Posts Tagged success

Shaler Students 'Show-up' Stigma by Speaking Out

Shaler Students 'Show-up' Stigma by Speaking Out

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

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

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

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

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

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West Allegheny HS: Moving toward a Future without Stigma

West Allegheny HS: Moving toward a Future without Stigma

Stand Together, meet West Allegheny High School. This is the school’s first year in this program and I was blown away by the student’s passion for mental health and advocacy, as well as 20171110_132437overcoming barriers to treatment. They were not afraid to voice their ideas and opinions and shared some really great knowledge and very humbling personal experiences. Bonus: multiple members of their mental health team at their school are all working together to support the group! Take a look at our workshops:

Right from the get-go it was evident that these teens knew what what up (stigma) and wanted to change it. Their responses to our ‘Mental illness is…’ and ‘Stigma is…’ activity were exceptional! I knew we were starting the day on a high note. Students also really enjoyed the empathy activity (‘Walking in My Shoes’) and had some amazing listening skills.20171110_111448

This group of students also tried out a new activity in the afternoon: Climate Change. Change is hard, but it’s important for our participants to be the ‘change agents’ in their school when it comes to breaking down stigma. But if you don’t know where you’re going, most road will get you there… The students started exploring what some of the positive and negative things about the current school ‘climate’ (environment) and also came up with what a ‘warm,’ inviting atmosphere would look like. Using this framework, they would brainstorm ways to promote a more socially inclusive environment in their school, especially in regards to mental health. This activity went very well and we’re definitely considering it making it an addition to our current programming next year!

 

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The following week we returned for project planning and once again, the students really hit the ground running. They were so passionate and had many creative ideas. ‘Common Ground’ is always a favorite break activity. The students were so attentive and detail-oriented. Even though they’re doing ‘Lemonade for Change,’ their implementing their projects in three different ways, something that we’ve never seen before! I’m personally incredibly excited and hope to attend as many of them as I can! Who can turn down free Hershey kisses, gum, and cookies?! They want to focus a lot of their attention on de-stigmatizing going to see school mental health professionals! How cool is that?!

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For a first year school, this group are real rock stars in the mental health revolution! Check out their projects…coming February 2018!!!

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(Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator & Trainer)

 

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These Dragons DECREASE STIGMA!: Allderdice Workshops

These Dragons DECREASE STIGMA!: Allderdice Workshops

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

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

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

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

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

(written by Danyelle, Coordinator & Trainer)

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Trainer & Coordinator: Danyelle Hooks

Trainer & Coordinator: Danyelle Hooks

Many of you know Danyelle from last year, but if you haven’t met her yet, here’s what you need to know:
Roles: administrate website and social media, coordinate and facilitate school workshops, plan EOY event, conduct Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings, develop and revise materials
logoExperience: worked with children and adolescents in inpatient behavioral health, lead HS community leadership group, engaged urban students and promoted success, co-chair DBSA Young Adult Council
Professional interests: community mental health (especially faith-based programs and in schools), mental health awareness, holistic wellness, anti-stigma *educate>>stop stigma*

 

Important Stuff
Why I’m here: lived-experience with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder; promote recovery & resiliency, *inspire others* #unashamed

Fun StuffAYNIL graphic
Likes: walruses, popcorn, ice cream, running, camping/hiking, water sports, cats, people-watching, star-gazing, sleeping, surprises, FOOD, the Beatles *all you need is LOVE*, Hello Kitty, JESUS #unashamed, Team RWB
Dislikes: tomatoes, dolphins, the ocean, things in between my toes, conflict, loud noises, crowds, data/numbers, cars, (surprisingly) technology
Life plan: get married, have kids, go back to school, become a counselor! :)

Random Facts
-I LOVE polka music.
-I’m afraid of heights, but I like to challenge that.
-My hair used to be neon pink.
-I’m getting *married* next year! <3
Bucket list: hike the Grand Canyon, climb Mt. Ranier, run the Yellowstone & Glacier Park half-marathons, learn Slovak

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My Story

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Stand-ing Together Against Stigma 5-Years Strong! WMHS

Stand-ing Together Against Stigma 5-Years Strong! WMHS

20170914_125932This year’s WMHS Stand Together club has 76 (!!!) students and we definitely started the year off right! Their fearless leader, Ms. Rowe, has been advising this group for the past 5 years and is deeply passionate and invested in this program. She’s even presenting at a national conference in DC with our staff (Danyelle & Mr. Mike)! DSCN0784

We know that our brains and bodies are connected, so what better way to start the day than with a physical activity?! Ships & Sailors is always a favorite of the students, even though they comment that they’re too old to be getting on the floor! This activity teaches students about isolation and exclusion in preparation to discuss stigma and how it feels to be left out or pushed aside from a group.

