Posts Tagged Mental Health

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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Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic is our first private high school and we are so excited to have this group join us this year. The school jumped at the opportunity to join our team after a presentation at a regional Student Assistant Program meeting. (SAP is made up of staff members at schools that work to improve student’s education, whether it be mentally, physically, or academically.) It’s hard to believe I first spoke with them almost a year ago today! OC leadership was also quick to schedule a Youth Mental Health First Aid training for their staff before school started to educate their faculty even before Stand Together started. Their interest in improving the mental health environment for their students is inspiring and refreshing. Mental health matters!

 

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IMG_20181205_105714These girls were a blast to work with! Although chatty at times (it was a group of teenage girls!), their enthusiasm didn’t end. All the students were fully committed to the program and activities. They had a lot of great questions and really came together as a group by the end of the first day. It was even more meaningful for the students that our assistant for the day, Julianna, went to OC herself. We laughed a lot, as you can see from all the pictures! And even though we had a lot of fun, the group was determined and passionate as they ‘stand together’ to stop stigma.

 

The team came up with so many good ideas on the second dayIMG_20181205_101539 that it was really difficult to narrow it down to three. From scrunchies, raffles, decorations, and so many other ideas, the group was adamant about educating their peers, spreading awareness, and breaking down social barriers, especially when it comes to seeking treatment. Of course, they had great slogans, too: ‘Stairways Against Stigma’ and ‘Elevators for Awareness’ were just a few they came up with. The students really wanted to focus this year on helping their peers realize that there are a lot of people that struggle with these issues, it’s okay to not be okay, and they’re not alone; people care, it’s okay to get help, and it can get better. These students warmed my heart with their wisdom and dedication to decreasing the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders.

 

We’re proud to work with OC this year and we’re certain they’re going to make a big impact in their school with their creative activities and eye-catching marketing. Between the Stand Together team and faculty Mental Health First Aid-ers, they’re off to a great start. You go, girls!

 

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written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler Area Middle School is joining their high school counterparts in Stand Together this year to take action against stigma. Mr. Lisowski & Ms. Coleman’s crew was large and mighty and they came up with some incredibly creative projects for this year. Students are focusing on increasing education and awareness as well as social inclusion in fun activities for their peers during lunch.

 

 Stand Together workshops cram a lot of information into one day and sometimes it can be difficult to absorb it all, so we review several times throughout the day, as well as provide takeaways for the students. We also engage the students in meaningful activities that help them remember the concepts while having fun, too. For example, we have all the students stand up and the trainer counts off by four. The first three students can sit while the fourth remains standing. Once we have gone around the room, the students can visualize the ratio of students that have a mental or substance use disorder (1:4). Another activity, Ships & Sailors, is a game of elimination in which students must follow directions and form groups of a specific number in order to stay in the game. Afterwards, we discuss what it was like to be ‘eliminated,’ excluded, and ‘betrayed.’ This is what stigma feels like. To remember the five most common signs of mental and substance use disorders, we have the students repeat them back to each other and give each other a ‘high-five.’ (Did you know physical action helps your brain remember things?)

 

Another important piece of our trainings is learning how toIMG_20181206_091323 respond when you recognize those signs in someone you know. We emphasize that the students are not professionals, but there are still things they can do to help. That’s where the acronym S.H.E. comes in: support, hope, and encouragement. Students can be there for their friends that are struggling, hold hope for them when they cannot do so for themselves, and encourage them to talk to an adult/get professional treatment. We also realize that youth can identify concerns in family members as well. In the clip below, students review a scenario in which a student’s aunt is demonstrating signs of a mental illness. The students share how they would approach that individual, what they would say, and what they would do.

