Posts Tagged substance use

Linton MS: Snacks Against Stigma

Linton MS: Snacks Against Stigma

Linton Middle School in Penn Hills returns for its second year. Lead by advisor, Ms. Olivis, the team was so excited to begin their trainings and participate again-the students were asking Ms. Olivis for months when it was time to start Stand Together again! As you can imagine, this group was ready to jump in to the workshops and start working together to stop stigma at their school.

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School is hard for youth in the mornings and it took the group a little while to warm up. We do physical activities that not only engage their bodies (which helps students learn), but also their brains-each activity has a purpose. In this blog’s feature, students were learning about the signs and IMG_20190115_120957symptoms of behavioral health disorders and some of the most prevalent conditions in youth. We engage the students in a breath-holding contest so that they can experience (on a minor scale) what it might feel like to have anxiety or a panic attack. We explain that this can be a very scary thing and could affect their ability to concentrate on schoolwork, hang out with friends, or complete daily activities. Students also learn that even though they could take a breath any time they wanted to, individuals with these disorders can’t just ‘snap out of it;’ they need help and support. Help and support were definitely plentiful in the room as students self-disclosed some of their difficult experiences and realized that they have more in common than separates them. The students finished out the first day with something we call Motivational Echoing, in which students gather as one to emphasize support, hope, and unity by repeating phrases from the trainer. These include statements such as: ‘I am not alone,’ ‘I am love,’ ‘It’s okay to not be okay,’ ‘It’s okay to get help,’ ‘I can help others get help,’ and, most importantly, ‘We’re in this together.’ Check out this clip:

 

 

Many of the students returned from last year, but there were justMVIMG_20190122_123921 as many new faces. One of my favorite things is to notice how much the students grow and mature from year to year, especially in middle school. This group was no exception. Last year the team engaged their peers in a lemonade stand, plastered posters all across the school, and gave away hot cocoa. They created three fun, new snack give-aways to educate their peers about mental and substance use disorders and decrease the stigma associated with them in their school. Food always works to attract attention and the students chose items they knew would draw their peers: slushies, Hot Cheetos, and popcorn. They’re slogans were even better: ‘It’s cool to talk-stigma is not’ (slushies), ‘Burn out Stigma’ (Hot Cheetos), and ‘Pop Away Stigma.’ Popcorn stands and stair decorating seem to be very popular this year-which is fine by me, because popcorn is one of, if not, my favorite foods! Food is the way to the heart, or so I’ve heard. These students are definitely going to be challenging thought, changing attitudes, and redirecting behaviors to make their school a more welcoming environment for everyone, whether or not they are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder.

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We can’t wait to hear more about Linton’s project plans and come out for a visit to grab a slushie or some Hot Cheetos and witness the team changing minds and changing hearts, all in an effort to end stigma. Thanks for standing up and speaking out against stigma, Linton! We’ll see you soon!

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Propel BHHS Mixing Up Year Six

Propel BHHS Mixing Up Year Six

Propel: Braddock Hills High School is our other school that has been in the program all six years and each year they continue to surprise us with their creativity, passion, and commitment. They are mixing it up this year though: none of the students have participated in this group before. Several of the students participated at the middle school level, but it’s a whole new crop of students. New group = new ideas. It’s gonna be another great year!

 

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IMG_20190114_094715Most of the students in the group didn’t know each other before the training. We find that oftentimes, these teams form the closest bonds. As groups engage with each other in team-building  (such as Common Ground) and intimate activities (such as Cross the Line), they learn that they have more in common than separates them and that no one is alone. Although we allMVIMG_20190111_123145 come from very different backgrounds and have varied experiences, we can all relate to each other and play a part in ending stigma.

 

This year, we were incredibly impressed by the ideas the students came up. Students viewed past projects and took them a step further, amping them up and pushing them to new heights (literally: a balloon release!). I was particularly fond of the ‘Stigma is Sour; Support is Sweet’ idea; every student that engages in the activity gets a slushie, but one in four get a pack of Sour Patch Kids (my favorite candy). Needless to say, I’ll be out to visit that day. The group had some really catchy slogans, too, including: ‘Light the Way’ (paper lanterns with facts) and ‘Letting Go of Insecurities.’ The group also plans to do a mask activity and have 1:4 students put a large X on their face to symbolize the 1:4 youth affected by mental and/or substance use disorders. This is even more meaningful as the definition of stigma means a mark of disgrace. Students hope this moving visual will create a huge impact on the culture of their school by increasing awareness and social inclusion. to break down stigma and advocate for asking for help.

