Posts Tagged recovery

PRIDE: Let’s talk about LGBTQ+ Mental Health

PRIDE: Let’s talk about LGBTQ+ Mental Health

As Pride wraps up for the year, I find myself to proud of how far Pittsburgh has come in supporting its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, etc. (LGBTQ+) population. Pride serves as a platform for LGBTQ+ people to combat the prejudice and discrimination they face on a daily basis with positivity, love and dignity. Seeing an increase in support for Pride from the general public and businesses this year, as well as rainbow lights shining at City Hall, has been a step in the right direction. Thousands marched at Pittsburgh Pride Parade this past Sunday in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

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LGBTQ blog 2But Pride isn’t something that LGBTQ+ people can turn to for support year round. Therefore, when LGBTQ+ people are targeted and socially discriminated against, it can leads to an increase in suicidal ideation; LGBTQ+ youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide. Fortunately, resources like The Trevor Project [1-866-488-7386] and the Trans Lifeline [(877) 565-8860] provide support for LGBTQ+ youth. Family acceptance and social support also help to protect against mental illness, including depression and anxiety, as well as help to prevent suicidal behavior and substance abuse. In addition, acceptance can allow LGBTQ+ people to have greater access to healthcare resources.

 

Acceptance is so important when it comes to both LGBTQ+ identities and mental illness because of the stigma attached to both communities. The fear of what others may think if you come out as being LGBTQ+ or having mental illness is bad enough that people don’t get help . Concealing one’s mental health concerns, however, makes it difficult to receive help or be referred to vital resources. This is where a local organization like PERSAD CENTER comes into play.

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PERSAD works to connect LGBTQ+ people of all ages to the resources they need. These resources include counseling, affordable services, giving aid to individualsLGBTQ blog 1 who seek to change their lives (perhaps along the lines of substance abuse recovery), and more. Having an LGBTQ+ centered organization like PERSAD provide counseling is a game changer. People who face stigma both from their LGBTQ+ identity and mental health status can get the help they need without worrying about the social discrimination and prejudice they could face from a regular counselor. PERSAD serves as a safe space. More information about their counseling services can be found by calling 412-441-9786 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm).

 

Additional resources like Pride, The Trevor Project, the Trans Lifeline, and PERSAD CENTER provide LGBTQ+ people who lack access to more traditional healthcare resources with the support they need to freely celebrate their identity, overcome adversity, and live a healthier life. The public must support these resources to improving the health of LGBTQ+ people. For more information about The Trevor Project and the Trans Lifeline, please read below.

 

LGBTQ blog 5The Trevor Project [1-866-488-7386] provides support for LGBTQ+ youth under the age of 25 through a 24-hour phone, chat (3pm-10pm daily), and texting (Monday-Friday, 3pm-10pm) services with counselors. The project also offers peer-to-peer support through TrevorSpace.

 

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The Trans Lifeline [(877) 565-8860] is specifically geared towards transgender people who are going through a crisis, dealing with gender identity confusion and self-harm prevention. The Trans Lifeline is a phone line open 18 hours daily (11am to 5am).

 

 

Written by Leah, STU intern

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Arsenal MS addresses stigma-one ‘kuppa Kool-Aid’ at a time!

Arsenal MS addresses stigma-one ‘kuppa Kool-Aid’ at a time!

Arsenal MS is no stranger to Stand Together, but this year they definitely amped up their game. Although they are a small group, they are mighty and the diversity really propels the group to explore MH in a new way.

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Stand Together students held three Kool-Aid Stands (‘Aid’-like assistance, get it? haha) this past Spring to promote access to resources and social inclusion, two of Stand Together’s three goals. In the past, the Arsenal team had focuses only on education/awareness, so this definitely brought stopping stigma at their school to a whole new level, by making it ‘okay to not be okay’ and ‘okay to get help.’