Students spend a lot of time learning about mental illness and stigma and challenging some of the myths and stereotypes associated with behavioral health conditions. The first goal of Stand Together is to educate and increase awareness. Our team ‘teaches’ the students and they, in turn, teach their peers. We all know teenagers are more likely to listen to each other than adults, so this peer-to-peer piece is crucial in their project implementation!

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Students also spend a lot of time getting to know each other and realizing that they have more in common than they do that separates them, you’re never alone, and w20170914_100957e share the same struggles, successes, hopes, and dreams. They also come DSCN0764to realize that individuals with a mental health condition are people-first, who just happen to have an illness. Montaja shared her inspiring story of recovery and the group was inspired by her courage. Sharing our stories stops stigma and brings us together. The more we communicate, the more we connect, and the more genuine relationships develop, which ultimately end up helping others feel comfortable to reach out when they’re worried about themselves or someone else.

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By the end of the second day, students came up with many project ideas for the next year focusing on our three goals. Some of these included:

1) Educate/Awareness: ‘Big Picture’ collage, fact/s/feels sheets

2) Social Inclusion: Promoting Inclusion workshop, ice cream sundae bar, mask dance

3) Ask-an-Adult: Teacher Twin Day, pen pals, and staff/student field day

The students left the workshops excited to start taking action again stigma in their school-and ended with selfies with Montaja! Can’t wait to see what they come up with this year!

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NEW TA: Jordan Corcoran!!!

NEW TA: Jordan Corcoran!!!

Jordan Corcoran went to Mercyhurst College. During her freshman year, she was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. After going through a very difficult struggle with coming to terms and learning to cope with these disorders, Jordan created an outlet where people can openly and candidly share their own challenges and personal struggles. She speaks publicly to college, high school and middle school students about her story, Listen, Lucy and the importance of acceptance– of others and of yourself. She is the author of Listen, Lucy Volume I and has been featured on Today.com as well as UpWorthy.com for her self love campaigns. Last year, she filmed The Acceptance Movement docu-series which features her speaking to 10 schools and organizations in the United States and revealing the powerful impact this organization can have on an individual. Her mission is simple- she wants to create a less judgmental, more accepting world.

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Jordan loves Beyonce, pizza, her husband, Reality TV and Doritos.

 

For more about Jordan and Listen, Lucy! check out the bio on her website!

 

 

PS: Jordan just published her second book to be released Nov. 8!!! We can’t wait!

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NEW Trainer: Meet Lacey Agresta!

NEW Trainer: Meet Lacey Agresta!

Hey ya’ll! My name is Lacey Agresta and I am a project trainer with Stand Together. The end goal of my job is to break down stigma and educate our youth about mental health and substance use. I achieve this by going into classrooms all around Allegheny County and facilitate workshops.

In 2014, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Florida State University. I started my career as a case manager for children and families who were involved in the court system. After that I was employed by an elementary school, focusing on absenteeism within the student body. I realized then that my passion was working with youth. When I found my current position as a Recovery Specialist, I knew my move to Pittsburgh was for a reason; to spread the word about mental illness and hopefully help one person who is facing challenges in their own life.

What makes me such an expert on this subject? Well, I have suffered with mental health disorders my entire life. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, and ADHD in my early teens. When I’m not focusing on my recovery, I am extremely anti-social, tired, agitated, nervous, unable to focus on one task, not sleeping, and many more symptoms that caused impairment in my everyday life. These symptoms led me to abuse drugs to numb my pain, thus causing me to eventually become addicted. My recovery came slowly, but I didn’t give up on it like I had done so many times before throughout my youth. I surrounded myself with people that loved me and supported me throughout my journey. My parents helped as best as they could, but they weren’t experts on recovery and they didn’t understand the kind of support I needed; they also had mental health issues of their own. Luckily, I had other adults that were professionals in this field that stood by my side and never gave up on me, even when I would mess up. I listened to them and did what they told me to do, even if I didn’t want to. I knew that I could not do this on my own and I had to put my ego aside. Today I live a beautiful life and I never take one day for granted. If I could get through it and come out of the other side, anyone can.

