Posts Tagged diversity

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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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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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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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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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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SciTech Stops Stigma: One Student, One Staff Member at a time…

SciTech Stops Stigma: One Student, One Staff Member at a time…

The Science & Technology Academy (PPS) has returned for their second year in Stand Together with a core group of strong leaders and passion for mental health awareness all around. Like most of our teams, this is also a very diverse team, full of individuals with a wealth of knowledge as well as experience with mental and/or substance use disorders. These students weren’t afraid to share their own personal stories and struggles and had a lot of fun getting to know each other along the way.

 

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MVIMG_20181129_125717This group had a lot of great discussions about how they’ve experience stigma in their own schools, homes, and communities and had strong views about the prevalence of stigma. They were passionate about the important of education, awareness, social inclusion, and having trusted relationships with adults to get the help people need when they are struggling. Needless to say, their second day of training was intense, creative, and focused. The students ended up with 5 components of a project! Woah!

 

This year, the students really wanted to focus on advocating,IMG_20181129_105710 awareness, and staff relationships. Students will be engaging their peers in a kick-off assembly to refresh students’ memory from the previous year, as well as Lemonade for Change to review some of the basic information. Students will also be creating buttons to wear so that the other students in their school will know who they are and that the team members are people the students could reach out to if they’re worried about themselves or someone else. In addition, the students have planned a “Confidential Corner” to share anonymous mental and/or substance use experiences. Lastly, the group will engage their staff in fun activities to promote staff-student relationships and increase their knowledge and awareness of behavioral health and how it affects all of us.

 

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SciTech has a big year planned and we can’t wait to see how the students and staff respond to their activities. Their motto, ‘Stand Together for Change” is a powerful reminder that if we work together, we can change the world. Join with us! Stop stigma!

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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North Allegheny Tigers Talk Truth-Awareness & Inclusion

North Allegheny Tigers Talk Truth-Awareness & Inclusion

Another first year school, North Allegheny High School was incredibly impressive. Right off the bat, the students were already aware of many of the myths and were prepared to counter them with facts as early as the first activity. It was such a privilege working with such a passionate and aware group. Most of the team is also members of the school’s S.A.D.D. group. Even though they had some bonds and connections (and a decent knowledge of mental health), there were still plenty of new people to meet and new information to learn and share.

 

IMG_20181101_135505Although the students were very quiet at first, with some encouragement they quickly opened up. Everyone was willing and excited to participate in the trainings. One of our larger groups (30 members), it can be intimidating, especially for more reserved students. The most memorable moment for me was the discussion after Cross the Line. IMG_20181101_133950There were so many different perspectives and each student had a unique story to share. The group was vulnerable with each other and left the day feeling empowered to challenge others’ thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to decrease stigma in their school.

 

IMG_20181113_102404The team couldn’t wait to start planning their projects. As a large school with many staircases, the students decided to use them to their advantage to kick-off the year by grabbing the students’ attention. Stand Together will be decorating each fourth step with green tape to provide a visual representation of the ratio of individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder (1:4). The students plan to follow this activity with a video of both students and faculty sharing their own personal experiences with mental health, whether their own or someone they know. This will also serve as a transition to a form of Truth Booth the students will facilitate later in the year. The team also has a few other small activities throughout the year, so they’re definitely going to be busy!

 

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A special shout-out goes to Mr. Longo, one of their advisors. He spent almost a year trying to get Stand Together into N.A. and it’s definitely paid off. The group is great, the advisors are invested, and leadership is abound. We can’t wait to see their projects in action this Spring!

 

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Flashback Friday: Avonworth Antelopes Leap Into Stand Together

Flashback Friday: Avonworth Antelopes Leap Into Stand Together

Avonworth High Schools’ interest in Stand Together was many months in the making. After meeting with their SAP team for the first time last February, Lacey and I facilitated mini-sessions at their Teen Summit to introduce the students to mental health, stigma, and Stand Together. We were incredibly impressed by their emotional intelligence and almost every group had a student share their experiences. It was moving for both the students and our staff. I couldn’t wait to work with this group!

 

IMG_20181105_082119Another diverse group, the students really enjoyed getting to know each other outside of the classroom. Activities such as ‘Candy Gram’ encourage students to learn more about another participant and find qualities, interests, and views they share. Candy is randomly distributed and students have to find their ‘match.’ Then, they have three minutes to find three things they have in common. The catch: they can’t be obvious! (i.e. same school/grade, visible traits, etc.) More often than not, students can find more than three items to share with the rest of the group in just that short amount of time. Although a simple exercise, this activity really increases the students’ ability and experience of social inclusion.

