Posts Tagged Stigma

NAI: First Year, Fantastic Plans

NAI: First Year, Fantastic Plans

The sun shined though the huge glass windows in the Lounge at North Allegheny Intermediate High School in early November, welcoming students to their first training workshop. It’s NAI’s first year in the program (jumping on the bandwagon from NASH’s participation last year) and as the Fall leaves swirled around, signifying the change of the seasons, the students were eager to start changing the culture around mental health in their school.

Students shared a lot of laughs and had a lot of fun while learning and growing together. Students learned about mental and substance use disorders, stigma, and how to help their peers. They also got to know each other in fun games, such as Common Ground, that encourage them to build relationships with each other. Our teams act as ‘micro-cosms’ to their schools and the connections they make during the trainings will overflow onto their classmates as well, promoting social inclusion (one of our goals). The group left the first day with the education and experience to come back the following week to start planning projects to end stigma in their school.

Students were eager to share their ideas with the team and ‘dive right in’ the second training workshop. Students thought it was very important for their peers to know that many people (1:4!) are living with mental and/or substance use disorders and that they are not alone in their struggles. Another important focus was to share resources and encourage students to reach out to an adult they trust when they’re worried about themselves or someone else (another one of our goals).

We stress that students are not counselors and that weight is not theirs to bear, but there are things they can do to support a friend or family member, summed up in the acronym S.H.E.: provide support, hope, and encouragement. Youth can also continue to include students in daily activities, encourage their peers in their treatment and coping skills, and just be there for them. We don’t have to ‘fix’ things others are struggling with and it can be scary to sit in the silence, but sometimes, all someone needs is someone to sit with them in their struggle to remind them that they are not alone and that you are there for them.

The NAI team plans to implement a food and candy stand, host a 1:4 photo booth, and create a video to connect students to resources and adults to get help. Their slogan, ‘Tigers Talk about It!’ reminds their peers that #itsokaytonotbeokay and that #itsokaytogethelp. They want to normalize conversations about mental health in their school and help others on their journeys by uniting the student body in solidarity to end stigma.

We can’t wait to see your projects in action, stop by for some sweet treats, and learn about the changes you’ve made in your school with your passion and projects. Keep up the great work!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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CAPA: Stigma Stopping Stallions Return

CAPA: Stigma Stopping Stallions Return

Bright and early, the Creative and Performing Arts Academy high school students filled the library to participate in their second year of Stand Together.

Although some of these ‘unicorns’ (their mascot) had graduated, returning students and new students alike thrived in review games and discussions. The team retained a lot of the information about mental and substance use disorders and, more importantly, how to combat the stigma associated with these disorders. The group got to know each other further during our team-building activities and found ‘common ground’ with each other. Finding these similarities helped them come up with wonderful ideas to stop the stigma in their school and even talk to a peer they might not have connected with before their training.

The second workshop was even more eventful. Students participated in a Jeopardy-style review and shared their input on what they would like their peers and staff to know about the stigma surrounding mental and substance use disorders. They also had the opportunity to map out their ideas in mini-groups and piece together a line-up of powerful anti-stigma projects.

This year, the Stigma Stopping Stallions decided to revisit their art gallery idea, planning to host a space that displays not only art, but also information about mental and substance use disorders. This area will include an anonymous booth for peers and staff to post messages that could possibly be turned into an art piece in the gallery, as well. Another cool idea that will last for years to come are ‘mini-zines.’ Using the information they learned from the training, this group plans on designing and distributing a small, interactive magazine to present to their peers and faculty as an educational tool to spread the word about Stand Together and our message.

No battle is too big for these superheroes! CAPA, we’re excited to see all the creative projects you are working on this year to be implemented in your school!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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West A-Year 3, Tier 3!

West A-Year 3, Tier 3!

West Allegheny High School is returning for its third year in the program and they continue to amaze us with their creativity, passion, and vulnerability. Half of their members returned this year, committed to continue their work to address stigma in their school. With a diverse group and a handful of staff support, this group is well on their way to another amazing year-and they’ve upped their game to Tier 3! There was no doubt in my mind they would rise to the occasion and blow us away with their ideas.