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The Stand Together team posted the pledge and a signed poster with easy ways to remember their cause:

1) I will end stigma towards youth and adults with mental illness!
2) Caring friends make all the difference in a person’s recovery.
3) I will NOT tease youth and adults with mental illness!
4) If my friend is in danger, I will try to get them help!
5) I will NOT use mean words towards ANYONE.

DSCN1165Students moved though two stations, one for each goal. At the first stations, students signed the Stand Together pledge to receive a green wristband, representing Mental Health Awareness. These bracelets served as a reminder of what the students ‘signed on’ for that day. Students then proceeded to the actual Stand, where they had to show their wristband to get a ‘kuppa Kool-Ade.’ Students were also handed a slip with a mental health/crisis resource on it. cropped slipsThese slips included information on re:SOLVE crisis center/hotline, the crisis text-line (741-741), ‘Safe Places,’ and the school resource lead, Mr. McCarthy (who is also Stand Together’s advisor!)

 

The student body sipped their Kool-Ade while learning how to stop stigma in their school. The group even got to do two of their events outside-talk about promoting mental health and self-care!!! We look forward to working with Arsenal again next year. Thanks for all your hard work, team! Kudos!

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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WBD Day 2018: What you need to know about Bipolar Disorder

WBD Day 2018: What you need to know about Bipolar Disorder

Today is the fifth-annual World Bipolar Day, an annual global campaign to raise awareness about bipolar disorder and eliminate stigma. It is celebrated every year on the birthday of artist Vincent van Gogh, a famous Dutch painter diagnoses with bipolar disorder that died by suicide after struggling with psychosis. Bipolar disorder affects around 3.4 million children and adolescents.3.30 bipolar blog 5 Although mood swings are typical in adolescence, when these start to affect the individual’s life on a daily basis, this can be cause for concern. Famous recording artist Demi Lovato has also become a strong public advocate as well.

 

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by period of mania (hyperactivity, impulsivity, reckless behavior, high energy, lack of sleep) and depression (little activity, anxiety, potentially suicidal thoughts/self-harm, low energy, and often increased sleep). Some forms of bipolar disorder also include psychotic episodes, when people can experience hallucinations, delusions, and odd thoughts/ideas. As you can imagine, this is a complex and difficult disorder for youth to experience, especially if they’re experiencing these symptoms for the first time on adolescence. (Click the roller coaster below!)

 

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There is a lot of stigma associated with bipolar disorder. How many times have you heard the word bipolar used as an adjective to describe someone that changes their mind often or when the 3.30 bipolar blog 1weather is unpredictable? Using these words can be offensive to individuals that are affected by BD (bipolar disorder). Although known for their rapid changes in mood, mania and depression typically change only several times a year or at most a month. These transitions can be exceptionally difficult and confusing.

 

The good news is-like most mental health disorders-bipolar disorder can be treated and recovery is possible. For most individuals, a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective. Medicines may include things like mood stabilizers to help even things out and anti-depressants to help with the lows that can be more difficult. The medication isn’t a ‘magic pill;’ the individual may still experience symptoms, but it helps them become more manageable. Therapy includes cognitive behavioral interventions that may help manage the individual’s thoughts, moods, and behaviors. These types of therapies help the individuals cope with the changes and intense feelings that they experience and help them to challenge their thoughts, which, in turn, impacts their moods and behaviors.

 

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I myself have been diagnoses with bipolar disorder. As a teenager and young adult, I was afraid to seek help; I was scared that everyone was going to think I was ‘crazy‘ and getting help was a sign of weakness in3.30 bipolar blog 3 my family. A lot of that was from stigmaEven though I was clearly suffering, I was unable to get the help I needed until much later in life. Now, despite these challenges, I am a successful adult. I have a job I love, I’m getting married in December, and I frequently share my story to help decrease the stigma associated with this and other mental health conditions. Sometimes I still struggle, but I have a great support system, I can always reach out to my therapist and psychiatrist, and have the tools and coping skills I need to overcome the bumps that come along the way. There may be potholes, but I can dig myself out.

