Posts Tagged myths

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

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Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Students at Montour HS started bright and early the last two weeks, waking up their minds and bodies, getting to know each other, and starting to plan some incredible projects to educate their peers about mental and substance use disorders, decrease stigma by promoting social inclusion and increasing awareness, and encourage students to form relationships with adults to feel comfortable reaching out if/when they need help. 7:30 AM is early-but these youth were ready to go!

Team members were all-in from the get-go, but really enjoyed the physical games. Matching the diagnosis to the definition encouraged teamwork and tested their knowledge, while Sparkle assessed their understanding of key concepts. It was evident from the first day that the students felt a large part of the stigma in their school stemmed from the myths that perpetuate our society. We form our beliefs in many different ways: from our parents, our friends, past experiences, the media-but these ideas may or may not be true. Stand Together workshops spend a lot of time talking about what stigma looks like and how it affects individuals, oftentimes preventing them from getting help; student projects are all about decreasing this stigma and one of the ways Montour participants wanted to challenge this stigma was by demystifying mental health and confronting these myths head-on.

Students spent the second workshop in small groups working on a giveaway, a ‘truth booth,’ and a staff-student activity to engage their peers and address Stand Together’s three goals. A fan-favorite is always the Food4Thought toolkit, which utilizes incentives to entice students to have a conversation about mental health and stigma. Students were excited to think about the possibility of having students spin a wheel to decide whether a statement was a myth or fact to receive a cookie, or whether they would give away pins and ‘Put a Pin in Stigma.’ Other students were passionate about spreading awareness by creating a visual and making sure teachers and staff were informed and ready to assist students that might be struggling. We left the second day with concrete plans for six projects and it’s up to the group to decide which three (or four 🙂 ) projects they want to implement this year.

All in all the group had so much fun learning about mental health and each other and getting ready to work to end stigma in their school. Each student left with a clear commitment to how they were going to use their skills and talents within their service-learning projects. We can’t wait to see your projects in action soon! (And of course we’ll have a blog for you, too!)

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Flashback Friday: Propel MS: #itsokaytonotbeokay

Flashback Friday: Propel MS: #itsokaytonotbeokay

Although it was Propel-Braddock Hills Middle School’s first year in the program, advisors Amand and Danielle really worked hard with their students to make it a good one-and they definitely succeeded. This diverse group became a team over the year, student leaders stepped up, and stigma was challenged in their school. They chose the Food 4 Thought toolkit and got to work right away. They finished the year with three unique projects that addressed myths, provided information, and promoted social inclusion.

 

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For their first project, students researched facts on mental illness and substance use disorders. AtDSCN1184 lunch, they walked around and shared facts with their peers. Students then went to get lemonade and a wristband with #itsokaytonotbeokay after they shared something they learned.

 

DSCN1204For their second project, students created a myth vs. fact and sorting game on mental illness. The student body identified what was a myth and what was a fact and after successfully completing the game, they received a sports drink and a wristband. There was also a station to sign the pledge.

 

 

 

Lastly, the student leaders created a Kahoot! game to test the student body’s knowledge on mental illness. After the activity, they were able to visit a station to get a “Keep Calm and Stop Stigma” temporary tattoo. (BTW, these were super cool!)

 

The glow-in-the-dark wristbands were a gentle reminder that #itsokaytonotbeokay and to create a safe environment to stop stigma. So many people are affected by mental illness and many times, they don’t know who to reach out to or how to deal with the symptoms. Educating students and engaging them in a service-learning project encourages students to speak up and work together in way that can-and do-create change. Schools are changing people’s perceptions and view on mental illness in positive ways. Their messages are not only motivational, but educational and engaging.

 

Props to Propel MS for a prosperous first year! We’re so proud of you!

 

 

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week 2017

National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week 2017

National Drug & Alcohol Facts week occurs every year on the last full week of January. This intervention aims to links students with info to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music, or from friends. It’s an opportunity for teens to shatter the myths about substance us and educate others on how drugs affect the brain, body, and behaviors. Look at the past month’s drug use among high school seniors, more than 5% misuse prescriptions drugs; more than 20% smoke marijuana, and 35% have drank alcohol. Those aren’t small numbers! And many teens aren’t aware of the short- and long-term risks associated with substance use during adolescence.

Check out this video:

Let’s Shatter the Myths below:

1-27-17 blog mj iq1. Myth: Smoking marijuana does not affect your intelligence.
Fact: Persistent cannabis users can have neuropsychological (brain power) decline.

2. Myth: Drinking at a young age doesn’t make you more prone to addiction.
Fact: 4 out of 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually end up becoming addicted.

3. Myth: Smokeless tobacco cannot cause cancer.
Fact: Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of many types of cancer, including oral cancers. Just because there’s12-17-17 blog tobacco no smoke, doesn’t mean there’s no harm!

4. Myth: Substance abuse and addiction are the same thing.
Fact: Substance abuse generally refers to the misuse of drugs while still being able to experience the euphoric effects. Substance addiction is a physical, chemical dependence on a substance to avoid withdrawal. Individuals can easily progress from abuse to addiction in the right circumstances.

1-27-17 blog substance use before 185. Myth: You can’t become addicted a substance after one try.
Fact: Some substances are so toxic that your body is permanently altered after the first time. Experimentation with substances is never a good idea; even though some things are legal, it doesn’t mean that they are safe.

6. Myth: Once someone is addicted, they can’t return to sobriety.
Fact: Recovery is ALWAYS possible! Through hard work, determination, hope, professional assistance, and community support, individuals can achieve sobriety and lead healthy lives.

7. Myth: There is a gene for addiction.
Fact: Geneticists have identified approximately 40 genes that may have some connection, but there is no simple, predictable combination. Although there is some genetic tendency toward substance use, environmental and personal choice are essential factors.

That’s just a few of the myths that exist. Join us as we shatter the myths to prevent substance use!

1-27-17 blog major risk factors

Thanks to the National Institutes of Health & on Drug Abuse for these facts and info. To learn more about NDAFW, click here.

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