Posts Tagged substance use

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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SciTech: Serious about Stopping Stigma

SciTech: Serious about Stopping Stigma

SciTech is ready to combat mental and substance use disorder stigma in their school! No stranger to the Stand Together program, this year students returned full steam ahead. With a mix of grade levels and experiences, this group of students spent two Fridays together, refreshing their knowledge of mental and substance use disorders, learning about each other, and planning projects for their school-mates. The team had been meeting before the training to really focus on what they’d like to see change in their school environment. Senior participants are really invested this year and determined to leave a mark in their high school before they move on to future endeavors.

This group has the energy and passion to really connect with their peers on a deeper level. After their first day of training and some review, the group generated ideas in mini-brainstorming sessions. Sparks of inspiration fueled their mission to really bridge the connection between students, teachers, and staff.

The SciTech Stand Together team discussed presenting educational sessions to their staff; they thought this would be more meaningful and impactful than having someone else come in and hold a professional development event. They also wanted a ‘grand-scale’ effort to increase social inclusion in their school; they decided to host an interactive and educational neon ‘glow dance’ for their student body to connect and learn while having a fun time. It’s clear this team is serious about making a change!

Welcome back, SciTech High! We cannot wait to see how your great ideas unfold into wonderful stigma-stopping projects in your school!

Written by Montaja, trainer

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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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North Hills HS Kicks off the Year-Literally!

North Hills HS Kicks off the Year-Literally!

Usually my first post for a school is just about how much fun we had and how impressed I was with their training, but North Hills has really jumped-in and hit the ground running. Before they even had their training, they had two events on the calendar! With a whole team of advisors and a slew of supporters (including the new principal that was previously at West Allegheny, another one of our schools), they’re already creating waves and setting the stage for their other projects.

On Friday the 13th, the student section roared as the team kicked-off – and not just the football team! The announcer shared information about the group and facts, tore-up huge posters with stigmatizing words, and encouraged each other to Stand Together Against Stigma. What an impactful visual!

With this exciting event under their belt, the team was ready to start their training workshops. Our TA, Jordan, is a NHHS alum and was so excited to be back at her alma mater-she even attended the game that past weekend (and was already impressed!). As with most of our teams (we start pretty early in the morning), they were quiet to start, but soon found their voice. The students got really competitive with WHAPP! and the How to Be Helpful to Peers buzzer games and were moved by Jordan’s recovery story. They learned a lot about each other from Cross the Line and there was definitely a feeling of unity from the group, even as we left the first day.

The second workshop kept the momentum going as students had already started working on one of their projects. I stopped by on the following Friday to stop by as they processed their ideas-for an event that would be held the day immediately after their second training! Student leaders had already started planning and the second day flew by as we finalized details on student presentations to their Freshman and Sophomore English classes. Groups created ice-breakers, a Kahoot!, and a Where Do You Stand? activity that challenged students perceptions about mental and substance use disorders. We talked about some other projects, but spent most of the day planning and rehearsing for the next day-when they’d stand up in from of small groups of their peers and Stand Together against stigma!

The students’ first project was a great success! Students participated in the activities and learned a lot. The teachers will also be using this information in their own classes to talk and write about mental health. The impact of Stand Together has already gone well beyond the group: first at the football game, the students during English classes, and the assistant principal and one of the school police officers even joined in the workshops. Students were eagers to attack the stigma in their school. I don’t know where they’re going from here, but I can’t wait to see what else they come up with for this year! See you soon!

-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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‘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?! 🙂

 

 

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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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 “Sticking 2gether!” As students filled the lunchroom, the Stand Together team announced the purpose for their table and encouraged their peers to “Stick 2gether” 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 “Stick 2gether” 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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Written by Montaja, trainer

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SVMS: A Full Year of Photos, Basketball, & Fun

SVMS: A Full Year of Photos, Basketball, & Fun

Steel Valley Middle School is another veteran Stand Together team that continues to excel above and beyond every year. Sports are a huge part of their school culture for those involved as well as other students and the community at large. In addition to some of their tried and true activities, the SVMS ST group decided to focus their efforts to this theme in a diverse stream of activities.