 

For more information, check out these websites:

3.30 bipolar blog 6Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)-particularly the Young Adult section

TeenMentalHealth.org

the National Institute of Mental Health

Inside our Minds bipolar disorder podcast

#worldbipolarday #bipolarstrong #strongerthanstigma #socializehope

 

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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ED: What You Need to Know About Eating Disorders

ED: What You Need to Know About Eating Disorders

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Although our program doesn’t go into depth about this mental health condition, it is important to be educated and aware as much as possible. This week is a great time to learn about eating disorders.

 

ED blog 6An eating disorder is a serious condition in which an individual is preoccupied with food and weight that the person can often focus on nothing else. These can cause serious physical problems and can even be life threatening. The biggest stigmas surrounding eating disorders are: “Why can’t you just eat?” and “Why can’t you stop eating?” But ED are real mental health conditions and need to be discussed seriously and with support, hope, and encouragement.

 

Our culture has complicated relationships with food, exercise, and appearance. 30 million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that have untold negative impacts on their lives.

 

Obviously, ED is short for eating disorder and many individuals with this condition talk about it as a person controlling their thoughts to obsess over their physical appearance, referring to him/her as “Ed.” Sometimes, personifying something, such as an illness, makes it easier to understand, cope with symptoms, and engage in recovery.

 

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This week, ED have been featured in many media outlets. Teen Vogue published a great article  on the myths surrounding eating disorders. You can find the article here. In addition, YouTube phenomenon and musician Lindsey Stirling is hosting a Facebook Live! tomorrow, Feb. 28 at 3:30p discussing her eating disorder and recovery. It can also be found at the Child Mind website if you don’t have Facebook (yeah right! haha). There are many celebrities that have shared their struggles and recovery as well, including: Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars), Lily Collins (Netflix’s To the Bone), Zayn Malik (One Direction-yes, men also experience ED!), Demi Lovato (in addition to substance use and bipolar d/o), Ke$ha, and Shawn Johnson (Olympic gymnast).

 

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Zayn Malik attends the 7th Annual amfAR Inspiration Gala at Skylight at Moynihan Station on June 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Tachman/Getty Images)

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Although there are many different kinds of eating disorders, what’s important for us is to recognize the 5 signs (of MHC), have empathy (check out this video for a young person’s experience), and know how to talk and support someone with an ED. As always, if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know, it’s important to reach out to an adult you trust.

 

For more information about eating disorders, click here. (SAMHSA)

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health

Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health
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Danyelle sharing a part of her recovery story at When the Holidays Hurt…

For most, the holidays are a time of great joy, excitement, and family fun, but for many of us, the holidays hurt. They’re hard. They’re not ‘pretty presents wrapped up in a bow’ or feel-good festivities, but sources of pain, struggle, and/or sadness. Memories of a lost loved one, negative feelings/experiences, and expectations can make it difficult to enjoy this time of the year. I shared my experiences last night at a Human Library presentation; we’re not alone in our struggle. Some of us, myself included, also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means that when the sun is in low supply and it’s cold and dreary, our mental health takes a nose dive. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to consume us. Whether you have a mental health condition or not, there are things you can do to de-stress and engage in acts of self-care to promote positive mental health over this season.

1.  It’s OKAY to take a break from family, especially if they challenge your mental health. You can do this respectfully by setting boundaries and limits. It’s okay to politely excuse yourself for a few moments (or longer) to collect yourself, reconnect, and reboot.

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2. Back to Basics: self-care also includes eating healthy foods, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep. Putting yourself first is not selfish; it’s necessary. It’s okay to indulge in some holiday treats-Hello! Christmas Cookies!-but we like to stick to an 80-20 rule (80% clean/healthy, 20% not so much).