To decrease stigma, it’s important to increase education and awareness to break down the stereotypes and myths associated with mental and substance use disorders. One of the first things we stress is that these are diagnosable conditions (by a mental health professional) that occur frequently and over a long period of time. It’s not just the ups-and-downs of every day life; we all feel anxious and sad from time-to-time (we asked the students to raise their hands if they’ve ever felt this way in the picture above), but when it starts to affect someone’s daily life, that’s when it’s important to reach out for help.

In the HS curriculum in particular, we also discuss various diagnoses and definitions. Students learn about the eight most common mental health conditions and the similarities and differences among them. Although we don’t expect the students to memorize these disorders, we want them to be aware of the correct definitions so that they can address the stigma associated with specific ones. For example, most people use ‘OCD’ as an adjective, like it’s just about being ‘neat’ or ‘picky,’ but in reality, OCD is a disorder involving obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. It’s not just that someone likes things a certain way, but they are following certain rules, rituals, and routines; things have to be a certain way. No matter the diagnoses, most disorders can be associated with five major signs and symptoms: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, personality change, and poor self-care, or WHAPP! (as we like to call it). Students recognize that when they notice these in themselves or someone else, it’s important to reach out to an adult they trust.

Students at West Allegheny also take part in an activity called Climate Change. In this activity, students think about the positive and negative characteristics of their school environment, what an ideal culture would look like, and think about how they can get there. One of Stand Together’s goals focuses on social inclusion-all students and staff are welcomed and included in the social fabric of the school. They used this idea to plan one of their projects the second day. (see below)

The team at West A has always been passionate about reaching their Freshman class as soon as they enter the building. For the past two years they have held a freshman assembly with information about mental health and Stand Together, games, and a recovery speaker. This year they’re going to take it a step further. After their assembly in the fall, this Spring, the students will be entering the health classrooms to spend three-yes, THREE!-days sharing information with their peers, engaging them in fun activities, and showing them a self-created film they will be producing that will include both students and staff sharing personal stories about their own experiences with mental and/or substance use disorders. One of their advisors, Ms. D, is the health teacher and it was a natural connection to expand her unit with peer-to-peer instruction from Stand Together students. We always say, it’s one thing if an adult tells you something, but it’s quite another if you hear it from someone your age, someone you know…it has a much greater impact.

Students have also planned a Stop Stigma Speed Run (or Triple S Grand Prix) obstacle course for students in gym class. Participants will rotate through different activities learning about mental and substance use disorders and stigma while engaging in fun activities and physical games. The team will also be painting a mural with silhouettes of the team and a pledge for their school to ‘end stigma’ by ‘creating a self and welcoming environment’ for students and staff, regardless of whether or not an individual has a mental health, substance use disorder, or any other difference or diagnosis.

We’re looking forward to see how great an impact this team makes at their school this year. We know they’re going to change the environment and even lives. See you soon!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Dice Dragons: Quality over Quantity!

Dice Dragons: Quality over Quantity!

Mid-October, as the leaves were falling and the weather was changing, Allderdice HS (PPS) Dragons linked up for their Stand Together training. Dice is no stranger to the project, however with the graduation of their upper-class members, new faces graced the group, wowing us with how much information they retained about mental health and substance use disorders.

This group might be small, but they are MIGHTY! Students participated fully in the activities during the trainings and helped their teammates in review trivia games. Not only did they open up about their own experiences, they also discovered how much they had in common.

The project ideas were flowing with no shortage of creativity. Stand Together students brain-stormed many ideas through-out the workshops, from food events to fair days to staff-student activities. One idea the group is excited to work on is a 1:4 day by bringing mental health and substance use awareness to their fellow classmates; they plan to use visuals in their hallways and stairwells on all the different floors to help students understand the prevalence of mental and substance use disorders. Each level will provide information about a specific disorder. They also want to connect with the teachers and staff this year and use their ‘truth booth’ idea to help create a safe space for everyone, including students and adults, to communicate more effectively. At the end of the day, the group was ready to finalize their meeting times so they could get started putting their plans into action.

Dice Dragons are here to stay to ‘flush the stigma away!’ (Project preview?!) They may be small, but they’ve got heart! Here’s to another exciting year of changing their school culture!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

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

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

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

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

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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OCHS: Celebrities, Cookies, & Scrunchies…Oh My!

OCHS: Celebrities, Cookies, & Scrunchies…Oh My!