 

IMG-9598The team started with an event right after they were trained. The students participated in a community event called Funder Under the Bridge at the Waterfront. School and community groups hosted tables and booths to spread awareness about their causes and fundraise. Over 500 people attended the event and the ST team raised $240, which they combined with other funds and donated to their local counseling agency, Steel Valley Wellness, that provides community mental health services, giving back to their community on a larger scale! How cool is that?!

 

 

Throughout the year the team had severalIMG-3691 photo booths to entice students to engage in activities and remember the events. These usually co-incided with games where students were tested on their mental health IQ and received a LifeSaver candy (because they could be a life saver!) and wristband and, if they answered correctly, they even got a full-size candy bar! Each event had a theme, including: ‘Don’t be a Grinch-1:4 people have a mental illness’ for the winter holidays, ‘Share the Love’ for Valentine’s Day, and one a basketball background for their March Madness tournament.

 

The team also held a door-decorating contest coinciding with the photo booth for Valentine’s Day. Each homeroom decorated their door focusing on a specific mental illness or concept. The class with the winning door won a donut party. Over 13 classrooms participated and some of the decorations are still displayed today.

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The major theme for the year, however, utilized basketball to engage the students in a myriad of ways. In November, the team had a booth outside a boys’ basketball game.FB_IMG_1554495793644 The team wore green sweatbands and the cheerleaders wore green bows to signify their solidarity in support of mental health awareness. They also attended a girls’ basketball game and hosted their table again with the players wearing the green wristbands. Even the other school’s team participated! The focus of these activities was to hype the students up for the Breaking Barriers March Madness trivia competition. In their homerooms, students were asked to answer questions about mental and substance use disorders and then shoot a basketball into a mini-hoop to earn points for their homeroom. Like a tournament, homeroom ‘teams’ were eliminated one by one until the final event!

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The highlight of the year was the Final Game (in March, of course!). The top 6th grade team battled the top 8th grade team-even the teachers joined in! Six teachers, the principal, their advisor, and her father all shared the court with the student participants-this time, playing with a real-size hoop. The winning 6th graders earned a pizza party and the 8th graders were given a donut party for their efforts. The students also had the opportunity to ‘dress-down’ for the occasion; students donated a dollar to wear their favorite team gear, which went to supporting the ST team’s donation to SV Wellness.

 

FB_IMG_1554495801700By using the basketball theme and having multiple projects over the course of the year, students were actively engaged, excited about the events, and were highly impacted. The team continuously used the same 25 questions over the course of the year and the students were able to have a better understanding about what mental illnesses are, the effects of substance use disorders and stigma, and the idea that they are not alone in their struggles. The team was even mentioned several times in the local newspaper, The Valley Mirror! Their advisor, Ms. Dunmire, couldn’t be more proud:

 

‘We’ve come a long way. I’m so proud of my students and I’m confident that we’ve made positive changes in our school surrounding breaking down barriers surrounding mental illness and substance abuse.’

SVMS 2019-r

 

Another amazing year, SVMS! Be sure to follow them on Instagram @SVStandTogether

 

 

Written by Danyelle, Coordinator

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It’s Time to Recognize! ST Teams 2019

It’s Time to Recognize! ST Teams 2019

Every year this is always the most difficult blog to write because I don’t know where to begin to describe the talent and passion of the youth that I am so blessed to work with. I usually only try to speak for myself, but I can say with 100% certainty that Montaja, Mike, all our TAs, and I are so incredibly proud of each and every one of you. This week’s Recognition Event was an absolutely magical experience and if you missed it, we can’t wait to share it with you!

 

featureA little bit about Stand Together/this year: ST has been in schools for the past six years, expanding each year to reach more and more middle and high school youth through student-driven anti-stigma projects that are increasing education and awareness, promoting social inclusion, and encouraging help-seeking behaviors. This year, ST trained 18 schools, 16 of which completed projects, and 14 were able to participate in this year’s event. The Heinz History Center was packed with youth and adult advocates that are enthusiastic about ending the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders. This was our biggest year yet, with around 300 in attendance!

