Posts Tagged recovery

World Mental Health Day 2018

World Mental Health Day 2018

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. In solidarity, people all over social media posted about their mental health experiences, spreading awareness, and working towards stopping stigma. But how do you help a person who is experiencing a mental illness? That’s where recovery comes into play.

 

WMHD blog 3More commonly than you would think, the definition of recovery is misconstrued. People think that recovery is a one-time event but really, recovery doesn’t have an end. Rather, recovery is the continuous process of improving one’s health. The goal is to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. The recovery journey is unique to each person. People will have achievements and setbacks in their recovery, but it’s all part of the process. That’s why it’s important to celebrate the progress that people make in their recovery.

 

It’s also very important to spread awareness and educate everyone about the process of recovery. That’s why we talk about recovery for not one, but two months:

 

The month of September focuses on substance use while October focuses more on mental health. Both substance use and mental health recovery maintain that recovery is an ongoing process, however substance use recovery emphasizes harm reduction and decreasing or eliminating substance use while mental health recovery aims to reduce or eliminate symptoms. This can be best achieved through a combination of medication, therapy, and rehabilitation. Just like any other illness, mental and substance use disorders can be reoccurring. That’s why it’s important to know that recovery is ongoing. Recovery is all about making connections, having hope, establishing a strong sense of self, finding meaning or purpose in what you’re doing, and being empowered. These tenants of recovery serve as a foundation for living a higher quality and healthier life.

 

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The fact that September and October are so focused on recovery gives us the opportunity to start discussions about mental health and substance use. It’s a reminder that these topics need to be talked about. Staying silent doesn’t help; stigma hurts everyone. There’s so much stigma surrounding substance use and mental health. People think that people who are experiencing substance use disorders and mental illness choose to live this way. They take the person out of the equation and use stigmatizing language like “crazy” and “junkie”, not acknowledging that whatever place these people may be in their recovery journey, they are still people-first. If we can all just make one change in our lives, how about using more thoughtful language? Take stigmatizing language out of your vocabulary and instead say “person experiencing bipolar disorder” or “person experiencing a substance use disorder.”

 

WMHD blog 4            Another important way we can help others in their recovery journey is by reaching out. If you see someone who seems socially disconnected, ask him/her how he/she is doing. These simple words can have a major impact. Isolation makes people more stressed, serving to further negatively impact people’s health. By connecting with others, we can instead help them build resiliency, the ability to cope with and adapt to challenges and change. Resilient people have a good skillset to help them deal with stress and have the motivation to begin or continue the process of recovery. Because of this, building resiliency can be the turning point in someone’s recovery.

 

Helping other people recover is what spreading awareness is all about. Whether someone is experiencing substance use disorder, mental illness, or a combination of the two, talking about not just the illness but about recovery can make a significant difference. So, reach out to someone you know and start a conversation about recovery today.

 

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Written by Leah, intern

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Suicide Prevention Week-What you need to know…

Suicide Prevention Week-What you need to know…

Suicide affects all of us. 1 in 5 teens seriously consider suicide each year. It tears a hole in our lives and communities that we can’t easily repair. That’s why preventing suicide from occurring is so important. This is especially true given that mental health is a major contributing factor in suicides.

 

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Way too often, communities keep quiet about mental health issues. There’s a stigma about openly discussing mental health and suicide. This very stigma can discourage a community or individual from implementing suicide prevention programming or seeking help. Rather than preventing suicide from happening in the first place, communities oftentimes take action after the tragedy has already occurred. However, the best place to start is before a suicide occurs. That’s where organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program come into play.

 

suicide week blog 3The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention runs programs designed to prevent suicide. These include K-12 educator trainings on detecting mental health changes in their students, presenting lectures about suicide and suicide prevention, providing mental health first aid trainings, and community-based walks that raise funds to further promote suicide prevention.

 

Similarly, the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program offers youth and teen trainings, community yellow ribbon logomember trainings, trainings for educators, and suicide prevention cards that encourage youth to seek help from community members when they are experiencing thoughts of suicide.

 

Both organizations aim to prevent suicide. This single goal is so important that it has an entire month (September) dedicated to recognizing the prevalence, need for resources, and opportunities to intervene before an event occurs. If that doesn’t speak to the importance of suicide prevention, then what does?

 

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Each and every one of us is responsible for creating an environment where suicide is not seen as a viable option. It’s important to speak up about suicide. Stifling the conversation only serves to make suicide seem like something it’s not. Suicide is not an escape from the awful parts of life or a way to win. Suicide is a loss of what could have been and an end to what was. There is no coming back. And that’s why we place so much emphasis on prevention rather than intervention. We can’t stop what has happened, but we sure can stop it from happening in the future. So this September, talk about suicide and prevention because as long as the conversation continues, change will happen.

