This was the Academy’s first year in Stand Together and I was so impressed with their willingness to dive right in and get started on stopping the stigma related to mental illness and substance abuse. Their Stand Together group was comprised of all high school students that are seen as leaders of the school. Throughout the training, I saw exactly why these students were chosen to lead their school. They all had such a drive and weren’t afraid to voice how they were feeling.
On the first day, we discussed what exactly mental illness and substance abuse are. The group discussions were intense and filled with thought-provoking responses. We also played Stop the Stigma Bingo, which let the students and adults see how much they had in common and to display how we all are more common than we are different. Another activity that the students really enjoyed was Where Do You Stand, where the facilitator says statements and the students must decide if they agree or disagree with it. All the students were ready and able to explain why they either agreed or disagreed. They respected each other’s opinions and truly practiced listening to one another without interruption.
On the second day, the students engaged in project planning. I was amazed to see how in tune they were regarding what the students at their school would be interested in and what they wouldn’t respond to positively. They were able to come up with some creative ideas that would be possible to implement within their school to reach our goal of reducing stigma.
Fantastic job the Academy students! I cannot wait to see the positive impact each one of you has on your school. Your courage to educate and spread awareness is something to be proud of. Also, a big shout out to the school advisors Ms. Turkovic and Ms. Sroka! This program wouldn’t be possible at their school without them.
(written by Lacey, Project Trainer)
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