Posts Tagged culture

Woody High Rise Up-Again!

Woody High Rise Up-Again!

Back at it again for the second time, Woodland Hills High School’s Stand Together team returns to shift the culture in their school when it comes to speaking up and out about mental health.

Woody High students came together on two days in January and both new-comers and returning students were ready to really make an impact in their school with the Stand Together message. This year, the group started meeting long before the training workshops took place to get a jump-start on the year. What dedication!

The first day of training re-introduced the students to the important signs and symptoms of mental and substances use disorders and refreshed their memories on what factors cause these emotional struggles. The Stand Together workshops strengthened the already strong bond this group had created during the pre-training meetings. Friendly competition arose when reviewing the information during trivia games and a unity formed while sharing their own experiences during and after Cross the Line.

The second workshop was more hands-on: project planning. Returning members shared feedback with their peers from last year’s activities. They had even handed out pencils with a survey link before the workshops to get more feedback from the larger student body. Team members shared what they want their peers and staff to know when it comes to reaching out for help and even just talking about the struggles they may be dealing with. They want their teachers to know the right information and resources to provide effective support when students come to them. They also want their peers to know that mental and substance use disorders are more common than we think and that it’s okay to get treatment. These students see the need and want to shift the culture and dismantle stigma.

The group brain-stormed elaborate new ideas and revisited ideas from last year with a twist. They really want to focus on providing clear information in a fun and engaging way. The group plans to hold a school assembly and mental health Kahoot! game tournament, as well as a possible ice cream social.

Staying true to Stand Together’s mission and goals, Woodland Hills is ready to rise up to the challenge again. We have no doubt that they will surprise us with their anti-stigma events this year. We can’t wait to see all your hard work in action!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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TJHS: S.H.-and Lots of Empathy!

TJHS: S.H.-and Lots of Empathy!

The Stand Together program welcomes another newcomer to our line-up of schools: Thomas Jefferson High School! Welcome!

The group had their first official ST workshops on two Tuesdays in December, however they had already been meeting as a group in preparation for the training, discussing their thoughts about mental health and brainstorming ideas to end stigma in their school. This group came together on their training days eager to get started, but a bit timid. That would quickly change!

After setting clear ‘community agreements’ to create a ‘safe space,’ the students began to ease into team-building and education. The first workshop was all formal training about mental illness, substance use disorders, and the effects of stigma. Not only did TJHS learn new information about mental health and wellness, they also learned new things about one another.

During the ‘Cross the Line’ activity, the group shared they were surprised to share some of the same struggles as their peers. Stand Together members also noticed it was a challenge to share their concerns; they care a lot about what their peers are going through and didn’t want to add any more stress onto others. Group members shared how much they feel sad when they see other peers and staff going through hard times and they want to use this program to really change the culture of their school.

Thinking about what they learned at the first workshop, the students came up with a list of very important information they wanted their peers and staff to know, including:
-taking mental and substance use disorders seriously
-knowing that #youarenotalone if you struggle with something
-don’t be afraid to #talkaboutit!
The group brain-stormed different ideas to create their anti-stigma projects. One idea was a popcorn stand during lunch periods. They wanted it to be interactive with a trivia game wheel and different colored popcorn that featured the 1:4 ratio of individuals affected by these disorders. They also discussed having a school-wide assembly to raise awareness about mental health and stigma. Not only do ST members want to get the right facts out to their peers, this group also wants their teachers and staff to feel comfortable enough to check-in on the students they interact with daily. TJHS is really tackling a lot of issues in their first year!

Empathy is a huge part of the TJHS motto and this project’s theme. With this ‘super-power’ in their toolkit, we have no doubt their first year in Stand Together will have a lasting impression on their school.

Welcome to the club! We’re happy to have you and excited to see your projects!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Hillel & Yeshiva Tag Team Against Stigma

Hillel & Yeshiva Tag Team Against Stigma

Stand Together is excited to welcome two more new schools this year. From Pittsburgh’s very own Jewish Community in Squirrel Hill: Hillel Academy and Yeshiva girls’ schools! Due to a generous grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and other supporters, we were able to expand to all five (!) schools in this community.

Both schools trained together at Hillel this past November, right before the holiday. Students filed into the training space quiet and curious, but that didn’t last very long! The students got warmed-up to the topics discussed and enjoyed competing in the trivia games that aided in review. It was a busy two days! Laughter, team-building, and deep discussion happened with ease. These young ladies ranged in age and grade levels from 7th through 12th grades. As each training day went on, they discovered fascinating things they had in common with one another, much deeper than their obvious connection with culture and religion.

Although the community is very tight knit, the students still had to get to know each other better as they attend different schools. The teams learned more about themselves, the Stand Together program, and their trainer, Montaja. As each topic of the day was discussed, students started to speak more openly about their personal thoughts about the stigma surrounding mental and substance use disorders. These young ladies weren’t afraid to ‘Speak up!’ and ‘Speak out!’ about how challenging it is to reach out for help even with adults they trust around them. Without hesitation, the students created a long list of things that they’d like their peers and staff to know about mental health and stigma. Some of the things they mentioned included:
-Mental illness is invisible.
-Having a mental and/or substance use disorder is not ‘wrong.’
-Therapy is okay for anyone and everyone.

By the second training workshop, both schools were ready to plan and design their projects. After viewing other schools’ ideas and discussing some challenges they may have to work around due to the size and culture of their school, both groups put together solid ideas to carry out their project and the Stand Together mission.

Hillel Academy girls’ team are working on a year-long theme that will ‘bar the stigma.’ They’re going to kick-off the year with a hot drink bar to ‘scorch the stigma…not your tongue!’ This clever project will host a table decorated with myths, facts, and other information to start the conversation about mental and substance use disorders and stigma. To incentive their peers and staff to enjoy a cozy cup of tea or cocoa during the cold winter months and start talking about mental health.

Yeshiva girls are planning on using the Stand Together acronyms as a way to start the conversation:
-W.H.A.P.P. (signs & symptoms: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, personality change, and poor self-care)
-S.T.I.G.M.A. (examples of stigma: stereotyping, teasing, inappropriate language, myths, and attitude)
-S.H.E. (how to help: support, hope, encourage)
Their event includes a drink stand to further educate their peers and staff, focusing on how mental and substance use disorders are invisible and effect everyone.

It’s clear to see both schools are off to a great start. They are more than excited to get the facts out to their student body. What a way to start your first year! Welcome to the club-we can’t wait to see your projects roll out!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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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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