REI-_OptOutside_Anthem_Film_153. Get Outside! Remember REI’s catch-phrase #optoutside? Even though sunshine is hard to come by this time of the year, getting some fresh air is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Be mindful of your surroundings: What do you smell? Hear? See? Feel? Embrace the now! Pet that dog (probably ask first). Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Take a good wiff of that bakery-it’s okay to stop in for a treat too :)

4. Do what YOU do! Make sure to engage in activities you enjoy. Read a book, watch a movie, knit, bake…whatever you like to do, make time for you! Little moments of stability can do wonders for your mood.

5. Be mindful. Savor the good times. Stay positive; surround yourself with positive people, if you can. Make time for those friends you haven’t seen in a while or spend some time with that favorite relative. Our perspective determines our reality; if we’re looking for good things, we’ll be able to find them. Practice gratitude and celebrate the small things. Imperfections are a part of the ride and they don’t define the event/who you are.

expecations6. Set realistic expectations. Society bombards us of the idea of this ‘perfect family holiday’ where everyone holds hands and sings Christmas carols around the tree, everyone laughs around a huge table of food, and everything is red and green and lit-up and glorious. Let’s face it-this isn’t real. Everyone is unique and every family is different. When we expect too much, we miss out on little things that could be great experiences. It’s easier said than done (trust me, this is a hard one!), but it’s important to remember that it will pass and to make the most of the situation as it is, not what we expect/would want it to be.

 

Family is messy. The holidays can be stressful, to say the least. But YOU CAN DO IT! Take care of yourself first and foremost. You are important! You deserve a HAPPY HOLIDAY.

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Written by Danyelle. Project Coordinator

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Arsenal MS (PPS)-We are all human. We are people-first.

Arsenal MS (PPS)-We are all human. We are people-first.

Diversity is important and the student population at Arsenal is definitely not lacking in this area. There are over 26 countries represented and the students learn to acknowledge and appreciate various cultures-and we helped them acknowledge mental health and substance use disorders. Stigma doesn’t just apply to individuals with mental health concerns, but can be applied to any stereotyped group, whether it by culture, race, religion, gender identification, etc. The Stand Together team was a very multi-faceted group and they were excited to reach their students on another level.

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In our trainings, we involve the students in the discussions as much as possible while blending physical and team-building activity in additional to the educational pieces. Students count off to represent the ratio of 1:4 adolescents affected by a mental health condition in a given year. They raised their hands to express that they had experienced feelings of anxiety and sadness. They jumped up and down and held their breath to understand that mental illnesses are invisible and simulate the feelings one might experience during a panic attack. Even though we have a lot of fun, we’re learning important skills throughout the day that they will share with their classmates after the workshops.

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One of my favorite things is to participate in the activities with the students, especially during the ‘Walk in my shoes…‘ empathy activity. I love getting to know the members on a personal level and finding out what we have in common. The students really enjoy finding ‘Common Ground‘ with each other and we all realize that we have more in common than we have different. We are all human. We are all people-first, regardless of our background or whether or not we have a mental health condition.

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20171115_122948Our TAs, Alex, also shared his recovery story. The students related to the discrimination he received for not only being an African American, but also having a mental illness as well. 20171115_181625Although Cross the Line was very difficult at first, students were very moved by the activity and stunned by the results. At the end of the workshops, students displayed a great knowledge about mental health and substance use disorders and were ready to take what they learned and Speak up! and Speak out! against stigma-they just need to decide what they want to give away (sometimes that’s the hardest part!)

 

Written by Coordinator & Trainer, Danyelle

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Steel Valley Ironmen Building Bridges to End Stigma (MS)

Steel Valley Ironmen Building Bridges to End Stigma (MS)

If you’re from anywhere around Pittsburgh and/or familiar with the NFL, you’re familiar with Pittsburgh’s history, coining the name, The Steel City. Steel Valley MS’s Ironmen have been using their knowledge and training for the past three years to combat stigma in their schools by building bridges between students, promoting social inclusion, awareness, and encouraging students to reach out to an adult when they’re worried about their own or someone else’s mental health. (If you didn’t know, bridges are typically made out of steel or iron ‘I-beams,’ hence the pun. I crack myself up :)

