Posts Tagged shame

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!




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!!!




Written by Lacey, trainer

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WMHS: Breaking the Silence-for the Sixth Year!

WMHS: Breaking the Silence-for the Sixth Year!

West Mifflin High School has been with Stand Together from the start and each year they continue to amaze us with their student’s passion and drive for ending stigma in their schools. Each year, they’ve created a sort of Breaking the Silence week or day in which they spend discussing mental health in a positive way and spreading awareness of stigma-and how to stop it. One of Stand Together’s mottos is: ‘Stigma causes shame. Shame causes silence. Silence hurts us all.’ West Mifflin is yet again breaking down barriers to decrease stigma and increase education/awareness, social inclusion, and help-seeking behaviors.


IMG_20180928_132621WMHS is usually our largest group and this year they had 41 students participate in the two-day workshops. Many of the students had been in the program before, but there were also a large portion that this was their first year in the program-even some seniors! Students were selected by the program by an application process that hones in on the goals of Stand Together and how participants can be effective ‘change-makers’ in their school. This group was excited, prepared, and vocal for both days of the training.


Although the school has been in the program for a long time, it was empowering to hear that some of the students felt that this was the tightest group so far. Although they were quiet at first (I had to pass around a happy sparkle stick so they’d all participate!), they bonded a great deal throughout the day and some students remarked that they had learned more than they ever had. This year, we added additional information about specific diagnoses and substances to the training, as well as scenarios that encouraged the students to assess the signs of emotional concern and determine how they would approach that individual, what they would say, and how they would use S.H.E. (support, hope, and encouragement) to reach out to that person. The students came up with very compassionate, empathetic, and supportive responses and I’m sure they would be ready if they were in a situation in which they were concerned about themselves or someone else.

The second workshop, as always, is the ‘fan favorite.’ We didn’t even get through the rest of the training, as the students were so excited and into project ideas and planning! Typically the group does a few large events and several small events each year. By the end of the day, the IMG_20181011_103049students had come up with concrete plans for five projects and had planned on working on a couple more throughout the year. This year, they will be bringing back the balloon release, truth booth, and an assembly. In a twist to their traditional ‘Break the Silence’ event, they will be engaging students in an activity to get to know other students that they did not know and find things they have in common. The team also want to have a concert-style event with participants from the school band, chorus, and drama departments, as well as recovery speakers and activities. It’s going to be a HUGE endeavor, but the students are incredibly dedicated to make this happen.


It was definitely emotional, exciting, and inspiring two days of training and WMHS is well on there way to having another great year-it could be their best yet!




Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Flashback Friday: Shaler HS Sticks it to Stigma!

Flashback Friday: Shaler HS Sticks it to Stigma!

This past year was Shaler Area High School’s first year and they did not disappoint-AND they’re bringing their Middle School with them this year! This team did an absolutely amazing job organizing and facilitating their projects and it’s been such a pleasure working with their dedicated advisors. Here’s a glimpse of what you missed:


The Semicolon Project (;):

To spark interest in the group and start the conversation about mental health, students placed green posters on every fourth locker to represent the 1 in 4 youth that are affected by a mental or substance use disorder in a given year. The posters read:

Semicolon (;) — where the author could have ended the sentence…but didn’t.

You don’t suffer alone.

Many of their peers were familiar with the Semicolon Project, a national campaign to end suicide, and started asking them about Stand Together and what they were going to do next.


Take a Bite out of Stigma:

Students created an elaborate scheme to get their fellow students to learn about mental health. Students were enticed by the rows of cookies at the ST table, but quickly found out they would not come for free. Instead of coins, the Stand Together team was asking for real change-in thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. To receive a cookie, each student had to reach into a bag and grab a slip of paper. On that paper was a myth and a fact about mental and substance use disorders. Students had to read the statements out loud and were then able to receive a cookie. What a great idea! (Random fact: if you read something out loud, you’re 4x more likely to remember it!)