Lions and tigers and bears…Oh my! (Wizard of Oz) Celebrities, cookies and scrunchies…Oh my! (Oakland Catholic) Those animals are definitely something to be afraid of, but the students at Oakland Catholic High School weren’t afraid to tackle stigma in their school. Although this was their first year, the team created some great projects that will be remembered fondly for years to come.

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IMG_3134The team kicked off the year with visual representations to spread awareness. Team members decorated the staircases of their two building with different colored tape to represent the one in four youth that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorders in a given year. Posters of prominent celebrities with these conditions were on the walls of the stairwells to spread awareness about the prevalence of these disorders and how they can affect anyone.DSCN1663-r Since it was their first year and first project, many of their peers were curious about the decorations and approached ST members to discuss the visuals. Many of the adults also commented that they did not know that these people lived with these disorders. This started the conversations that would be had over the course of the school year.

 

Students continued their discussion on the topic by using an activity to Crumble Away Stigma. Student participants spun a carnival wheel to select a questions about a mental health or substance use disorder. Students got to spin the wheel until they answered a question correctly. Some DSCN1688-rstudents had to get some help, but that just emphasises how much we need each other and that we’re not alone in our struggles. Participants were awarded with an infamous Ms. Judy cookie. Folks, these are¬†homemade by one of the cafeteria workers and I can tell you from first-hand experience that they are¬†amazing. No wonder this project was such a hit! Students were also encouraged to sign the Stop the Stigma pledge by means of a card on the cookie bag. The team continued promoting the 1:4 ratio with the cookies themselves: for every three Sprinkle with Kindness sugar cookies, there was a chocolate¬†Chip Away Stigma cookie. Students were more than happy to participate with such a tasty treat at stake! Many of the school’s faculty and staff, including their priest and assistant principal joined in on the fun. I was so glad I could be there for this event!

 

The group’s last activity for the year combined a video presentation with an incentive give-away. 90s trends are making a comeback and scrunchies are a BIG deal at OC. In the video, students explained the idea behind the scrunchies, but, more importantly, the clip featured students and staff sharing their experiences with mental health and the ST program. ST students and members of the student body shared how the projects have affected them. One brave teacher shared that his own sister died by suicide. This video also gave students a lot of hope and helped others realize that they are not alone in their struggles. Then, students were encouraged to reach out to a ST member and discuss something they learned from the video to receive a scrunchie. As they said, ‘Together, we can scrunch away stigma.’ Students were proud to don their scrunchies as a symbol of solidarity against stigma.

 

 

OC is well on their way to ending stigma at their school. One student remarked,

Some of my friends deal with mental health issues and they were more open to talk about it at school because of the projects that the club put together.

We love hearing about the impact our students teams are making in their schools. When we¬† Stand Together to ‘crumble’ and ‘scrunch’ away stigma, more youth can get the help they need without fear of STIGMA (stereotypes, teasing, inappropriate language, ignorance, myths, and negative attitudes) and discrimination. Outstand job, Oakland Catholic! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!

 

group scrunchie throw

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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NAHS Tigers Talk about It: ‘We Stand with 1 in 4’

NAHS Tigers Talk about It: ‘We Stand with 1 in 4’

If you’re familiar with North Allegheny, you know that it’s a HUGE school district. This can seem daunting, but it gives our students the chance to impact even more youth in their community! As it was their first year, the advisors started recruitment with students from their SADD club, students that were passionate about making a difference and making their school a better place. And what a better place to start then with students that are motivated to enact change!

 

This year’s team implemented a visual for their peers, classroom presentations to all the physical education classes (which included pretty much every one in the school at some point), and a lemonade stand at a NA district event. The students created suspense, educated their peers, and extended their reach beyond the walls of their school to the community at large. The group also documented their activities on Twitter @NASHSADD and #stand2getherNASH.

 

1in4Steps.3NAHS has a very large building with several stairwells that are constantly flooded with students. The team decided to take advantage of this by placing green tape on every fourth step to represent the 1 in 4 individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder in a given year. They purposely didn’t advertise or provide any explanation for the project to peak their peers interest in the seemingly random decorations on the stairs. The next day, however, posters and flyers plastered the walls and the principal made an announcement to explain the meaning behind the project.