I’m originally from Bradenton, Florida and just recently moved to Pittsburgh in April 2017. I currently live in Dormont with my boyfriend and our fur-babies, Armani and Biggie. Most of my time is spent outside exercising, exploring the town, or cuddling up on the couch with my pup!

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“You were never created to live depressed, guilty, condemned, ashamed, or unworthy. You were created to be victorious.”

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Environmental Charter: Environment, Friendship, & Community

Environmental Charter: Environment, Friendship, & Community

Environment, friendship, and community are three values that Environmental Charter School values and it clearly showed in their Lemonade for Change project. In May, the students implemented their stand during lunch to raise awareness about mental health concerns and provide valuable information about mental health, stigma, and hope.

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Students were greeted by a student that explained to them who they were, what they were talking about, and what they were doing at the stand. They then proceeded through a line to sign the pledge, pick-up information, and receive their free beverage.

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Students were also given a wristband to remind them of the event as they continued through their day. The the students used green wristbands with #StandTogether on them to represent mental health awareness and 1:4 of the wristbands were purple and had a fact about mental health conditions on it. The 1:4 referenced that one in four students has a mental health condition in a given year. Students remarked: ‘It was cool that they did this.’ ‘I’m going to keep this bracelet on for as long as I can.’ ‘They care.’ In addition, the staff remarked that they feel more comfortable talking about these issues with their classes because they know it’s something that we’ve already tackled. How awesome!

The students were also able to confront a popular meme/joke that was going around the school during the year. Stand Together students refused to get involved in the ‘joke’ and one student explained that ‘suicide isn’t funny.’ These students have really made steps toward becoming advocates for mental health.

ECS did a great job with their project this year and can’t wait to return next year. The students learned a lot and shared their passion with vigor and courage with their peers. Kudos!

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Arsenal MS: Cool Aid Stand

Arsenal MS: Cool Aid Stand

Arsenal MS had another great Lemonade 4 Change project this year. Their team, the Stigma Stoppers, implemented three separate ‘Cool Aid Stands’ in an effort to promote understanding and inclusion among their student body regarding mental illness, particularly concerning the stigma associated with seeking and receiving treatment. The Cool Aid Stand represented three aspects of the project: 1) It’s COOL to talk about mental health & disorders; 2) It’s OKAY to get help; and 3) STAND-well, obviously they were giving something away.

Students designed shirts to demonstrate their unique qualities and represent the Stigma Stoppers. They also added #hashtags to talk more about their cause and encourage other students to talk about #mentalillness and #stigma on social media.

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Students had three kinds of Kool-Ade for the students to choose from that the team was giving away for free. Each cup had a question about mental illness or stigma written on it. The idea was that the students would read the questions and this would spark conversations with the team members, as well as their peer groups. Individuals were also given the option to have their drink ‘extra sweet’ if they answered the question correctly and became a ‘life saver’ (the candy) for someone they know that may be experiencing mental health concerns. The team members were there to respond to questions and engaged the ‘customers’ in further conversation about stigma and mental health awareness.

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Students also participated in the school’s parent day, at which they had the opportunity to share their cause with parents and school staff, continuing the conversation about mental health.

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These students really impressed me this year. Although the training was difficult, they put aside their differences and really came together as a team. They definitely facilitated an impactful project! Thanks, Arsenal Stigma Stoppers and Mr. Bryan!

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Recognition Event 2017

Recognition Event 2017

Words cannot express what an amazing experience we had on Wednesday, May 10 celebrating our Stand Together schools’ accomplishments this past year. Over 150 students and 100 supporters attended this years’ event at the Heinz History Center. All eight of our project completing schools were able to attend in some fashion and some even brought guests, give-a-ways, and goodies to share.

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The chairs were full and the plaques were ready to be given out! After a brief introduction, the program began!

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Our featured speaker, Dese’Rae Stage, shared her moving recovery story and the students found hope and inspiration in her words. Many students could relate to her on a personal level and all the participants enjoyed viewing her work, Live Through This, and learning about other suicide survivors stories.

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All of our schools did a fantastic job presenting their projects and demonstrating their mental health expertise and changes in school culture.