You’re Not Alone-Look at the Numbers:

Although it was their first year, students decided to do a very intimate activity. Following the basic outline of a ‘truth booth,’ and Steel Valley HS’s project two years ago, the team set-up a stand in the cafeteria. On the table were sticky notes of various colors, each representing a different connection to mental and substance use disorders:

  • pink-personally affected by mental illness

  • yellow-personally affected by addiction

  • blue-know someone affected by mental illness

  • lime green-know someone affected by addiction

  • orange-felt excluded or disadvantaged



The participation and the impact were phenomenal. Not only were students using the sticky notes anonymously, as suggested, but some even felt comfortable enough writing the name or relationship of the person they knew that is affected. The most moving piece for me was a lime green sticky that read: Mom RIP 1.28.18, signifying that this individual had lost his mother to death by substance use. It was incredibly powerful seeing the students literally ‘stick it to stigma’ by sharing their own struggles and truly discovered that no one is alone. (On a fun note, they also gave out lollipops as ‘suckers to stop stigma.’ What a creative group! Check out the video below:


I’m so proud of Shaler. The passion of both their advisors and their students is phenomenal and I can’t wait to work with them again this year. I just know they’re going to have another impactful year! See you soon, SAHS team!!!


Written by Danyelle, 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!)


3.30 bipolar blog 2


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.


3.30 bipolar blog feature


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

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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Propel MS: Courage & Hope

Propel MS: Courage & Hope

“Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

This quote was on the wall when we entered Propel: Braddock Hills Middle School and it inspired us as we prepared for our day. Courage and hope are HUGE parts of tearing down stigma and we were ready to work to instill these values in our group!

20171207_093203For many of the students in this group, it was the first time they had came in contact with each other. Sure, they may have passed each other in the hall, but many of them didn’t know each 20171207_103326other. That was definitely going to change by the end of the trainings. Students enjoyed tossing the ball around to talk about their favorite holiday memory, moving seats in Common Ground, and partnering-up to learn about the 5 Signs and empathy.20171205_111155





Although they’re long days, the students were eager to share their thoughts and ideas with the group and participate. Even if it got a little bit rowdy at times, we encourage the students to have fun, make new friends, and speak up when they have something to say-and they had a lot to say! :)


After much discussion and hard work, the students came up with and presented six exciting ideas to the group. We’re still not quite sure which one they’ll choose, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be awesome!


Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Shaler Students 'Show-up' Stigma by Speaking Out

Shaler Students 'Show-up' Stigma by Speaking Out

Many of the students in our Shaler HS group participate in the musical, so we know they like to ‘show-off,’ but they are also very passionate about mental health and speaking up to end the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders. They are more than excited to ‘show-up,’ ‘step-up,’ and speak out against stigma in creative ways. Even though it’s their first year in Stand Together, they definitely won’t disappoint!


These students love to have fun (check out how they play Ships and Sailors above! haha), but they also worked very hard to learn the material, participate actively in the discussions, and make new friends. The students were incredibly vulnerable with each other and shared many difficult experiences, which brought the group closer together and was very moving for the students, advisors, and myself.








20171201_104737I’ve been working with the students specifically on the goals of Stand Together: education/awareness, social inclusion, and ask-an-adult, but also trying to combine them all together to create a project that reflects the students concerns by asking them to finish the statement: ‘I want my peers to know…’ Students then use these ideas to design and focus their projects on what’s important to them. Making sure the students have a voice is an important part of Stand Together. When students are passionate about a cause, they will stop at nothing to achieve success. This Shaler group was no different!

Although it’s their first year, Shaler HS decided to do 3 projects, starting small and 20171201_110318culminating with a serious, social inclusion activity. These students are going to use The Semicolon Project to connect all their projects together and stress that no one is alone and that every life matters. They also plan to build momentum by using the ‘element of surprise’ by hanging up semicolons across the school with no words, just the date of their first event and #stand2getherpgh. Would you expect any less than theatrics from this group? :)

We can’t wait to see how this project unfolds over the course of the year, especially the social inclusion poster project. Ideas like these remind us that this is such an important endeavor and our students are making strides in decreasing stigma, one school at a time. Thanks for all your work! ‘Break a leg’ at the musical and we’ll see your projects in March!


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ECS: Catalyst, Character, Collaboration, & Commitment

ECS: Catalyst, Character, Collaboration, & Commitment

Okay, okay…Those are some heavy words, right? Those are the four things Environmental Charter School has committed to providing for it’s students. But what do they mean?!
catalyst: to start something, like stopping stigma
character: the way someone thinks, feels, and behaviors (and trying to change these to end stigma)
collaboration: working together for a common goal, aka stopping stigma
commitment: pledging to a cause (stopping stigma)

ecs logo

See the connection? We’re all about building connections, including everyone, realizing that we’re all human (and people that have a behavioral health condition are still people-first), and we can all work together to stop stigma. (and yes, stigma is a part of all of these things!)