 

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We’re excited to see Propel BHHS projects in action later this year and are certain they’re ‘lighting the way’ to a future without stigma. Here’s to year six-let’s do this!

 

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic is our first private high school and we are so excited to have this group join us this year. The school jumped at the opportunity to join our team after a presentation at a regional Student Assistant Program meeting. (SAP is made up of staff members at schools that work to improve student’s education, whether it be mentally, physically, or academically.) It’s hard to believe I first spoke with them almost a year ago today! OC leadership was also quick to schedule a Youth Mental Health First Aid training for their staff before school started to educate their faculty even before Stand Together started. Their interest in improving the mental health environment for their students is inspiring and refreshing. Mental health matters!

 

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IMG_20181205_105714These girls were a blast to work with! Although chatty at times (it was a group of teenage girls!), their enthusiasm didn’t end. All the students were fully committed to the program and activities. They had a lot of great questions and really came together as a group by the end of the first day. It was even more meaningful for the students that our assistant for the day, Julianna, went to OC herself. We laughed a lot, as you can see from all the pictures! And even though we had a lot of fun, the group was determined and passionate as they ‘stand together’ to stop stigma.

 

The team came up with so many good ideas on the second dayIMG_20181205_101539 that it was really difficult to narrow it down to three. From scrunchies, raffles, decorations, and so many other ideas, the group was adamant about educating their peers, spreading awareness, and breaking down social barriers, especially when it comes to seeking treatment. Of course, they had great slogans, too: ‘Stairways Against Stigma’ and ‘Elevators for Awareness’ were just a few they came up with. The students really wanted to focus this year on helping their peers realize that there are a lot of people that struggle with these issues, it’s okay to not be okay, and they’re not alone; people care, it’s okay to get help, and it can get better. These students warmed my heart with their wisdom and dedication to decreasing the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders.

 

We’re proud to work with OC this year and we’re certain they’re going to make a big impact in their school with their creative activities and eye-catching marketing. Between the Stand Together team and faculty Mental Health First Aid-ers, they’re off to a great start. You go, girls!

 

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written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler Area Middle School is joining their high school counterparts in Stand Together this year to take action against stigma. Mr. Lisowski & Ms. Coleman’s crew was large and mighty and they came up with some incredibly creative projects for this year. Students are focusing on increasing education and awareness as well as social inclusion in fun activities for their peers during lunch.

 

 Stand Together workshops cram a lot of information into one day and sometimes it can be difficult to absorb it all, so we review several times throughout the day, as well as provide takeaways for the students. We also engage the students in meaningful activities that help them remember the concepts while having fun, too. For example, we have all the students stand up and the trainer counts off by four. The first three students can sit while the fourth remains standing. Once we have gone around the room, the students can visualize the ratio of students that have a mental or substance use disorder (1:4). Another activity, Ships & Sailors, is a game of elimination in which students must follow directions and form groups of a specific number in order to stay in the game. Afterwards, we discuss what it was like to be ‘eliminated,’ excluded, and ‘betrayed.’ This is what stigma feels like. To remember the five most common signs of mental and substance use disorders, we have the students repeat them back to each other and give each other a ‘high-five.’ (Did you know physical action helps your brain remember things?)

 

Another important piece of our trainings is learning how toIMG_20181206_091323 respond when you recognize those signs in someone you know. We emphasize that the students are not professionals, but there are still things they can do to help. That’s where the acronym S.H.E. comes in: support, hope, and encouragement. Students can be there for their friends that are struggling, hold hope for them when they cannot do so for themselves, and encourage them to talk to an adult/get professional treatment. We also realize that youth can identify concerns in family members as well. In the clip below, students review a scenario in which a student’s aunt is demonstrating signs of a mental illness. The students share how they would approach that individual, what they would say, and what they would do.

 

 

This year, the group has planned three unique projects to engage their peers. In January, students will ‘Band Together’ Against Stigma by answering questions about mental and substance use disorders and receiving a wristband to represent the 1:4 individuals that are affected by these conditions. Students are also using a winter theme (and cookies!) for students to share their personal experiences with mental and/or substance use disorders. Sharing our stories IMG_20181127_110112helps decrease stigma by promoting awareness and increasing social inclusion; students find that they are not alone in their struggles and they have more in common than what separates them. Lasly, the students are planning another cookie give-away to dispel the myths about these disorders and/or perform a socially inclusive act. This activity plays on the game, “Truth or Dare.” Students will have to decide whether a statement is a fact and/or do something to get to know someone new.