 

Our schools designed and implemented so many uniqueOC table-r and innovative projects for their peers. The tried & true food and beverage stands are always a hit. Mental health fairs and presentations are making a come-back. Several schools decorated 1 in 4 stairs and their stairwells, while others created murals and plastered pledges on the walls. Some of our most creative projects for this year included Propel BHHS’s ‘Shine a Light on Mental Health’ paper lantern activity, WMHS’s ‘Toilet Talk’ booth, Shaler HS’s ‘Truth Tree,’ and SVMS’s ‘March Madness’ basketball tournament. Each year the students’ projects amaze us more and more, but the most important piece is the impact the students share about the changes that are taking place in their school culture. Take a look:

 

WMHS presenters

WMHS presenters

Student presenters shared that students are more comfortable talking about mental health and are more apt to reach out to ask questions and seek help. Students are using less stigmatizing language and aware and respectful of the invisible challenges they may be facing. The school culture is more accepting, encouraging, and supportive. Teachers and staff are forming relationships with students and challenging their own assumptions and stigmas. Lives are being changed daily thanks to the work of these students and advisors and we couldn’t be more proud.

 

Stigma is not gone, but little by little, our teams

N. Allegheny students at the photo booth

N. Allegheny students at the photo booth

are ‘chipping’ (cookie joke) away to break stigma and create better mental health environments in schools and even their communities. Events like these help the students see that they are part of something bigger than the projects in their individual schools-they can and are making a difference. As our keynote speaker remarked, ‘You may never know the ripple effects of your work,’ but we can already see the changes that are taking place-and we look forward to an even ‘brighter’ (lantern pun) future for mental and substance use disorders.

 

We can’t thank you enough for all the time, talent, and commitment you’ve contributed to this cause. We’re lucky enough to be able to lay the foundation-and then you run with your ideas and plans and turn this into something marvelous and meaningful. To our all teams, congratulations on another amazing year stopping stigma, one project at a time.

 

 

Special thanks to our school teams:

 

ST TY poster-r

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Avonworth Antelopes are Attacking Stigma-One Activity at a Time

Avonworth Antelopes are Attacking Stigma-One Activity at a Time

Avonworth Senior High School leaped into its first year with Stand Together with a lot of energy, fun ideas, and passionate youth. This year’s plans included two Food 4 Thought activities and a photo booth. The Stand Together team was really excited to share their knowledge with their school to stop stigma.

 

Screenshot_20190313-135256The group kicked off the year with classroom presentations to acclimate their peers to the Stand Together group and give them an idea of what will be going on this year. Around the same time, the students implemented their first give-away activity. Students selected a random slip of paper from a large bowl and they had to determine whether the statement was a fact or myth about mental and/or substance use disorders. The ST team hoped that they would be able to eliminate the stigma created by myths and replace them with facts. Afterwards, the students received a ‘Jolly Rancher’ candy and one to put in a jar. Once the jar was full after the activity, students were encouraged to guess the number of Jolly Ranchers in the jar to win the jar. That’s a lot of candy!

 

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The group also had a S.H.E. Cookies event. Students wereScreenshot_20190314-150744 incentivized to come up to the stand with a promise of free cookies, but first they had to talk about S.H.E. with the ST team members. It’s not only important to know how to recognize the signs/symptoms of a mental and/or substance use disorder, but also how to respond when someone you know is struggling. That’s where S.H.E. comes in: Support, Hope, and Encouragement. We’re not counselors or mental health professionals,Screenshot_20190314-150757 but we can be there for our friends and family and support them with a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, hold hope for them when they struggle to do so themselves, and encourage them to get help from a trusted adult when it’s interfering with their daily life. S.H.E. doesn’t ‘sell sea shells by the sea shore;’ S.H.E. helps others when they’re struggling.

 

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The group’s final event, which I had the pleasure of attending,props crop was their photo booth. There were three green streamers for every purple streamer, signifying the 1 in 4 individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder in a given year. Also on the background were thought bubbles with their social media info. Students could also choose from various props to have fun while learning about mental health and taking a photo to remember their experience. The photos will be printed out for the students to keep and another copy will also be used to create a collage to display in the school. Mara did a great job explaining the reason for the fun:

 

 

You had a great first year, ‘lopes, and we can’t wait for next year! Keep up the good work and see you in a couple weeks at the Recognition Event! (Shameless plug: for more information on the event, click here.

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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