One of the things we changed this year is having two types of trainings: 1) basic emoticons for ecs blogtraining, for students that are new to the program and middle schools, and 2) advanced concepts, for students that are returning and already have a foundation. Basic training focuses more on the signs of mental health concerns. We use The Campaign to Change Direction‘s five signs of emotional pain:
personality change (different friends, attitudes, behaviors than usual)
agitation (anger or irritability)
withdrawal (not hanging out with friends)20171025_105019
poor self-care (not taking care of yourself)
hopelessness (not feeling like life is worthwhile)
Students guess what these are, learn them, and then repeat them back to each other, giving ‘high-5s‘ to help remember them, especially since physical activity helps us remember things. And the emoticons don’t hurt either. (haha)

Students also work on their listening skills and empathy during a shoe-based activity, in which they decorated shoes and shared their ‘story’ with a partner whom they did not know. Students also discuss what are positive and negative listening skills and incorporate them into their conversations with their partner. Communication builds connection and this allows people to feel comfortable to reach out when they’re struggling. The students’ job is to provide encouragement, support, and hope.


Students really enjoyed the project planning phase on the second day and came up with many ways to make the Lemonade for Change toolkit their own. Students explored the ideas of hot chocolate, cupcakes, ice cream, and cookies and how they would talk about mental health, substance use, and stigma with their peers. They also decided they wanted to hand out bracelets so their peers would remember the event and have a raffle for students that signed the pledge. You gotta do what it takes to get their attention and get them interested-and then use that opportunity to educate them and stop stigma!

20171101_111843 20171101_122748


At the end of the review session, we also give away Stand Together t-shirts to the students that remember the most from the last training. Check out these star students-all with awesome smiles! We can’t wait to revisit them in a few weeks to hear which great idea they decided on. Keep up the good work, ECS! You’re going to ‘change’ minds and warm hearts!


(Written by Danyelle, Coordinator & Trainer)


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These Dragons DECREASE STIGMA!: Allderdice Workshops

These Dragons DECREASE STIGMA!: Allderdice Workshops

mascotPittsburgh Allderdice High School’s mascot is a DRAGON and and these students are ready to DECREASE the STIGMA in their school by breathing education/awareness, social inclusion, and encouragement to reach out to an adult when someone is worried about themselves or someone else (aka Stand Together’s goals).

A very diverse group of Juniors and Seniors met on Oct. 24 and 31 got to know each other a little better and found more in common than they ever would’ve imagined, while learning about mental health and substance use disorders and exploring how to stop the stigma associated with them. Students played Stop the Stigma BINGO, used M&Ms to understand substance use disorders, and decorated shoes to learn about empathy and listening skills. Students confronted the myths and facts head on during an activity called, Where Do You Stand?, in which students are asked to move around the room depending on whether or not they agree with a particular statement and discuss this with the group. Students tend to learn a lot when their thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes are challenged by their peers. Most of these myths and facts are not black and white, and sometimes heated debates ensue. Either way, these discussions light a spark that sets the fire of anti-stigma in the students.






The students really enjoyed the Common Ground activity, in which stu20171031_093707dents play a sort of musical chairs, but instead of music, they have to find things they have in common with their peers.

Despite this being their first year in the program, Allderdice’s students are attempting to do a more advanced toolkit, the Peer-to-Peer Anti-Stigma Workshop. This project is like a mental health fair in which several activities are implemented at once. Students rotate through the stations to experience different games/tasks and learn about mental health and substance use disorders and decrease the stigma attached to them. Some of the students are active in the school’s sports programs (the football coach is one of the advisors!) and they are planning on having an activity that involves physical activity. Another group wanted to combat social exclusion with activities that promote teamwork and communication, both things the students have experienced during their training experience.


We look forward to follow up with them in a few weeks as they start finalizing their project plans and are even more excited to see their ideas in action! Thanks, Ms. Noll and Mr. Matson, for leading these youth and thank you, Allderdice students, for showing up, speaking up, and speaking out against stigma!

(written by Danyelle, Coordinator & Trainer)

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Impressive & Incredible: The Impact of WMMS

Impressive & Incredible: The Impact of WMMS

I must admit, I was extremely nervous walking into West Mifflin Middle School on September 19th. It was my first time ever giving a training with Stand Together and I wanted to make sure tDSCN0806hat the students received the best training possible.