 

We’re excited to see these projects over the course of this year-and get some cookies while we’re at it! I have to say Snickerdoodles are a pretty underrated cookie, so I’m excited to see these treats teach and encourage other students to talk about mental and substance use disorders as they ‘Band Together’ against stigma.

 

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written by Danyelle, coordinator

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CAPA’s Stallions are Stopping Stigma (S3)

CAPA’s Stallions are Stopping Stigma (S3)

The Creative and Performing Arts Academy (PPS) is one of our 10 (!) new schools for this year. And they’re serious about stopping stigma. So serious, that they requested to take a ‘serious’ photo of their group at the end! At any rate, mental health and stigma are serious issues-all the more reason we need to start talking about them and stop the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders.

 

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MVIMG_20181128_090611This year we added a more extensive section on substance use disorders. Students have had a lot of questions and substance use disorders often occur with and/or because of mental health conditions. In addition, as the ‘opioid epidemic’ comes to the forefront and more students are being affected by the use of heroin and ‘pain killers,’ it was important that our training provided much needed information to dispel myths, share information, and help youth address the specific stigmas attached to these disorders. Stigma is so pervasive and perpetuates the shame that comes from receiving treatment for both mental and substance use disorders, but these numbers continue to rise, especially youth using electronic vapor products and marijuana. It’s important to be knowledgeable and aware of not only these disorders, but also the resources available and how to help someone that may be struggling with a mental and/or substance use disorder.

 

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Although one wouldn’t think it, the wrap-up on the first day is an important piece of the training workshops. After hearing from one of our team members (TA Montaja-she majored in Musical Theater!), Cross the Line, and what usually ends up being a very vulnerable, intimate, intense discussion, students take a break and come back to one of our last activities: Motivational Echoing. It might sounds like a simple activity, students come back together to solidify and personalize the truths we’ve discussed through the day:

  • Mental & substance use disorders are not my fault.

  • I am not alone.IMG_20181128_125724

  • I am loved.

  • It’s okay to not be okay.

  • It’s okay to get help.

  • I can help others get help.

  • We’re in this together.

Students leave the day feeling heard, valued, inspired, and equipped with the tools and experiences they need to influence their peers and design and implement projects to create change in their school cultures. The knowledge and awareness, feelings of social inclusion, and relationships with advisors/supporting staff pour out onto their peers and faculty. Change happens by confronting myths, changing attitudes, and promoting help-seeking and socially inclusive behaviors. The students at CAPA were no exception. They were exceptionally passionate and motivated to attack stigma head-on in fun, creative, and innovative activities.

 

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By the end of the second day, the students at CAPA had come up with FOUR solid projects, including Stigma Stopping Stallions (S3) educational presentations, The Real Tea stand to discuss myths and facts, and a Living Wall, a version of a ‘truth booth’ in which students can visualize the impact mental and substance use disorders have on their peers, staff/faculty, families, and the community. The team will also hold an art gallery for students to create and submit original works inspired by mental health experiences. They will be displayed for the school and public. CAPA’s team is well on their way to using their ‘creative’ talents to make meaningful changes in their school!

We look forward to seeing CAPA’s projects in action and watching the students make a difference in the lives of those around them as they stand together against stigma.

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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SciTech Stops Stigma: One Student, One Staff Member at a time…

SciTech Stops Stigma: One Student, One Staff Member at a time…

The Science & Technology Academy (PPS) has returned for their second year in Stand Together with a core group of strong leaders and passion for mental health awareness all around. Like most of our teams, this is also a very diverse team, full of individuals with a wealth of knowledge as well as experience with mental and/or substance use disorders. These students weren’t afraid to share their own personal stories and struggles and had a lot of fun getting to know each other along the way.

 

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MVIMG_20181129_125717This group had a lot of great discussions about how they’ve experience stigma in their own schools, homes, and communities and had strong views about the prevalence of stigma. They were passionate about the important of education, awareness, social inclusion, and having trusted relationships with adults to get the help people need when they are struggling. Needless to say, their second day of training was intense, creative, and focused. The students ended up with 5 components of a project! Woah!

