The above students are just a few of the many students who have taken part in our virtual Stand Together training to combat stigma.

The world has changed-and we’ve changed along with it! This year things are a little different (well, a lot different!), but we’re rising to the challenge. It’s been a chaotic time, but within these trials we’ve discovered innovative ways to inspire and empower our youth and propel them forward, expanding on their current successes and taking further strides to break down the barriers to mental health.

Althought projects might look a little different this year, we know that your school teams are going to come up with creative ideas and make a difference in your school communities, whether online or in-person. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that you’ll decrease stigma and help each other become and stay mentally healthy. One new addition to the Stand Together curriculum this year is self-care; participants learn about and then share coping skills with the other students and staff to promote a culture of wellness in their schools. We will ‘stand together’ for mental health and against stigma.

Our first trainings started in October with CAPA, West Allegheny, and TJHS. These schools wanted to jump right in and get started, noticing the incredible need for mental health education, awareness, and resources in their schools. Yeshiva is currently ‘in session,’ and Propel-Braddock Hills finished up last week. If you haven’t gotten a chance to take part in your school’s training sessions yet, we’ll have another blog about some of the changes we’ve made and fun activities we’ve added to keep it interactive! (Stay tuned!)

We knew going into the 2020-2021 school year it would be different-and we’d have to adapt. The Spring was so sudden and it broke our hearts that some of our students didn’t get to hold or complete their projects. Mental health is more important now than ever, especially with the added pressures of the Coronavirus. (Yes, we talk about it!) I’ll admit, I didn’t know how it was going to go virtually-mental health is such a personal, vulnerable, intimate topic and I was really concerned about how we would be able to get the ST vibe and experience in a virtual setting. I also pouted for a little bit, if we’re being honest-trust me, I experienced a lot of the same feelings you have! It’s so frustrating! But over the summer, we worked on an entirely new virtual training to give you the best online experience we can.

Sessions are shorter and so is the entire training-screen fatigue is a real thing and we didn’t want to contribute to an issue that was already challenging, especially since most of you are all online all the time. I mean, it’s great to stay in my pj’s and work in bed, but it’s also not easy. Schools also get the option this year to select (2) 4-hour sessions or (3) 2.5 hour sessions to split up the training. Project planning will be conducted with ST trainers during the first few team meetings and schools will be encouraged to think ‘outside of the box’ to reach their peers in this virtual world. Thanksfully we’ve also had the experiences of our all-school summer projects to provide some great examples of how to move forward this year. (If you haven’t checked them out, you need to! Check out the podcasts and eZines in the Projects section of our webpage.)

Whew! That was a wordy bit-thanks for hanging in there until the very end! If that wasn’t enough, Stand Together is expanding to Clarion and Washington counties in addition to Venango County and the state of Delaware! This is all because of YOU! So hang tight-we can’t wait to start your schools’ training and meet YOU! See you (virtually) soon!

Written by Danyelle, Coordinator