Posts Tagged connection

SciTech: Serious about Stopping Stigma

SciTech: Serious about Stopping Stigma

SciTech is ready to combat mental and substance use disorder stigma in their school! No stranger to the Stand Together program, this year students returned full steam ahead. With a mix of grade levels and experiences, this group of students spent two Fridays together, refreshing their knowledge of mental and substance use disorders, learning about each other, and planning projects for their school-mates. The team had been meeting before the training to really focus on what they’d like to see change in their school environment. Senior participants are really invested this year and determined to leave a mark in their high school before they move on to future endeavors.

This group has the energy and passion to really connect with their peers on a deeper level. After their first day of training and some review, the group generated ideas in mini-brainstorming sessions. Sparks of inspiration fueled their mission to really bridge the connection between students, teachers, and staff.

The SciTech Stand Together team discussed presenting educational sessions to their staff; they thought this would be more meaningful and impactful than having someone else come in and hold a professional development event. They also wanted a ‘grand-scale’ effort to increase social inclusion in their school; they decided to host an interactive and educational neon ‘glow dance’ for their student body to connect and learn while having a fun time. It’s clear this team is serious about making a change!

Welcome back, SciTech High! We cannot wait to see how your great ideas unfold into wonderful stigma-stopping projects in your school!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Shaler HS Titans Stand Together

Shaler HS Titans Stand Together

Shaler HS was another team that lost a large group of seniors from last year and is smaller than some of our other groups, but they definitely make up for it in passion and commitment. This group is only 10 members LARGE if you measure it by the size of their hearts!

One thing very special about this group is that they bring a wealth of personal experience to the table and aren’t afraid to #talkaboutit and be vulnerable with each other. Each individual’s experience was unique and we had some great discussions about stigma, the media, and how to combat it.

Are you ready to WHAPP?! (Rather, do you know the five signs?)

Like most teams, the Shaler HS group LOVED the buzzer games, but I’d say this was pretty intense! I’m glad we had lots of laughs playing Common Ground and thoughtful responses to the scenarios to balance it out. They had such a good time laughing and learning together and were ready to start their project planning filled with excitement and drive.

By the end of the second day, the group came up with several projects to reach their peers where they are (even if it means bathroom stalls), make connections and foster relationships with staff, and host a mental health a-WEAR-ness week to rally the whole school. They were also excited to use the LEAD/JED There’s Help All Around You posters to remind students that #itsokaytonotbeokay and #itsokaytogethelp.

We’re excited to see their projects in action this spring as they increase awareness, promote social inclusion, and start forming relationships with staff to encourage reaching out for help. 10 students, 3 goals, 3 project, and 2 advisors are ready to change their school-and the world!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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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.

Cross the Line

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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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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ECS: Catalyst, Character, Collaboration, & Commitment

ECS: Catalyst, Character, Collaboration, & Commitment

Okay, okay…Those are some heavy words, right? Those are the four things Environmental Charter School has committed to providing for it’s students. But what do they mean?!
catalyst: to start something, like stopping stigma
character: the way someone thinks, feels, and behaviors (and trying to change these to end stigma)
collaboration: working together for a common goal, aka stopping stigma
commitment: pledging to a cause (stopping stigma)

ecs logo

See the connection? We’re all about building connections, including everyone, realizing that we’re all human (and people that have a behavioral health condition are still people-first), and we can all work together to stop stigma. (and yes, stigma is a part of all of these things!)

One of the things we changed this year is having two types of trainings: 1) basic emoticons for ecs blogtraining, for students that are new to the program and middle schools, and 2) advanced concepts, for students that are returning and already have a foundation. Basic training focuses more on the signs of mental health concerns. We use The Campaign to Change Direction‘s five signs of emotional pain:
personality change (different friends, attitudes, behaviors than usual)
agitation (anger or irritability)
withdrawal (not hanging out with friends)20171025_105019
poor self-care (not taking care of yourself)
hopelessness (not feeling like life is worthwhile)
Students guess what these are, learn them, and then repeat them back to each other, giving ‘high-5s‘ to help remember them, especially since physical activity helps us remember things. And the emoticons don’t hurt either. (haha)

Students also work on their listening skills and empathy during a shoe-based activity, in which they decorated shoes and shared their ‘story’ with a partner whom they did not know. Students also discuss what are positive and negative listening skills and incorporate them into their conversations with their partner. Communication builds connection and this allows people to feel comfortable to reach out when they’re struggling. The students’ job is to provide encouragement, support, and hope.

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Students really enjoyed the project planning phase on the second day and came up with many ways to make the Lemonade for Change toolkit their own. Students explored the ideas of hot chocolate, cupcakes, ice cream, and cookies and how they would talk about mental health, substance use, and stigma with their peers. They also decided they wanted to hand out bracelets so their peers would remember the event and have a raffle for students that signed the pledge. You gotta do what it takes to get their attention and get them interested-and then use that opportunity to educate them and stop stigma!

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At the end of the review session, we also give away Stand Together t-shirts to the students that remember the most from the last training. Check out these star students-all with awesome smiles! We can’t wait to revisit them in a few weeks to hear which great idea they decided on. Keep up the good work, ECS! You’re going to ‘change’ minds and warm hearts!

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(Written by Danyelle, Coordinator & Trainer)

 

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