 

This year, the students really wanted to focus on advocating,IMG_20181129_105710 awareness, and staff relationships. Students will be engaging their peers in a kick-off assembly to refresh students’ memory from the previous year, as well as Lemonade for Change to review some of the basic information. Students will also be creating buttons to wear so that the other students in their school will know who they are and that the team members are people the students could reach out to if they’re worried about themselves or someone else. In addition, the students have planned a “Confidential Corner” to share anonymous mental and/or substance use experiences. Lastly, the group will engage their staff in fun activities to promote staff-student relationships and increase their knowledge and awareness of behavioral health and how it affects all of us.

 

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SciTech has a big year planned and we can’t wait to see how the students and staff respond to their activities. Their motto, ‘Stand Together for Change” is a powerful reminder that if we work together, we can change the world. Join with us! Stop stigma!

 

 

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North Allegheny Tigers Talk Truth-Awareness & Inclusion

North Allegheny Tigers Talk Truth-Awareness & Inclusion

Another first year school, North Allegheny High School was incredibly impressive. Right off the bat, the students were already aware of many of the myths and were prepared to counter them with facts as early as the first activity. It was such a privilege working with such a passionate and aware group. Most of the team is also members of the school’s S.A.D.D. group. Even though they had some bonds and connections (and a decent knowledge of mental health), there were still plenty of new people to meet and new information to learn and share.

 

IMG_20181101_135505Although the students were very quiet at first, with some encouragement they quickly opened up. Everyone was willing and excited to participate in the trainings. One of our larger groups (30 members), it can be intimidating, especially for more reserved students. The most memorable moment for me was the discussion after Cross the Line. IMG_20181101_133950There were so many different perspectives and each student had a unique story to share. The group was vulnerable with each other and left the day feeling empowered to challenge others’ thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to decrease stigma in their school.

 

IMG_20181113_102404The team couldn’t wait to start planning their projects. As a large school with many staircases, the students decided to use them to their advantage to kick-off the year by grabbing the students’ attention. Stand Together will be decorating each fourth step with green tape to provide a visual representation of the ratio of individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder (1:4). The students plan to follow this activity with a video of both students and faculty sharing their own personal experiences with mental health, whether their own or someone they know. This will also serve as a transition to a form of Truth Booth the students will facilitate later in the year. The team also has a few other small activities throughout the year, so they’re definitely going to be busy!

 

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A special shout-out goes to Mr. Longo, one of their advisors. He spent almost a year trying to get Stand Together into N.A. and it’s definitely paid off. The group is great, the advisors are invested, and leadership is abound. We can’t wait to see their projects in action this Spring!

 

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Flashback Friday: Avonworth Antelopes Leap Into Stand Together

Flashback Friday: Avonworth Antelopes Leap Into Stand Together

Avonworth High Schools’ interest in Stand Together was many months in the making. After meeting with their SAP team for the first time last February, Lacey and I facilitated mini-sessions at their Teen Summit to introduce the students to mental health, stigma, and Stand Together. We were incredibly impressed by their emotional intelligence and almost every group had a student share their experiences. It was moving for both the students and our staff. I couldn’t wait to work with this group!

 

IMG_20181105_082119Another diverse group, the students really enjoyed getting to know each other outside of the classroom. Activities such as ‘Candy Gram’ encourage students to learn more about another participant and find qualities, interests, and views they share. Candy is randomly distributed and students have to find their ‘match.’ Then, they have three minutes to find three things they have in common. The catch: they can’t be obvious! (i.e. same school/grade, visible traits, etc.) More often than not, students can find more than three items to share with the rest of the group in just that short amount of time. Although a simple exercise, this activity really increases the students’ ability and experience of social inclusion.

 

In addition, this was the first time our new assistant Ami shared her recovery story with the group. Many students could relate to her experiences and life choices and it greatly made an impact. We’ve found that exposure to a first-person narrative of someone with lived experience with a mental and/or substance use disorder is the most effective way to challenge stigma. This part of the day also lends itself to the afternoon’s activities, in which students participate in activities where they are asked to be vulnerable with each other. The workshop experience is incredibly important to the cohesiveness of the group and the success of Stand Together; students not only learn the information and concepts they need to facilitate activities with their peers, but they also experience the ideals of social inclusion and a warm, compassionate school culture, where students feel free to be who they are and to get the help they need when they’re struggling.

