Posts Tagged unity

NAI: First Year, Fantastic Plans

NAI: First Year, Fantastic Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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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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CAPA’s got ‘The Real Tea’ about Mental & Substance Use Disorders

CAPA’s got ‘The Real Tea’ about Mental & Substance Use Disorders

The Stand Together team at CAPA high school hosted their second event after kicking off the year with in-class student presentations. If you haven’t guessed what this activity entailed…it has to do with tea. Using this clever pop culture reference, students from the Stand Together group hosted a tea station in the main hallway right off their school’s cafeteria, a hotspot for student traffic!

 

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DSCN1548Stand Together students took turns at each lunch period operating the table and sharing facts- “the real tea”- about mental illness and substance use disorders. During down time students approached their fellow classmates, encouraging them to grab a drink.

 

Students were more than happy to learn about stigma and sign the anti-stigma pledge poster to stop the stigma against mental illness and substance use disorders, in exchange for a cup of tea of their choice. CAPA students enjoyed the theme of the table and what it stood for. Some studentsDSCN1543 knew about the facts on the cup while others were surprised to hear them. A few students even mentioned the presentation the Stand Together team held around the school. Not only did students sign the pledge; even school security guards and teachers signed the pledge poster and enjoyed a cup of tea as well!

 

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Stand Together students were excited to see the turnout of participation amongst their peers, and even more excited to witness their classmates learn about the facts and sign the pledge. It’s clear to see that hot tea and hot facts unite people! Stopping stigma one steep at a time.

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Friday, April 29, they also did our Stick it to Stigma activity outside of the cafeteria. Students posted sticky notes to create a visual of how many lives have been impacted by mental illness and substance abuse. It was very cool—lots of students wrote nice little notes on them. For participating they also got a lollipop (1 in 4 marked with tape to represent 1 in 4).

 

Awesome job, CAPA-see you next week! Can’t wait to recognize you for your efforts!

 

 

Written by Montaja, trainer

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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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Shaler HS Titans Aren’t Afraid to Talk About It!

Shaler HS Titans Aren’t Afraid to Talk About It!

Shaler Area High School is returning for its second year with Stand Together. We were impressed with the impact of their ‘truth booth’ project last year and the vulnerability of the entire student body. This year, of course, the ‘truth booth’ is being resurrected, along with a few other activities for another great year.

 

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Many of the students returned from last year, but there were plenty of new faces that joined theIMG_20181109_085422 team this year. One of my favorite moments was when two students connected over a discussion about therapy; one student was asking questions about partial hospitalization (that means when someone can go to school or work, but still has extensive amounts of group and individual therapy, usually 3 or so hour/day) and another student willingly shared some of her own experiences. This was incredibly powerful. Stand Together sees the incredible value in youth that have experienced these difficulties, whether themselves or someone they know, and their great opportunity to enact change from a lived-perspective. Sharing our stories helps others know it’s okay to not to be okay, you’re not alone, and help is out there; it can get better. There is hope; there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

 

IMG_20181109_104449We also had a lot of fun. The ‘fan favorite’ Ships & Sailors resulted in hilarious outbursts as students dramaticized movements and reactions. We had a lot of theater participants in the room and it clearly showed! The students also learned how to work together. Like many of our groups, the Stand Together team at SAHS was a diverse team of students. But after the first day, they were well on their way to forming a unified front against stigma.

 

One of my favorite parts of the day is the time we spend inIMG_20181109_122059 circles. I know it sounds cliche, but this ‘circle time’ is where a lot of the ‘magic happens.’ Students find out that they have more in common than separates them, they get to know each other, and more importantly, they get to share pieces about themselves and how they’re going to use their passion and the information they learned to help others. This is always a moving time for me as students share things they learned, what they’re going to change, and what they’re going to contribute to the project. By the end of the second day, these students were ready to go.

 

IMG_20181116_104028These students also came up with some amazing ideas during their project piece. Using some of the activities we facilitate in trainings, as well as some creative new ideas, the students planned some amazing events for this year. We’re looking forward to this year’s visual, student activity fair, and newest version of the ‘truth booth.’ Thank you, SAHS, for not being afraid to #talkaboutit and #standtogether against stigma.

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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