 

The group presented a PowerPointDSCN1640-r of Myths and Facts and educational pieces to share with their classmates. This presentation focused on the signs and symptoms of mental and substance use disorders, the definition of stigma and the impact it has on youth, and how students can support their peers and Stand Together. ‘End Mental Health Stigma’ wristbands were distributed for students to remember the event and handed out Resolve crisis services wallet cards. Students reminded the groups that although they might not take the cards seriously right then, they never know when they might need it. This was a very powerful, strong finish to the presentation.

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Even more powerful was the student-produced video showed during the presentations. In this film, students and faculty members alike shared their personal experiences with mental health challenges and the stigma they’ve faced. Some of the biggest discouragers of stigma is called ‘the first person narrative,’ in which individuals are exposed to and hear from individuals that are living with or have been affected by mental and/or substance use disorders. Students realize that they are not alone in their struggles, that they have more in common than separates them, and that individuals with these disorders are ‘people-first,’ that just happen to have a mental health challenge, just like someone might have a physical challenge and shouldn’t be discriminated against. It was a very¬†powerful demonstration of the bravery and strength of individuals in their own school that are living successfully with these conditions.

 

DSCN1872-rThe ST team concluded the year by giving away ‘lemon-aid’ at their district-wide diversity celebration event, which included groups from many different ethnicities, different abilities, and social groups. One out of every four cups of lemonade was pink to reinforce the 1 in 4 message. Walk-ups to the table were asked questions about some of the myths surrounding mental health and stigma in order to enjoy a free cup of lemonade. The students also played their video presentation and distributed Stand Together informational handouts, including the STIGMA acronym, Words Matter!, and How to Help a Peer. Although they didn’t reach many that night, it was heartening to me see conversations between our team, parents, and their children about mental health.

 

For their first year, NA did an absolutely fantastic job. Faculty, staff, administration, the student body, and the ST team members were moved by their participation. One youth in the program said:

The whole experience was really eye-opening.¬† DSCN1660¬† Going through training, and then giving presentations I learned a lot of things that I would probably never have known. And since, I have been trying to make changes in my everyday life and trying to help others in an effort to end the stigma. If I could’ve participated for more years, I would have. I will take what I learned with me through the rest of my life.

 

Their school principal even attended our Recognition Event and was singing the praises of their students:

Our students used a creative approach while bringing recognition to stigmas related to mental health. Their approach captured the interest of our entire student body and had a significant impact on the manner our students process their perceptions of those being treated for mental health challenges.

 

Thank you, NA, for your passion and commitment. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year-and bring on your Intermediate school too!

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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‘Dice Dragons are Slaying Stigma (with Bitmoji!)

‘Dice Dragons are Slaying Stigma (with Bitmoji!)

Pittsburgh Public’s Allderdice High School continued to use their mascot this year to engage their peers in activities to decrease the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders in their school. They had some ‘unfinished business’-a project they didn’t get to finish last year-and were excited to complete it and continue their work in the school.

 

DSCN1637This year the students combined four projects into an activity fair for the freshman students. The entire grade has to take history and the rest of the day is a chaotic time, so this turned out to be an ideal alternative to hold their events. Stand Together students even got out of class all day to make sure their fellow classmates got to learn about mental health!

 

Students entered the auditorium¬†were introduced to the team and their cause by watching a Bitmoji video the team had created. Members of the team, including one of their advisors, Mr. Matson, recorded themselves as Bitmoji’s describing the Stand Together program and its goals and the importance of addressing stigma towards mental and substance use disorders. The video also included facts (1:4, of course! and the definitions of mental illness and stigma) and a dragon head¬†that announced Allderdice’s pledge to stand against stigma. How creative is that?! Check it out:

 

 

After the film, students rotated through several stations that were set-up with activities to engage peers. At the first station, students could enjoy a cup of lemonade to encourage the students to lemon-aid each other when they are struggling. 1 in 4 cups of lemonade were pink to represent the 1 in 4 individuals that experience a mental and/or substance use condition in a given year. Another booth encouraged students to ask questions in a judgement free-zone. They passed out resources to encourage students to ‘mustache’ a question. I was impressed with the number of students that were eager and willing to talk about their own struggles or reach out for more information for a friend. At the last station, students signed a flame sticker to represent that they were going to ‘burn out stigma…’ because dragons breathe fire. Get it?! ūüôā

 

 

The students also displayed their dragon mural for the students.mural-r The group really wanted to finish this last year, but as it’s quite a large piece, it took longer than expected. This year, the group completed the mural of a¬†beautiful, immense green dragon breathing fire that reads: ‘Allderdice pledges to end stigma towards youth or adults who have a mental illness.’ This mural will be displayed in the school as a permanent fixture to remind all students to ‘slay stigma’ at their school.

