad of ways. In November, the team had a booth outside a boys’ basketball game.FB_IMG_1554495793644 The team wore green sweatbands and the cheerleaders wore green bows to signify their solidarity in support of mental health awareness. They also attended a girls’ basketball game and hosted their table again with the players wearing the green wristbands. Even the other school’s team participated! The focus of these activities was to hype the students up for the Breaking Barriers March Madness trivia competition. In their homerooms, students were asked to answer questions about mental and substance use disorders and then shoot a basketball into a mini-hoop to earn points for their homeroom. Like a tournament, homeroom ‘teams’ were eliminated one by one until the final event!

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The highlight of the year was the Final Game (in March, of course!). The top 6th grade team battled the top 8th grade team-even the teachers joined in! Six teachers, the principal, their advisor, and her father all shared the court with the student participants-this time, playing with a real-size hoop. The winning 6th graders earned a pizza party and the 8th graders were given a donut party for their efforts. The students also had the opportunity to ‘dress-down’ for the occasion; students donated a dollar to wear their favorite team gear, which went to supporting the ST team’s donation to SV Wellness.

 

FB_IMG_1554495801700By using the basketball theme and having multiple projects over the course of the year, students were actively engaged, excited about the events, and were highly impacted. The team continuously used the same 25 questions over the course of the year and the students were able to have a better understanding about what mental illnesses are, the effects of substance use disorders and stigma, and the idea that they are not alone in their struggles. The team was even mentioned several times in the local newspaper, The Valley Mirror! Their advisor, Ms. Dunmire, couldn’t be more proud:

 

‘We’ve come a long way. I’m so proud of my students and I’m confident that we’ve made positive changes in our school surrounding breaking down barriers surrounding mental illness and substance abuse.’

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Another amazing year, SVMS! Be sure to follow them on Instagram @SVStandTogether

 

 

Written by Danyelle, Coordinator

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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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SVMS Ironmen Interrupting Stigma

SVMS Ironmen Interrupting Stigma

Another veteran school, Steel Valley Middle School, has been with us quite some time and their projects never disappoint. From the beginning, they’ve been a Tier-3 school (the highest level we offer)-and the have some of our youngest members; Ryan’s group spans from 5th through 8th grade! Their maturity surpasses all expectations and they’ve always been a great group to work with; I’ve been lucky enough to work with them all three years I’ve been with Stand Together!

 

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Students started off their day going over some of the most popular myths and separating them from the facts in pairs. One of Stand Together’s goals is education and oftentimes, stigma is perpetuated by the inaccurate beliefs people have surrounding IMG_20181003_103811mental and substance use disorders. We discuss these with the students so that they can, in turn, address some of these myths and stigmas with their peers. In addition, we spend some time teaching students about the five most common signs of a mental health concern: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, poor self-care, and personality change. To help them remember this, we have the students repeat the five signs to a partner and give each¬†other a high-five. Did you know that physical activity increases brain activity and your member? We do…and we use it to our advantage! Besides that, it keeps things fun; Stand Together isn’t just about learning and¬† sharing, but creating connections and enjoying the activities while doing so!

 

The students spend the second day designing their projects for this year. The hardest part of the day is not necessarily coming up with ideas for the projects, but voting for the ones that they want to pursue this year. They had so many great ideas, but we finally whittled it down to a do-able amount.

 

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For the first time, SVMS has gone with a sort of theme to connect their projects. Many of the members of the group are involved in basketball or cheerleading and to increase awareness, students are going to be working with these teams, as well as the art and technology departments IMG_20181009_110819to market their events. The women and men’s basketball teams will be wearing green socks and the cheerleaders will be wearing green bows to symbolize the importance of mental health. (Mental health is also closely connected with physical health, so this is a win-win!) In addition, the Stand Together team will be making announcements and have a booth at the event with their spinning wheel and other activities to engage their peers and the community. They will be having mini-basketball tournaments in homerooms to encourage social inclusion. In addition, the students will have a door decorating contest in February and, to wrap-up the year and the basketball theme, the winner of the student homeroom tournaments will play staff to promote relationships with staff and encourage students to reach out to reach out to an adult they trust when they are worried about themself or someone else. (Tier-3 schools have to incorporate all three of our goals-they certainly are!) The capstone of the day was when the students received their Stand Together wristbands-it’s official!!!

 

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The Steel Valley team has already had an opportunity to share their projects with the community. Last month, they participated in the Funder Down Under event at the Waterfront. This is an event for the community to come together and learn about the great things students and other organizations are doing. The Stand Together team printed out graphics we use with the youth during the training. They also gave away wristbands to help remember what they learned that day and ‘Lifesavers’ candies to remind others that they could be the difference in someone’s life. The students brought their spinning wheel game and frame for ‘selfies with a stranger.’ What a way to start off the year!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Kissing Stigma Goodbye: Steel Valley HS Stands Together

Kissing Stigma Goodbye: Steel Valley HS Stands Together

Steel Valley HS capitalized on Valentine’s Day with their¬†Love is LOUDER than Mental Illness series of events this February. In addition to DSCN0280participating in the Breaking the Barriers dash with the middle school, the high school students held several activities during this past month for their peers. From Hershey kisses telling students to ‘Kiss stigma goodbye’ to Huggies when students shared a hug with a peer, SVHS spread the love in their school to increase awareness of mental illness, increase social inclusion, and talk about getting help when having a mental health need.

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Stand Together took to the hallways of Steel Valley High School to spread the love and break the stigma surrounding mental illness! Students posted inspirational quotes to motivate and encourage students in their daily struggles, as well as anyone that might be silently suffering from a mental health concern. In addition, students posted information on the prevalence of mental illness, what stigma is, and flyers urging students to sign the anti-stigma pledge on our site. Over 240 students committed to stop stigma, challenge their preconceived notions, and advocate for mental health in their school and communities.

Students also held a door-decorating contest. Participating students and teachers covered their doors with facts regarding various mental health conditions and other decorations to get students attention and learn about a specific disorder. The winning classroom received gift cards for their efforts.

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Their projects concluded with a Mental Illness fair during all lunches on Friday, February 25. This tremendous event took over the entire school gym.DSCN0282  Upon entering, students were given a green ribbon sticker for the day and a Stand Together wristband to remind them of the event and message. Tables were set-up around the room with various activities. 10 tables were set-up highlighting facts and sharing information on various mental illnesses, including autism, anxiety, suicide, self-harm, depression, and OCD. Music and games were played and the students and staff really united together against stigDSCN0317ma.

One impressive highlight was a mural the students had created to emphasize the concept that no one is alone. Students answered questions anonymously with sticky notes to create a visual representation of the impact we have on each other. Additionally, some students stepped up and spoke with their peers about their first-hand experiences with mental illness. It was a great success!

Check out these videos from the event to hear what students and staff had to say about the fair!

         

Thanks to Mrs. Kamnikar and the Stand Together team for all their hard work!

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