Posts Tagged success

West Mifflin Middle School: Melting away stigma one hot cocoa at a time!

West Mifflin Middle School: Melting away stigma one hot cocoa at a time!

On December 11th, I attended West Mifflin Middle School’s 6th grade hot cocoa stand. The goal of this project was to educate their fellow peers on mental illness and substance abuse. To receive a hot cocoa, a student had to sign the Stand Together pledge and read aloud a fact related to mental illness and/or substance abuse. Many students came up to participate and were interested in what the ST group was doing.

 

2When it came to organization, the students worked together to come up with a process that made serving the hot cocoa go smoothly. Some of the5 students mixed up the hot cocoa, while others put marshmallows on top, and the rest of the group helped with the signing of the pledge. It was impressive to see the 6th graders all work together and make sure that everyone was involved. Some of the students even stayed late to make hot cocoa for students who didn’t get a chance to come up and get some!

 

After the lunch bell rang and it was time to go, the Stand Together group helped their advisor, Ms. Roman, clean up the area which they worked in. Students wiped down the tables, packaged up supplies, and carried items back to their proper location.

 

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All in all, the 6th grade Stand Together hot cocoa stand was a success, and even though there were a few hiccups in the road, they worked together as a team to try and end stigma in their school! Great job West Mifflin Middle School 6th graders!

 

Written by Lacey, Project Trainer

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Brentwood: One big, happy…group? MS & HS!

Brentwood: One big, happy…group? MS & HS!

Brentwood High School is no stranger to the Stand Together program and we were thrilled to hear that they would be teaming up with their middle school students this year to create one large Stand Together team!

 

IMG_8250Since we had middle and high school working together, we did three days of training. The first day was only middle schoolers, who had never been in Stand Together before. I cannot even begin to tell you how impressed I was with these students! Not only were they extremely knowledgeable, they were also emotionally mature. They all asked questions that were thoughtful and weren’t afraid to voice their opinions, even if they differed from others. It was such a pleasure getting to know each student and seeing how excited they were for the upcoming year (especially working with the high schoolers).

 

The second day of training was just with the high school students. Many of them had been in Stand Together previously, so it was nice to see returning students. Much of the discussion was IMG_8291very personal and heartfelt, which showed me how much the students trusted each other. By the end of the day, I felt like I had learned so much from this group.

 

The third day of training was a combined project planning with the middle and high school students. This was my first time doing a combined training, so I was a bit nervous as I did not know what to expect. We began to brainstorm ideas that were applicable to both middle and high schoolers. The students decided on doing a 1-in-4 toolkit and a Lemonade for Change toolkit. Once they had their main ideas and goals laid out, we broke the entire group (middle and high school), into two groups. Those two groups then worked on their specific toolkit. At the end of the day, we all came back together and shared our ideas to receive feedback. Each group had such different projects that all related to the Stand Together goals!

 

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I want to thank you, Brentwood, for allowing me to come in and work with both the middle and high school students. You were all so passionate and really cared about this project. I can’t wait to see your creative ideas put into action!

 

Written by Lacey, Project Trainer

 

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Propel MS: Courage & Hope

Propel MS: Courage & Hope

“Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

This quote was on the wall when we entered Propel: Braddock Hills Middle School and it inspired us as we prepared for our day. Courage and hope are HUGE parts of tearing down stigma and we were ready to work to instill these values in our group!

20171207_093203For many of the students in this group, it was the first time they had came in contact with each other. Sure, they may have passed each other in the hall, but many of them didn’t know each 20171207_103326other. That was definitely going to change by the end of the trainings. Students enjoyed tossing the ball around to talk about their favorite holiday memory, moving seats in Common Ground, and partnering-up to learn about the 5 Signs and empathy.20171205_111155

 

 

 

 

Although they’re long days, the students were eager to share their thoughts and ideas with the group and participate. Even if it got a little bit rowdy at times, we encourage the students to have fun, make new friends, and speak up when they have something to say-and they had a lot to say! :)

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After much discussion and hard work, the students came up with and presented six exciting ideas to the group. We’re still not quite sure which one they’ll choose, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be awesome!

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health

Holiday PSA: Stress, Self-Care, and Mental Health
Maker:L,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

Danyelle sharing a part of her recovery story at When the Holidays Hurt…

For most, the holidays are a time of great joy, excitement, and family fun, but for many of us, the holidays hurt. They’re hard. They’re not ‘pretty presents wrapped up in a bow’ or feel-good festivities, but sources of pain, struggle, and/or sadness. Memories of a lost loved one, negative feelings/experiences, and expectations can make it difficult to enjoy this time of the year. I shared my experiences last night at a Human Library presentation; we’re not alone in our struggle. Some of us, myself included, also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means that when the sun is in low supply and it’s cold and dreary, our mental health takes a nose dive. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to consume us. Whether you have a mental health condition or not, there are things you can do to de-stress and engage in acts of self-care to promote positive mental health over this season.

1.  It’s OKAY to take a break from family, especially if they challenge your mental health. You can do this respectfully by setting boundaries and limits. It’s okay to politely excuse yourself for a few moments (or longer) to collect yourself, reconnect, and reboot.

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2. Back to Basics: self-care also includes eating healthy foods, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep. Putting yourself first is not selfish; it’s necessary. It’s okay to indulge in some holiday treats-Hello! Christmas Cookies!-but we like to stick to an 80-20 rule (80% clean/healthy, 20% not so much).

REI-_OptOutside_Anthem_Film_153. Get Outside! Remember REI’s catch-phrase #optoutside? Even though sunshine is hard to come by this time of the year, getting some fresh air is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Be mindful of your surroundings: What do you smell? Hear? See? Feel? Embrace the now! Pet that dog (probably ask first). Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Take a good wiff of that bakery-it’s okay to stop in for a treat too :)

4. Do what YOU do! Make sure to engage in activities you enjoy. Read a book, watch a movie, knit, bake…whatever you like to do, make time for you! Little moments of stability can do wonders for your mood.

5. Be mindful. Savor the good times. Stay positive; surround yourself with positive people, if you can. Make time for those friends you haven’t seen in a while or spend some time with that favorite relative. Our perspective determines our reality; if we’re looking for good things, we’ll be able to find them. Practice gratitude and celebrate the small things. Imperfections are a part of the ride and they don’t define the event/who you are.

expecations6. Set realistic expectations. Society bombards us of the idea of this ‘perfect family holiday’ where everyone holds hands and sings Christmas carols around the tree, everyone laughs around a huge table of food, and everything is red and green and lit-up and glorious. Let’s face it-this isn’t real. Everyone is unique and every family is different. When we expect too much, we miss out on little things that could be great experiences. It’s easier said than done (trust me, this is a hard one!), but it’s important to remember that it will pass and to make the most of the situation as it is, not what we expect/would want it to be.

 

Family is messy. The holidays can be stressful, to say the least. But YOU CAN DO IT! Take care of yourself first and foremost. You are important! You deserve a HAPPY HOLIDAY.

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Written by Danyelle. Project Coordinator

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Shaler Students 'Show-up' Stigma by Speaking Out

Shaler Students 'Show-up' Stigma by Speaking Out

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

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

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

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

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

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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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