 

 

This year, the group has planned three unique projects to engage their peers. In January, students will ‘Band Together’ Against Stigma by answering questions about mental and substance use disorders and receiving a wristband to represent the 1:4 individuals that are affected by these conditions. Students are also using a winter theme (and cookies!) for students to share their personal experiences with mental and/or substance use disorders. Sharing our stories IMG_20181127_110112helps decrease stigma by promoting awareness and increasing social inclusion; students find that they are not alone in their struggles and they have more in common than what separates them. Lasly, the students are planning another cookie give-away to dispel the myths about these disorders and/or perform a socially inclusive act. This activity plays on the game, “Truth or Dare.” Students will have to decide whether a statement is a fact and/or do something to get to know someone new.

 

We’re excited to see these projects over the course of this year-and get some cookies while we’re at it! I have to say Snickerdoodles are a pretty underrated cookie, so I’m excited to see these treats teach and encourage other students to talk about mental and substance use disorders as they ‘Band Together’ against stigma.

 

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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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Shaler HS Titans Aren’t Afraid to Talk About It!

Shaler HS Titans Aren’t Afraid to Talk About It!

Shaler Area High School is returning for its second year with Stand Together. We were impressed with the impact of their ‘truth booth’ project last year and the vulnerability of the entire student body. This year, of course, the ‘truth booth’ is being resurrected, along with a few other activities for another great year.

 

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Many of the students returned from last year, but there were plenty of new faces that joined theIMG_20181109_085422 team this year. One of my favorite moments was when two students connected over a discussion about therapy; one student was asking questions about partial hospitalization (that means when someone can go to school or work, but still has extensive amounts of group and individual therapy, usually 3 or so hour/day) and another student willingly shared some of her own experiences. This was incredibly powerful. Stand Together sees the incredible value in youth that have experienced these difficulties, whether themselves or someone they know, and their great opportunity to enact change from a lived-perspective. Sharing our stories helps others know it’s okay to not to be okay, you’re not alone, and help is out there; it can get better. There is hope; there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

 

IMG_20181109_104449We also had a lot of fun. The ‘fan favorite’ Ships & Sailors resulted in hilarious outbursts as students dramaticized movements and reactions. We had a lot of theater participants in the room and it clearly showed! The students also learned how to work together. Like many of our groups, the Stand Together team at SAHS was a diverse team of students. But after the first day, they were well on their way to forming a unified front against stigma.

 

One of my favorite parts of the day is the time we spend inIMG_20181109_122059 circles. I know it sounds cliche, but this ‘circle time’ is where a lot of the ‘magic happens.’ Students find out that they have more in common than separates them, they get to know each other, and more importantly, they get to share pieces about themselves and how they’re going to use their passion and the information they learned to help others. This is always a moving time for me as students share things they learned, what they’re going to change, and what they’re going to contribute to the project. By the end of the second day, these students were ready to go.

 

IMG_20181116_104028These students also came up with some amazing ideas during their project piece. Using some of the activities we facilitate in trainings, as well as some creative new ideas, the students planned some amazing events for this year. We’re looking forward to this year’s visual, student activity fair, and newest version of the ‘truth booth.’ Thank you, SAHS, for not being afraid to #talkaboutit and #standtogether against stigma.

 

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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!

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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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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South Park HS Doesn’t ‘Sleep’ on their Mental Health! #staywoke

South Park HS Doesn’t ‘Sleep’ on their Mental Health! #staywoke

IMG_3404South Park High School just completed their first year of Stand Together training! Day 1 consisted of a lot of educational pieces, but the students breezed through the material because they were already so knowledgeable about mental illness, substance abuse, and stigma! They had great responses and conversations throughout day 1 about how mental illness and substance abuse affects everyone in different ways.IMG_3418

 

Day 2 consisted of project planning! Before planning, the students reviewed the material from day 1 of training through a game of Jeopardy. I was so impressed with how much information the students had retained from the following week. Later in the day the students did an activity called Common Ground. It was hilarious to see the students rushing around to try and find an empty seat and bonus – no one broke an arm! Yay!

 

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IMG_3428Once we began project planning, the students got so hyped up! They started spit balling ideas that usually a first-year school wouldn’t come up with! My team and I were extremely impressed. The students decided on introducing themselves to their student body through a donut stand during study hall periods. The slogans that the students came up with were hysterical and so clever! I cannot wait to see their projects throughout the year. South Park High School blew me away!