20171011_095309Anyways…A lot of the students had returned from the program before, but after the summary, we had a lot of review to do! Students participated fully in all the activities and were quick to re-learn the myths and facts surround mental health, substance use disorders, and stigma. Students always love BINGO (as do adults!) and experienced a glimpse of what anxiety feels like when students were asked to demonstrate who 20171011_101238could hold their breath the longest and analyze the difficult feelings and sensations they experienced when they were running out of breath. Stand Together participants engage in activities that teach the students empathy; even though these exercises aren’t close to experiencing a disorder, they help the students understand what someone might be going through a little better.

Students also learn the difference between intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions. These are easily confused, but we teach the students to remember that intellectual=intelligence (or IQ)-while pointing to their eyes and brains, since physical activity helps memory. In addition, the students learn that individuals with mental health conditions have varying levels of intelligence just like the general population, re-instilling the idea that individuals with these disorders are just like everyone else and are people-first, who just happen to have a disorder like any physical condition.

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Students heard Danyelle’s story of recovery and many students related to her struggles and experience. This is always a very powerful and important part of the Stand Together workshop. After this activity we follow with another impactful 20171011_120456activity, Cross the Line, in which students confront stereotypes they may have and learn that they have more in common than they could ever imagine. That is what ends stigma: knowing that ‘we all bleed the same‘ and we’re all in this together. A person is a person, no matter what they might be dealing with and we are all experiencing some of the same struggles; you are never alone.

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Project planning is always my favorite part of the whole experience and the students came up with tons of great ideas, including a movie night, a mental health fair, and a bake sale, and a sporting event. Students research budgets, resources, and outreach prospects to finish the planning process. We had so much fun and I can’t wait to see their projects in action in the spring. Shout-out to Ms. Dunmire and the students for all their hard work! Kudos!

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(Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator & Trainer)

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NEW Trainer: Meet Lacey Agresta!

NEW Trainer: Meet Lacey Agresta!

Hey ya’ll! My name is Lacey Agresta and I am a project trainer with Stand Together. The end goal of my job is to break down stigma and educate our youth about mental health and substance use. I achieve this by going into classrooms all around Allegheny County and facilitate workshops.

In 2014, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Florida State University. I started my career as a case manager for children and families who were involved in the court system. After that I was employed by an elementary school, focusing on absenteeism within the student body. I realized then that my passion was working with youth. When I found my current position as a Recovery Specialist, I knew my move to Pittsburgh was for a reason; to spread the word about mental illness and hopefully help one person who is facing challenges in their own life.

What makes me such an expert on this subject? Well, I have suffered with mental health disorders my entire life. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, and ADHD in my early teens. When I’m not focusing on my recovery, I am extremely anti-social, tired, agitated, nervous, unable to focus on one task, not sleeping, and many more symptoms that caused impairment in my everyday life. These symptoms led me to abuse drugs to numb my pain, thus causing me to eventually become addicted. My recovery came slowly, but I didn’t give up on it like I had done so many times before throughout my youth. I surrounded myself with people that loved me and supported me throughout my journey. My parents helped as best as they could, but they weren’t experts on recovery and they didn’t understand the kind of support I needed; they also had mental health issues of their own. Luckily, I had other adults that were professionals in this field that stood by my side and never gave up on me, even when I would mess up. I listened to them and did what they told me to do, even if I didn’t want to. I knew that I could not do this on my own and I had to put my ego aside. Today I live a beautiful life and I never take one day for granted. If I could get through it and come out of the other side, anyone can.

I’m originally from Bradenton, Florida and just recently moved to Pittsburgh in April 2017. I currently live in Dormont with my boyfriend and our fur-babies, Armani and Biggie. Most of my time is spent outside exercising, exploring the town, or cuddling up on the couch with my pup!

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“You were never created to live depressed, guilty, condemned, ashamed, or unworthy. You were created to be victorious.”

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