 

In addition, this was the first time our new assistant Ami shared her recovery story with the group. Many students could relate to her experiences and life choices and it greatly made an impact. We’ve found that exposure to a first-person narrative of someone with lived experience with a mental and/or substance use disorder is the most effective way to challenge stigma. This part of the day also lends itself to the afternoon’s activities, in which students participate in activities where they are asked to be vulnerable with each other. The workshop experience is incredibly important to the cohesiveness of the group and the success of Stand Together; students not only learn the information and concepts they need to facilitate activities with their peers, but they also experience the ideals of social inclusion and a warm, compassionate school culture, where students feel free to be who they are and to get the help they need when they’re struggling.

 

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IMG_20181105_082212Although their first year, the students and advisors challenged themselves to facilitate three informative activities to increase education and awareness in their student body as well as with staff. Members will kick-off their year by meeting with classes to introduce the students to Stand Together and expose them to some of the myths and facts surrounding mental and substance use disorders. Their next activity focuses on S.H.E. (support, hope, and encouragement) and encouragesIMG_20181105_104116 and educates their peers on how to provide S.H.E. to their fellow classmates when they are experiencing mental health challenges-and of course, the team will use food to draw them in! (It works!) The team will also engage others in a make-shift photo booth with decorations and facts about mental health and substance use disorders to review what the students have learned in the other activities. Then the students will create a collage with the photos to display when the event is complete. We’re sure they’re really going to make a dent in stigma!

 

 

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Congrats, Avonworth, on a great training and we look forward to an amazing year!

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Flashback Friday: Allderdice HS is BACK-with a Vengeance to FINISH THAT DRAGON!

Flashback Friday: Allderdice HS is BACK-with a Vengeance to FINISH THAT DRAGON!

Allderdice High School (PPS) has returned for their second year to Stand Together-and a devotion to finish one of their projects from last year, a dragon mural to ‘burn stigma.’ In addition, they’re hoping to do a couple other projects to reach their peers in a variety of ways.

 

IMG_20181015_110544The students at Allderdice tend to be one of our most diverse groups and it definitely brings a lot of different experiences to the table. There were also two teachers that teamed up with the group this year and are excited to join the group. They also had many returning members and they came back with the same passion and IMG_20181025_100207tenacity they finished the year with in 2018. Both the students and advisors were very moved by Cross the Line, breaking down the barriers and stereotypes they had for each other. Several students shared their own struggles with mental illness.

 

The best part of the day for me was when the students responded to the What Would You Do? scenarios. They had very thoughtful answers and had the skills to assess situations for WHAPP (withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, poor self care, and personality change) and implement SHE (support, hope, encouragement) in their responses. Student relationships and the youth voice are crucial to the success of Stand Together and over the years, groups refine their skills to provide empathy, information, and resources to their peers.

 

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The group definitely bonded over the two days of training and are looking forward to finishing planning their projects and implementing them in the spring. Keep an eye out for that dragon!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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PHS Commodores Challenge Stigma, Cultivate Compassion

PHS Commodores Challenge Stigma, Cultivate Compassion

Perry High School (PPS) joined us for the first time this year. Students had expressed an interest in doing something with mental health in the past, but didn’t have a concrete plan in place. Enter in Stand Together! It turned out to be a convenient time and we jumped at the opportunity to work with this school.

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IMG_20181017_111354Some of the concepts were new to the students and many of them were strongly rooted in their personal views, whether they had stemmed from their parents, friends, or media. We engaged in a lot of active discussions and I think we all learned a lot from each other. It was a very diverse group and they were very vocal in their opinions, but we discovered that we had a lot in common. Even though we are all very different, we had shared some of the same experiences that we never would’ve guessed without getting together. The students had some great discussions about diversity and adversity in mental health services, particularly surrounding trauma, the impact of mental health on schooltime, and stigma in the African American community (especially males).

 

Food seems to be the way to reach youth-well, probably everyone, and Perry’s team said their school was no different.IMG_20181024_090657 The team decided on the Food 4 Thought toolkit. The group decided to focus on attacking stigma and encouraging their peers to start talking about mental health, including things like: It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to get help. Stigma hurts-talking helps. The students decided on three events, focusing on what stigma is, how it affects people, and how to stop it. The team will share food, facts, and tips to their fellow students. The students were very passionate, as many of them had been affected by mental health and substance use disorders in a myriad of ways. We really encourage this, because students that have this experience are incredibly valuable to the cause, as they have ‘been there’ and add so much more to the group.

 

I’m excited to meet with the Commodores again today to keep project planning rolling and really start hashing out the details. It’s going to be great!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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