 

Good luck this year students. Your passion and creativity will make an enormous impact on your student body. Thank you for supporting the fight against stigma towards mental illness and substance abuse!!!

 

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Written by Lacey, trainer

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South Allegheny Junior High – Melting stigma, one hot cocoa at a time!

South Allegheny Junior High – Melting stigma, one hot cocoa at a time!

This year was South Allegheny’s first year in Stand Together. Going into the training, I was already impressed with how much information these students knew! They were able to efficiently discuss how stigma is a problem in their school and what they can do about it. While brainstorming different project ideas, the students worked together in small groups to come up with a plan. After IMG_4141the groups shared out, we combined their ideas into one and created an awesome toolkit!

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By the end of day 2, it was wonderful to see how much the students had grown in such a short amount of time. The group had a great cohesiveness that will hopefully carry out into the rest of the school. I am looking forward to seeing their projects throughout the year. Great job, South Allegheny!

 

 

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Written by Lacey, trainer

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SVMS Ironmen Interrupting Stigma

SVMS Ironmen Interrupting Stigma

Another veteran school, Steel Valley Middle School, has been with us quite some time and their projects never disappoint. From the beginning, they’ve been a Tier-3 school (the highest level we offer)-and the have some of our youngest members; Ryan’s group spans from 5th through 8th grade! Their maturity surpasses all expectations and they’ve always been a great group to work with; I’ve been lucky enough to work with them all three years I’ve been with Stand Together!

 

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Students started off their day going over some of the most popular myths and separating them from the facts in pairs. One of Stand Together’s goals is education and oftentimes, stigma is perpetuated by the inaccurate beliefs people have surrounding IMG_20181003_103811mental and substance use disorders. We discuss these with the students so that they can, in turn, address some of these myths and stigmas with their peers. In addition, we spend some time teaching students about the five most common signs of a mental health concern: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, poor self-care, and personality change. To help them remember this, we have the students repeat the five signs to a partner and give each other a high-five. Did you know that physical activity increases brain activity and your member? We do…and we use it to our advantage! Besides that, it keeps things fun; Stand Together isn’t just about learning and  sharing, but creating connections and enjoying the activities while doing so!

 

The students spend the second day designing their projects for this year. The hardest part of the day is not necessarily coming up with ideas for the projects, but voting for the ones that they want to pursue this year. They had so many great ideas, but we finally whittled it down to a do-able amount.

 

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For the first time, SVMS has gone with a sort of theme to connect their projects. Many of the members of the group are involved in basketball or cheerleading and to increase awareness, students are going to be working with these teams, as well as the art and technology departments IMG_20181009_110819to market their events. The women and men’s basketball teams will be wearing green socks and the cheerleaders will be wearing green bows to symbolize the importance of mental health. (Mental health is also closely connected with physical health, so this is a win-win!) In addition, the Stand Together team will be making announcements and have a booth at the event with their spinning wheel and other activities to engage their peers and the community. They will be having mini-basketball tournaments in homerooms to encourage social inclusion. In addition, the students will have a door decorating contest in February and, to wrap-up the year and the basketball theme, the winner of the student homeroom tournaments will play staff to promote relationships with staff and encourage students to reach out to reach out to an adult they trust when they are worried about themself or someone else. (Tier-3 schools have to incorporate all three of our goals-they certainly are!) The capstone of the day was when the students received their Stand Together wristbands-it’s official!!!

 

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The Steel Valley team has already had an opportunity to share their projects with the community. Last month, they participated in the Funder Down Under event at the Waterfront. This is an event for the community to come together and learn about the great things students and other organizations are doing. The Stand Together team printed out graphics we use with the youth during the training. They also gave away wristbands to help remember what they learned that day and ‘Lifesavers’ candies to remind others that they could be the difference in someone’s life. The students brought their spinning wheel game and frame for ‘selfies with a stranger.’ What a way to start off the year!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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