After we started with a game of Ships’n’Sailors, I knew this group of kids would be fun to work with. The students were so enthusiastic during the activity and you could really see them trying to engage with all their fellow peers. When we reviewed the purpose of this activity and how it relates to the stigma given to people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, they were spot on with their responses! I was so impressed!

20170920_083431Some of the students were returning members from the previous year and some were brand spankin’ new, but they all displayed such a large knowledge on mental illness and substance use, which showed me how big of an impact their Stand Together group is having on their school as a whole. Once we jumped into the material, I was blown away with the students answers and participation level. Time flew by that before I knew it, we were ready for lunch!

In one of the final activities of the day, the students came together and displayed such great empathy during one of our final activities. Hearing the students talk about issues dear to their hearts and seeing how their peers were there to listen and support them was incredible. At the end of day 1, I was so excited to start project planning with the students. They displayed such a level of eagerness to get started; it was inspiring!

On day 2 we began the project planning process! The students had so many great ideas and it was especially neat to see them build onto projects they had done in the past few years. By the end of the day, the students decided on doing a hot chocolate stand to spread awareness and educate their peers on mental illness and substance abuse. To do this, they would add facts to the cups of the hot chocolate! They also wanted to use this same concept but instead of having hot chocolate, they would have donuts. The other activity they decided on doing was their signature Color Run, which aims to help reduce stigma against mental illness by going out into the community and educating others on what mental illness is and what are some examples of a mental illness.


By the end of day 2, I was so impressed by this elite group of students and I could not wait to see what their final projects looked like! West Mifflin Middle School is lead by their fearless leader, Ms. Roman, who is there for the students every step of the way.

Great job, West Mifflin Middle!!!!



(Written by Lacey, trainer)

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Minority Mental Health Month-Guest blog by TA Montaja Simmons

Minority Mental Health Month-Guest blog by TA Montaja Simmons


I do not know about you but I need a break!

Like a real break- specifically for my sanity and health and the reaffirming of my humanity,

Because clearly doing anything while Black is….

Well you get the point. If you don’t- Evelyn for the internets (@eveeeezy) explains it best.

Check out her “Call in Black” on YouTube:

Besides seeing people that look like you portrayed negatively in the media you also have to deal with your own personal woes….like mental health and wellness!


Society marginalizes people by gender, religion/faith, sexual orientation, intellectual status, class, disability and the biggest one of all RACE.

We forget that minorities deal with all of these “others” while being ‘othered.’

Unfortunately, just race alone can cause a whole host of worries.

I have a few things to keep in mind when living with mental illness while Black:



The more we talk about mental health, the more the stigma will dissolve. The more we talk about mental health in the minority community, the more real and human we become, dismantling barriers and stereotypes.  We don’t have to be “strong” all the time.

Mental health is not a race thing; however, minorities deal with mental health issues very differently. Trusting professionals and family plays a big part in feeling safe enough to get help without being label as crazy, weak or a criminal.

Silence is shame! Please continue to be an advocate!



Just like not being silent, we must also know where to go when we need help! We should have five people we can lean on in times of crisis. These are the makings a strong support system.

Do not wait until you are in a crisis to reach out to your support. As a minority, the world says you deserve what happens to you, be grateful you’re alive and pick yourself up by your bootstraps. It is crucial to have people in your corner reassuring your greatness and valuing your life.



This is very important for me, one because hope is the backbone of recovery. Even deeper for me is God. I am a believer in Christ.  In the Black community one my be ridiculed on both sides. Either you’re a fool to believe, or you don’t believe enough. Seeing a therapist, taking medicine if/when needed is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. In fact, it is taking action- and faith without works is dead. Whatever you put your faith in continue to believe in it, because this is YOUR journey to recovery.



Disconnect, decompress and treat yourself: mind, body and soul with care!

Please, please keep your wellness in mind.

Calling in mental health days are becoming a common practice in the work place.

Who knows maybe “Calling in Black” will follow.


Disclaimer: Black is what I identify as; this message is for all minorities! #minoritymentalhealthawarenessmonth


***Submission from Montaja Simmons***


(Stand Together staff disclaimer: This blog is the opinion of one of our staff members. Stand Together believes it is important to represent all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. so that everyone has a voice. This is just one voice in our conversations around mental health. We hope to hear and share many others.)

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