Stand Together is an innovative program that trains, inspires, and equips middle and high school youth to take action against stigma toward peers with mental and/or substance use disorders using a peer-to-peer service-learning model. Stand Together trains a group of students at each school, and those students then develop projects to educate their peers. The goal is to reduce negative attitudes, beliefs, and social distance between students with these disorders and their peers and to encourage students to reach out to a trusted adult if they are concerned about themselves or their peers. Stand Together promotes social and emotional learning by fostering self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.   

Why is Stand Together Important? 

-Annually, one of every four youth in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental or substance use disorder 

-Two-thirds of those youth with disorders do not receive treatments 

-Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 12-18 year-old age group 

-90% of the youth who complete suicide have a mental or substance use disorder 

-From 2007-2017, the suicide rate in this age group increased 85% 

The Impact of Untreated Mental and Substance Use Disorders on School Performance 

-Poor academic performance 


-Behavior/discipline problems 

-24%-44% of these students don’t graduate from high school 

Major Causes of Youth Not Seeking Help 

-Stigma toward being labeled with a mental or substance use disorder 

-Lack of knowledge about treatment and treatment resources 

Why Stand Together? 

-One time and short-term interventions aren’t effective long-term in changing stigmatizing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors 

-Peer-to-Peer education is a powerful way to create change among youth 

-Stand Together is designed based upon youth, anti-stigma education research  

-Stand Together addresses two of the main reasons students don’t seek help: stigma and lack of knowledge about treatment resources  

-Stand Together students learn important life skills such as teamwork, consensus building, public speaking, budgeting, project planning, leadership, and marketing  

-Partner schools say Stand Together has helped to change the culture in their schools. Students are more open in talking about their mental health challenges and more willing to reach out for help. Stand Together student members report peers thanking them for bringing the discussion about mental and substance disorders into the light so they don’t feel ashamed anymore. 

-Stand Together has already done the hard work of creating training curricula for students, project toolkits, posters, and other resources and forms 


Awards and Recognition 

-National Association of Counties 2017 Achievement Award – Best in Human Services Category 

-National Association of Counties 2017 Brilliant Ideas at Work – 100 Best Innovations in County Government 

-2014 Mental Health America Allegheny County Esprit Award – Children’s Service Award