Posts Tagged freshman

West A-Year 3, Tier 3!

West A-Year 3, Tier 3!

West Allegheny High School is returning for its third year in the program and they continue to amaze us with their creativity, passion, and vulnerability. Half of their members returned this year, committed to continue their work to address stigma in their school. With a diverse group and a handful of staff support, this group is well on their way to another amazing year-and they’ve upped their game to Tier 3! There was no doubt in my mind they would rise to the occasion and blow us away with their ideas.

To decrease stigma, it’s important to increase education and awareness to break down the stereotypes and myths associated with mental and substance use disorders. One of the first things we stress is that these are diagnosable conditions (by a mental health professional) that occur frequently and over a long period of time. It’s not just the ups-and-downs of every day life; we all feel anxious and sad from time-to-time (we asked the students to raise their hands if they’ve ever felt this way in the picture above), but when it starts to affect someone’s daily life, that’s when it’s important to reach out for help.

In the HS curriculum in particular, we also discuss various diagnoses and definitions. Students learn about the eight most common mental health conditions and the similarities and differences among them. Although we don’t expect the students to memorize these disorders, we want them to be aware of the correct definitions so that they can address the stigma associated with specific ones. For example, most people use ‘OCD’ as an adjective, like it’s just about being ‘neat’ or ‘picky,’ but in reality, OCD is a disorder involving obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. It’s not just that someone likes things a certain way, but they are following certain rules, rituals, and routines; things have to be a certain way. No matter the diagnoses, most disorders can be associated with five major signs and symptoms: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, personality change, and poor self-care, or WHAPP! (as we like to call it). Students recognize that when they notice these in themselves or someone else, it’s important to reach out to an adult they trust.

Students at West Allegheny also take part in an activity called Climate Change. In this activity, students think about the positive and negative characteristics of their school environment, what an ideal culture would look like, and think about how they can get there. One of Stand Together’s goals focuses on social inclusion-all students and staff are welcomed and included in the social fabric of the school. They used this idea to plan one of their projects the second day. (see below)

The team at West A has always been passionate about reaching their Freshman class as soon as they enter the building. For the past two years they have held a freshman assembly with information about mental health and Stand Together, games, and a recovery speaker. This year they’re going to take it a step further. After their assembly in the fall, this Spring, the students will be entering the health classrooms to spend three-yes, THREE!-days sharing information with their peers, engaging them in fun activities, and showing them a self-created film they will be producing that will include both students and staff sharing personal stories about their own experiences with mental and/or substance use disorders. One of their advisors, Ms. D, is the health teacher and it was a natural connection to expand her unit with peer-to-peer instruction from Stand Together students. We always say, it’s one thing if an adult tells you something, but it’s quite another if you hear it from someone your age, someone you know…it has a much greater impact.

Students have also planned a Stop Stigma Speed Run (or Triple S Grand Prix) obstacle course for students in gym class. Participants will rotate through different activities learning about mental and substance use disorders and stigma while engaging in fun activities and physical games. The team will also be painting a mural with silhouettes of the team and a pledge for their school to ‘end stigma’ by ‘creating a self and welcoming environment’ for students and staff, regardless of whether or not an individual has a mental health, substance use disorder, or any other difference or diagnosis.

We’re looking forward to see how great an impact this team makes at their school this year. We know they’re going to change the environment and even lives. See you soon!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

Posted in:

Leave a Comment (0) →

‘Dice Dragons are Slaying Stigma (with Bitmoji!)

‘Dice Dragons are Slaying Stigma (with Bitmoji!)

Pittsburgh Public’s Allderdice High School continued to use their mascot this year to engage their peers in activities to decrease the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders in their school. They had some ‘unfinished business’-a project they didn’t get to finish last year-and were excited to complete it and continue their work in the school.

 

DSCN1637This year the students combined four projects into an activity fair for the freshman students. The entire grade has to take history and the rest of the day is a chaotic time, so this turned out to be an ideal alternative to hold their events. Stand Together students even got out of class all day to make sure their fellow classmates got to learn about mental health!

 

Students entered the auditorium were introduced to the team and their cause by watching a Bitmoji video the team had created. Members of the team, including one of their advisors, Mr. Matson, recorded themselves as Bitmoji’s describing the Stand Together program and its goals and the importance of addressing stigma towards mental and substance use disorders. The video also included facts (1:4, of course! and the definitions of mental illness and stigma) and a dragon head that announced Allderdice’s pledge to stand against stigma. How creative is that?! Check it out:

 

 

After the film, students rotated through several stations that were set-up with activities to engage peers. At the first station, students could enjoy a cup of lemonade to encourage the students to lemon-aid each other when they are struggling. 1 in 4 cups of lemonade were pink to represent the 1 in 4 individuals that experience a mental and/or substance use condition in a given year. Another booth encouraged students to ask questions in a judgement free-zone. They passed out resources to encourage students to ‘mustache’ a question. I was impressed with the number of students that were eager and willing to talk about their own struggles or reach out for more information for a friend. At the last station, students signed a flame sticker to represent that they were going to ‘burn out stigma…’ because dragons breathe fire. Get it?! 🙂

 

 

The students also displayed their dragon mural for the students.mural-r The group really wanted to finish this last year, but as it’s quite a large piece, it took longer than expected. This year, the group completed the mural of a beautiful, immense green dragon breathing fire that reads: ‘Allderdice pledges to end stigma towards youth or adults who have a mental illness.’ This mural will be displayed in the school as a permanent fixture to remind all students to ‘slay stigma’ at their school.

 

Members of the team as well as participants and faculty were impressed and proud of their school and the event:

  • ‘I’m so glad we’re able to talk about this important issues at school.’ (ST team member)

  • ‘In our efforts to make Allderdice a more inclusive environment, our Stand Together group has played a major role in making this more of a reality. I am extremely proud of their work and I know that the fight to end stigma towards those with mental health conditions will continue to have an impact not only on our current students, but those students in years to come.’ (school principal)

  • ‘This fair was completely surprising to me. I hope to join the Stand Together group next year.’

 

The students also used this time to recruit new members for the 2019-2020 school year. They hope to make this event an annual fair and possibly incorporate outside mental health providers and additional resources. We can’t wait to see what you come up with for next year! Keep on slayin’ (stigma, that is)!

 

DSCN1636

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

 

 

Posted in:

Leave a Comment (0) →