Posts Tagged shame

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!)

 

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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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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! :)

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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!

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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!

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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(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:  https://youtu.be/cpVeUVcFMAU

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:

 

  • 1.) DO NOT BE SILENT

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!

 

2.) KNOW WHO TO TURN TO

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.

 

3.) KEEP YOUR FAITH

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.

 

**Bonus tip**  DO NOT STAY PLUGGED INTO MEDIA OUTLETS FOR TO LONG!

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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World Bipolar Day

World Bipolar Day

What do you really need to know about bipolar disorder? World Bipolar Day is observed annually on March 30 and reminds us that stigma is a reality for people with bipolar disorder; it hinders their ability to achieve wellness. We want to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity toward the mental health condition.

French researchers in 2012 reported that fewer than 70% of the general population could name specific characteristics of bipolar disorder and most identified the media as their main source of information (which is probably not a good thing). There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to have bipolar disorder. Even though symptoms c3-30-17 wbd blog 3an vary from person to person, there are certain characteristic behaviors and expressions that mark this condition.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by opposite states: mania and depression. Mania is a period of time when an individual experiences increased energy, motivation, and social activity; decreased attention span; indecisiveness; insomnia; and (sometimes) engagement in risky behavior. Depression, on the other hand, is a period of time when an individual experiences decreased energy and motivation; feelings of sadness, emptiness, and worthlessness; social isolation; significant weight loss/gain, and insomnia. Having this disorder can consist of experiencing one episode at a time or a mixed state of both. Some individuals affected by bipolar disorder may transition rapidly from one to the other and some have longer periods of time between episodes. For some, the states may be incredibly extreme, for others, generally mild. Bipolar disorder is a complicated condition!

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Bipolar disorder affects approximately 27 millions people worldwide. Celebrities that have self-disclosed having this mental health condition include: Demi Lovato (singer), Russell Brand (comedian), Carrie Fisher (actress, Star Wars), Amy Winehouse (singer), Vincent Van Gogh (painter), and Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister). Personally, I am also affected by this disorder and share my recovery story during the Stand Together trainings.

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There are a few myths we want to point out, too:
Bipolar moods aren’t equally split.
-Treatments take time to work and usually include a combination of medication and therapy, not just one or the other.
Not everyone with bipolar disorder is the same.
-How individuals affected by bipolar disorder react and respond to situations varies greatly.

Bipolar disorder is not 3-30-17 wbd blog 4something to be taken lightly; it’s not something to joke about and minimize by using it inappropriately (ie slang: She’s so bipolar!, etc.). It is a serious mental health condition with sometimes severe disruptions in daily function and can include suicidal ideations and behaviors.  If you or someone you know is displaying signs of this condition, be sure to talk to an adult you trust or reach out to a mental health professional.

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(Special thanks to Gabe Howard’s article, “What I Wish the World Knew about Bipolar [Disorder]” (BP Hope, Spring 2016). Reference the DSM-IV for symptoms and further description. Also, check out www.facebook.com/worldbipolarday for more info.)

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Breaking the Silence: Talking about Mental Illness at West Mifflin HS

Breaking the Silence: Talking about Mental Illness at West Mifflin HS

Students at West Mifflin High School have been planning and implementing Stand Together projects since the beginning of the school-year. As one of only two schools that has participated all four years, WMHS has a large, elaborate program that continually works hard to educate, increase social inclusion, and encourage students to get help.

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Projects began in October, when the group held a cupcake bake sale to kick off the year. In November, the students held a balloon release in which students wrote something they wanted to ‘let go’ of (struggling with), a fact about mental illness, or a hopeful message and attached it to a balloon. The balloons were then released in a moving ceremony. One of the balloons was found 90 miles away and the person that found it contacted us!

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Throughout the year, students maintained a Stand Together bulletin board, held informative sessions during Freshman Health classes, and even participated in a Mental Health First Aid training, including over 40 teachers and staff and 20 students! Students and faculty that completed this training are considered a “Safe Haven,” that is, someone that students and anyone else at the school can talk to if they’re struggling with a mental health concern. Students also connected with teachers during a lunch activity to break down the barriers and fear that sometimes separate adolescents and adults.

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Last Friday, students facilitated Break the Silence Day, a fair-style event at which the student body could test their mental health knowledge by playing games, participate in self-care activities, and help create a mural that was displayed in the school cafeteria.

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This mural was a green ribbon for mental health awareness, made out of the Stand Together students hands, that was surrounded by multicolored feathers with mental health prompts that were answered by the student body, including:

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In addition, the students organized the Mindful Art Gallery which displays works of art relating to mental health in students lives. Works were displayed anonymously so students could express themselves freely without judgement.

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Last week, some of the students facilitated a lesson about emotions and coping skills with the preschool class. The children listened to a book about a monkey that learned to deal with being upset and participated in various activities, including yoga, blowing bubbles, and making masks of faces with different emotions. The lesson concluded with the students identifying an emotion or coping and skill and receiving a green bear to remind them of what they learned.

       

The year will conclude with an end-of-the-year assembly for the entire school. Check them out at http://wmstandtogether.weebly.com/. Special thanks to their advisor, Ms. Rowe, president, Eliza, and preschool teacher, Ms. Bonacci, for all their hard work!

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