 

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IMG_20181105_082212Although their first year, the students and advisors challenged themselves to facilitate three informative activities to increase education and awareness in their student body as well as with staff. Members will kick-off their year by meeting with classes to introduce the students to Stand Together and expose them to some of the myths and facts surrounding mental and substance use disorders. Their next activity focuses on S.H.E. (support, hope, and encouragement) and encouragesIMG_20181105_104116 and educates their peers on how to provide S.H.E. to their fellow classmates when they are experiencing mental health challenges-and of course, the team will use food to draw them in! (It works!) The team will also engage others in a make-shift photo booth with decorations and facts about mental health and substance use disorders to review what the students have learned in the other activities. Then the students will create a collage with the photos to display when the event is complete. We’re sure they’re really going to make a dent in stigma!

 

 

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Congrats, Avonworth, on a great training and we look forward to an amazing year!

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: W. Allegheny Indians Return with Intention & Innovation

Throwback Thursday: W. Allegheny Indians Return with Intention & Innovation

This is West Allegheny’s second year in Stand Together and they return with even more excitement and creativity. Although last year was their first year in the program, they went above and beyond with three unique food give-aways and two assemblies that really made an impact in their school. This year, we expect nothing less-and even more!

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IMG_20181030_121443The students at West Allegheny are not only very knowledgeable about mental health and have an incredible passion for their work, but they are also very open about their own challenges. Although this is not something that is entirely unique in Stand Together teams, WA students are incredibly vocal and vulnerable both inside and outside of the group and this has a tremendous impact on their peers, as well as the students themselves.IMG_20181023_101711_1

 

This year we added some additional information about substance use. The students had many questions and I even had to get back to some of them! The students were very thoughtful and empathetic when considering their responses and reactions to the role-play scenarios and loved the WHAPP game. It got pretty heated throughout several of the activities, including the fan-favorite, Ships & Sailors, and there was even a friendly spat between brothers!

 

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The students returned this year with a stronger sense of the school needs and how they wanted to change the schoolIMG_20181030_101408 culture. Although the value of education is still there, this year students really wanted to increase the awareness of the staff and challenge them in their relationships with students. One of the goals of Stand Together is to encourage students to reach out to an adult they trust when they are worried about themselves or others and relationships with staff and teachers are critical to facilitating this process. Students plan to use professional development time to provide some education and awareness to staff, but also promote social inclusion and help-seeking behaviors by connecting with the members of the group. In addition, the group is planning a Color Run in the spring to engage their entire school as well as the community in their efforts to end stigma.

 

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It’s going to be another big year for West Allegheny. Although the idea of completing projects of this caliber can be daunting, we have no doubts the students will rise to the challenge and defy all expectations. This group is full of strong leaders, passionate voices, and big hearts. We can’t wait to see your projects in action!

 

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PHS Commodores Challenge Stigma, Cultivate Compassion

PHS Commodores Challenge Stigma, Cultivate Compassion

Perry High School (PPS) joined us for the first time this year. Students had expressed an interest in doing something with mental health in the past, but didn’t have a concrete plan in place. Enter in Stand Together! It turned out to be a convenient time and we jumped at the opportunity to work with this school.

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IMG_20181017_111354Some of the concepts were new to the students and many of them were strongly rooted in their personal views, whether they had stemmed from their parents, friends, or media. We engaged in a lot of active discussions and I think we all learned a lot from each other. It was a very diverse group and they were very vocal in their opinions, but we discovered that we had a lot in common. Even though we are all very different, we had shared some of the same experiences that we never would’ve guessed without getting together. The students had some great discussions about diversity and adversity in mental health services, particularly surrounding trauma, the impact of mental health on schooltime, and stigma in the African American community (especially males).

 

Food seems to be the way to reach youth-well, probably everyone, and Perry’s team said their school was no different.IMG_20181024_090657 The team decided on the Food 4 Thought toolkit. The group decided to focus on attacking stigma and encouraging their peers to start talking about mental health, including things like: It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to get help. Stigma hurts-talking helps. The students decided on three events, focusing on what stigma is, how it affects people, and how to stop it. The team will share food, facts, and tips to their fellow students. The students were very passionate, as many of them had been affected by mental health and substance use disorders in a myriad of ways. We really encourage this, because students that have this experience are incredibly valuable to the cause, as they have ‘been there’ and add so much more to the group.

 

I’m excited to meet with the Commodores again today to keep project planning rolling and really start hashing out the details. It’s going to be great!

 

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