Posts Tagged engagement

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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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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Impressive & Incredible: The Impact of WMMS

Impressive & Incredible: The Impact of WMMS

I must admit, I was extremely nervous walking into West Mifflin Middle School on September 19th. It was my first time ever giving a training with Stand Together and I wanted to make sure tDSCN0806hat the students received the best training possible.

After we started with a game of Ships’n’Sailors, I knew this group of kids would be fun to work with. The students were so enthusiastic during the activity and you could really see them trying to engage with all their fellow peers. When we reviewed the purpose of this activity and how it relates to the stigma given to people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, they were spot on with their responses! I was so impressed!

20170920_083431Some of the students were returning members from the previous year and some were brand spankin’ new, but they all displayed such a large knowledge on mental illness and substance use, which showed me how big of an impact their Stand Together group is having on their school as a whole. Once we jumped into the material, I was blown away with the students answers and participation level. Time flew by that before I knew it, we were ready for lunch!

In one of the final activities of the day, the students came together and displayed such great empathy during one of our final activities. Hearing the students talk about issues dear to their hearts and seeing how their peers were there to listen and support them was incredible. At the end of day 1, I was so excited to start project planning with the students. They displayed such a level of eagerness to get started; it was inspiring!

On day 2 we began the project planning process! The students had so many great ideas and it was especially neat to see them build onto projects they had done in the past few years. By the end of the day, the students decided on doing a hot chocolate stand to spread awareness and educate their peers on mental illness and substance abuse. To do this, they would add facts to the cups of the hot chocolate! They also wanted to use this same concept but instead of having hot chocolate, they would have donuts. The other activity they decided on doing was their signature Color Run, which aims to help reduce stigma against mental illness by going out into the community and educating others on what mental illness is and what are some examples of a mental illness.

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By the end of day 2, I was so impressed by this elite group of students and I could not wait to see what their final projects looked like! West Mifflin Middle School is lead by their fearless leader, Ms. Roman, who is there for the students every step of the way.

Great job, West Mifflin Middle!!!!

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(Written by Lacey, trainer)

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