 

suicide week blog 5If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There are trained professionals that want to talk to you. Even when you think no one is there, there is hope. You’re not alone. We’re here for you.

 

Written by Leah, intern

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Guest Blog: Let’s talk about African American Men’s Mental Health

Guest Blog: Let’s talk about African American Men’s Mental Health

As we come to the end of Men’s Health Month, I wanted to talk about mental health from my perspective. I hope that in doing so you might find the common thread of human experience that binds us as a society.  In writing this, may I first say that I am not an expert on mental health.   However, I do get to play one at work each day in my role as a Recovery Specialist. Anyone who knows me will confirm my lack of authority on the topic, so I am in no position to preach to anyone.  However, I am quite willing to talk about what I know best, my story. My story is common in the African American male community.  You’ve seen it or presumed it, men neglecting their mental health to the detriment of their family, community and society.  I was no different, I waited until I was 50 and out of functional relationships to wake up and address a few things.

 

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I am a strong African-American Man. I am the parent of children who have grown up to contribute to the world.  I breezed through grad school with a 3.75. I’ve had a success filled career in Education and Mental Health Services that has lasted over 30 years.  I coached a high school basketball team that scored 82.0 points per game with only one player over 6’.  I was hit by a moving train and walked away relatively unharmed (and because of that).  I have earned the right to wear a cape and a big S for ‘superhero’ on my chest.

 

MMH blog 1Also, I am an African American male with a mental illness: depression. I have spent my share of hours in the therapist’s office.  I know recovery for me, is a process I must work on daily. At times, it takes a village to keep me on task.

I used to be ashamed and secretive of the reality of having depression, but now I’m proud of the life I live.  Now my life is an integrated whole, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I know that pushing aside the leotard to reveal the inner workings of the person behind the S does not make me any less of a strong African American male.  Superhero status is not really required.  I cannot save the world and often I am the one who needs saving.  Like many people, I once felt that having a mental illness was a sign of weakness. So I avoided treatment.

 

As a mental health professional, I spent lots of time convincing people otherwise, but when it was my turn I felt going to the psychiatrist was a sign of failure.   I tried MMH blog 4running, yoga, drinking, smoking, meditation and most of self-help books in the Carnegie Library catalog.  Anything but mainstream medical attention.  I did not want to go to a psychiatrist because “nothing is wrong with me I’m not crazy!” But I had no issue going to the dentist, my primary care doctor, or orthopedist.

 

Like many African American males, I stigmatized mental illness in a way we do not stigmatize obesity, diabetes, hypertension and so many chronic and life-threatening illnesses prevalent in our community.  We take pills to lose weight or lower our blood pressure but not to get or stay mentally well.  According to the mythology that surrounds the strength of African American men, “falling apart” is just not something we do.  We survived the Middle Passage, slavery, racial oppression, economic deprivation and a few political campaigns.  We know how to “handle our business”, “be a man” but we see therapy as the domain of “weak”, neurotic people who don’t know what “real problems” are.

 

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So how do African American men begin to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so that we can get the help we need and support those who might need it? May I offer a few suggestions?

  • Talk about it.

  • Don’t whisper or gossip about it.

  • Talk about it at the party.

  • Talk about it at church.

  • Talk about it on TV/the radio/social media

  • With our loved ones

  • With our doctors

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If we can talk about our high blood pressure, our asthma, our lung cancer we can talk about our depression. Support each other in getting help.  We send friends to the doctor for nagging back pain, so send them to get relief from their mental and emotional pain too.  And don’t forget to be a friend and ask them how they are doing from time to time.  Don’t stigmatize the brain!  It is attached to the body, so mental illness is a physical illness.

 

Finally, support people who share their stories of mental health disorders.  It is time to show that the faces and lives of African Americans with mental illness are not just the faces and the lives of the homeless person talking to the unseen.  It is my face and my life and the faces and lives of others just like me.  “Coming out” requires courage.  Like any other consciousness raising process, a range of role models who represent a variety of experiences with mental illness will change perceptions.

 

As a local community we have a list of accomplished African American men to inspire us in our various endeavors.  Andrew McCutchen, Ju Ju Smith-Schuster and Coach Tomlin come immediately to mind.  We need a list of African Americans with mental illness who survived and thrived. No doubt MMH blog 3due to stigma it was difficult to find the names of locally well-known African Americans with a “confirmed” history of mental illness and this is not the place for gossip or rumor, so I will start the list with me:

 

My name is Bill Boyce and I have depression.  I am a father, athlete, artist, writer, musician, social activist, mental health professional and as sane and happy a person as you would ever want to meet. My mental health disorder does not define who I am.

 

-Written by Bill, STU Recovery Specialist

 

 

(The images above are African American males that have shared their experiences with mental health conditions: Kid Cudi, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, Wayne Brady, Jay-Z, and Brandon Marshall)

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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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