Posts Tagged West Mifflin

Breaking the Silence: Talking about Mental Illness at West Mifflin HS

Breaking the Silence: Talking about Mental Illness at West Mifflin HS

Students at West Mifflin High School have been planning and implementing Stand Together projects since the beginning of the school-year. As one of only two schools that has participated all four years, WMHS has a large, elaborate program that continually works hard to educate, increase social inclusion, and encourage students to get help.

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Projects began in October, when the group held a cupcake bake sale to kick off the year. In November, the students held a balloon release in which students wrote something they wanted to ‘let go’ of (struggling with), a fact about mental illness, or a hopeful message and attached it to a balloon. The balloons were then released in a moving ceremony. One of the balloons was found 90 miles away and the person that found it contacted us!



Throughout the year, students maintained a Stand Together bulletin board, held informative sessions during Freshman Health classes, and even participated in a Mental Health First Aid training, including over 40 teachers and staff and 20 students! Students and faculty that completed this training are considered a “Safe Haven,” that is, someone that students and anyone else at the school can talk to if they’re struggling with a mental health concern. Students also connected with teachers during a lunch activity to break down the barriers and fear that sometimes separate adolescents and adults.

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Last Friday, students facilitated Break the Silence Day, a fair-style event at which the student body could test their mental health knowledge by playing games, participate in self-care activities, and help create a mural that was displayed in the school cafeteria.

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This mural was a green ribbon for mental health awareness, made out of the Stand Together students hands, that was surrounded by multicolored feathers with mental health prompts that were answered by the student body, including:

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In addition, the students organized the Mindful Art Gallery which displays works of art relating to mental health in students lives. Works were displayed anonymously so students could express themselves freely without judgement.

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Last week, some of the students facilitated a lesson about emotions and coping skills with the preschool class. The children listened to a book about a monkey that learned to deal with being upset and participated in various activities, including yoga, blowing bubbles, and making masks of faces with different emotions. The lesson concluded with the students identifying an emotion or coping and skill and receiving a green bear to remind them of what they learned.


The year will conclude with an end-of-the-year assembly for the entire school. Check them out at Special thanks to their advisor, Ms. Rowe, president, Eliza, and preschool teacher, Ms. Bonacci, for all their hard work!

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Hope Floats: West Mifflin HS Balloon Release

Hope Floats: West Mifflin HS Balloon Release

On Friday, November 18, 2016 I had the pleasure of joining the Stand Together team and students from West Mifflin Area High School for a balloon release event. It was a beautiful day and the activity was a great success!

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At lunch, students could purchase a balloon for a ticket out of class for the release that afternoon. Students wrote something anonymous about mental illness, stigma, or hope on a card and it was attached to the balloon. The balloons were redistributed randomly to students and students could read one anothers’ heart-felt messages, before ‘letting go’ of their 20161118_141101struggles and believing in hope for the future.

WMHS Stand Together President, Eliza, shared some remarks at the event:

“Today we recognize our challenges, struggles, accomplishments, and our worries. Today we let it go. All of the years that we have been challenged to live with depression. All the struggles that OCD has given you on a day to day basis. All the help that you have received and the accomplishments along the road to recovery. All the worries to the ones we love struggling with ADHD. Today we are not alone, we have support by the ones around you. The community has your back; if your balloon lands in their yard, they will learn the things we are going through. They will learn we are not crazy, that we are people. That STIGMA IS SHAME, SHAME CAUSES SILENCE, AND SILENCE HURTS AUS ALL!”

Over 100 students attended the moving event. The Stand Together team also passed out brochures on suicide prevention from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and a self-created resource guide. In addition, Principal Phillip Woods participated to show his support.

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Advisor Lauren Rowe & ST Students             Principal Woods ‘high-five’-s Eliza

One of the balloons was found in Ashville, PA, 85 miles away! This balloon was found by Donna Boring who found it while walking in the woods and contacted us on Facebook.

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In addition, students were instructed to Insta/Tweet/Share photos and videos with the hashtag #wmstballoons. We leave you with this video courtesy of Lorin, a ST team member:

#wmstballoons 💙💛🎈

A video posted by @lorin_17_ on

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Week 1: West Mifflin HS & MS

Week 1: West Mifflin HS & MS

We had an absolutely AMAZING first week in the West Mifflin school district! Ms. Rowe’s & Ms. Roman’s groups learned so much, shared openly, and starting thinking about some amazing project ideas. Thanks for being our ‘guinea pigs’ and helping us work out the basic kinks!

20160920_102335 75 (!) high schoolers joined us on Tuesday and they were loud and proud against stigma! We enjoyed many activities, including defining key terms, matching definitions, and Kahoot!-ing some myths away!

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Everyone had a great time and no one left alone!

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Thursday, Ms. Roman’s group experienced some frustration during our puzzle exercise 20160922_092722 but quickly gained momentum as a group during the matching and myths activities as well!

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By the end of the day, the students had bonded and were excited to begin thinking about their projects for this year!



Revisit our blog next week to see some of the project planning process as our groups learn and grow TOGETHER!


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