 

Members of the team as well as participants and faculty were impressed and proud of their school and the event:

  • ‘I’m so glad we’re able to talk about this important issues at school.’ (ST team member)

  • ‘In our efforts to make Allderdice a more inclusive environment, our Stand Together group has played a major role in making this more of a reality. I am extremely proud of their work and I know that the fight to end stigma towards those with mental health conditions will continue to have an impact not only on our current students, but those students in years to come.’ (school principal)

  • ‘This fair was completely surprising to me. I hope to join the Stand Together group next year.’

 

The students also used this time to recruit new members for the 2019-2020 school year. They hope to make this event an annual fair and possibly incorporate outside mental health providers and additional resources. We can’t wait to see what you come up with for next year! Keep on slayin’ (stigma, that is)!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

 

 

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S. Allegheny MS Sends Stigma Spinning

S. Allegheny MS Sends Stigma Spinning

The Stand Together team at South Allegheny Middle School decided to tackle the stigma around mental health for their first year in the program. For three different days this month, team members hosted an information game table with a spinning wheel to ‘Send Stigma Spinning.’

 

 

During several lunch periods in a highly-used intersection of their school hallway, ST members encouraged their classmates to test their knowledge about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it. Participants were eager to give the wheel a spin for a chance to win some cool mental health awareness swag. Numbers on the wheel corresponded to various mental health notecards. These included true/false, short answer, and questions for the students to answer. No matter if you got the questions right or wrong, students were rewarded for their effort with a green pencil, bracelet, stress ball, or candy. Team members elaborated on correct answers and provided education when students answered a question incorrectly. No matter the participant, students learned much about mental health and stigma.

 

 

IMG_20190516_113446The table also featured a pledge poster with pens and markers for the students to sign as a sign of solidarity to ‘Stand Together’ against mental health stigma. Posters defining stigma and South Allegheny’s promise to ‘Rise by Lifting Others’ added an additional feeling of unity among the students, faculty, and staff.

 

South Allegheny’s principal¬†Katelyn Vogel and guidance counselor Kristy Roche are excited to continue the mission next year. They spoke about Stand Together t-shirts and future projects.IMG_20190516_113224¬†One activity they are really excited about is a colorful feather mural for all students to participate in, once again to display their unity as a school that stands up to stigma and will continue to rise by lifting others. This year’s team set the foundation and we can’t wait to see them in action next year. Keep those great ideas coming! Good job, South A!

 

 

 

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Written by Montaja, trainer

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Woody High: Rise Up!

Woody High: Rise Up!

Woodland Hills High School rose to the challenge in their first year in Stand Together. After participating in the two-day training, these new Stand Together members collaborated on great ideas to present to their student body.

 

On¬†Thursday April 4th the Stand Together crew stuck it to stigma by ‚ÄúSticking 2gether!‚ÄĚ As students filled the lunchroom, the Stand Together team announced the purpose for their table and encouraged their peers to ‚ÄúStick 2gether‚ÄĚ with them via a post-it note activity.

 

 

DSCN1706-rCandy was the motivation driving this event! Stand Together students used sweets to usher their peers over to their table. Once they arrived, the task at hand was simple: students were directed to write an encouraging message of hope to those struggling with mental illness or substance abuse disorders. They could also write down their own knowledge about those said topics. Each student or staff got to pick a yellow or blue posted note, write their message, and were rewarded with a sweet treat. The post-it notes were then placedDSCN1710-r on a main wall in the cafeteria; every 4th row was blue to represent the 1 and 4 people who struggle with a mental and/or substance abuse disorders. The goal was a visual representation of solidarity. You are not alone!

 

In addition to Woody Highs ‚ÄúStick 2gether‚ÄĚ sticky note event, the Stand Together team created an Instagram page @whstandtogether and a hash tag #WoodyHighRiseUp. Be sure to check them out!

 

Woodland Hills High School has set a great foundation to combat the stigma surrounding mental and substance use disorders. We look forward to seeing what you think up next! Great first year, keep up the good work!

 

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