Here’s what each school came up with:

Propel: Braddock Hills High School’s projects were a HUGE hit. Their creativity and innovation always inspire other groups to take risks with their projects and think outside the box. This year, the students manufactured a ‘Thought Bubble’ that they used to invite their peers to stop stigma and increase social inclusion by sharing things that they struggled with, things that helped them cope with life’s stress, and things that inspired them. Students also created a life-size board game similar to Chutes & Ladders, in which participants scaled ladders when they supported a friend or talked about mental health, but moved down the slides when they used stigmatizing language or ignore’s signs/symptoms in a peer. The students wrapped-up their project with their annual Blackout Stigma day, in which students are allowed to dress-down in black clothes, participated in a moving wristband sharing activity, and took pictures at a photo-booth with an anti-stigma backdrop created by all the students at the school.

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Propel was followed by Steel Valley Middle School. These students worked together with their HS counter-parts to unite their schools for a common-cause in their Breaking Barriers Dash. Students also facilitated a Glow-in-the-Dark dodgeball tournament for almost 200 students. Each team had to learn about, spread awareness, and represent their assigned mental health condition. The winners received gift cards. Students also conducted a Kindness Kafe at which they gave away free hot chocolate and ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ bracelets to discuss mental health and increase social inclusion. Students also had a #standtogether selfie station to remind their peers of the activities.

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Next, students in Arsenal Middle School shared their ‘Cool-Aid Stand’ project, explaining the importance of reaching out to their peers, meeting them where they are, and giving away something for free. As a Community School, Arsenal strives to involve parents and other community members as well. Check out their project!

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Carlynton spoke of their ‘dirt’ and ‘sand’ bake sale in which they reminded peers that “Stigma is dirty!” and that they should “S(t)and Together.” The snacks had flags that discussed the myths and facts surrounding mental health conditions and sold out quickly! Carlynton is also going to be facilitating a 1:4 week soon.

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The Environmental Charter School returned to Stand Together after a one-year hiatus and it was great to see them engaging their peers again! ECS handed out hot chocolate and lemonade as well as wristbands to the students to educate them about mental health and substance use disorders. For every 3 green wristbands, there was 1 purple wristband that read “1 in 4 students have a mental illness” to visually represent the prevalence of behavioral health conditions. The students also had information readily available for students that wanted to learn more about common disorders or compare the myths and facts.

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Following ECS, West Mifflin MS shared their tier-3 projects, including a movie night featuring Inside Out and a Color Run, which was open for the whole community. Students also performed skits to talk about mental health and stigma before and during these events. One of the highlights of the day was the students interacting with guests, offering hugs-and giving them, along with passing out a pin with a motivational phrase written on it. There was definitely a lot of love going around the room!

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Steel Valley HS capitalized on Valentine’s Day with their “Love is louder than any mental illness” campaign. Students decorated lockers with mental health facts and positive messages. They also held a door-decorating contest between homerooms that focused on educating each other about mental health disorders. The students largest event was a mental health fair. Students visited tables and activities set-up around the gym during their lunch periods to learn more about mental health conditions and stigma, participate in social inclusion activities, and de-stress through dancing, Twister, and coloring books. Steel Valley’s innovative theme made a huge impact in their school environment and many faculty members, as well.

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West Mifflin HS wrapped up the program describing their full year of events aimed at ending the stigma attached with mental health disorders. Early in the year, students held a balloon release for students to ‘let go’ of struggles and ‘soar;’ regardless of what was going on, students came together in a moving ceremony to ‘stand together’ in hope. Other projects included educating the preschool students, hosting a bake sale, holding a throwback dance, and presenting a school assembly. Another big event included their mental health fair. Much like SVHS, students learned about mental health, participated in social inclusion and coping skill activities, and played games that not only engaged students and rewarded them with prizes, but provided them with reminders of the things they learned that day. (Did you see some of the prizes above that they also handed out at the event?!)

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It was an absolutely fantastic event and everyone had a great time. Students and other attendees left inspired to address stigma in their schools and communities and continue in their plight to increase awareness, increase social inclusion, and encourage reaching out to an adult. Thank you all for everything you do for Stand Together! See you next year!

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If you’re interested about learning more about Stand Together or bringing to to YOUR SCHOOL, please contact Danyelle Hooks at (412)350-3455 or danyelle.hooks@alleghenycounty.us.

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