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West A: Education & Engagement

West A: Education & Engagement

West Allegheny High School is no stranger to Stand Together. This is their third year in the program and each year it gets better and better. Although some of the students may change, their passion for ending stigma and focus on education and engagement shine beyond their years.

One of West Allegheny’s priorities has always been education. Whether it’s in discussions with staff/faculty during professional development sessions or during peer-to-peer sessions, the team uses contact in small groups to connect with their audience and educate them in a way that is not only fun and engaging, but also incredibly valuable.

Common Ground

Since one of the team’s advisors is the physical education and health teacher, she was more than happy to share time with her classes to discuss mental health, after all: mental health is just as important as physical health! Students learned not only about the Stand Together program and the West A projects, but also about mental health diagnoses and each other. Members started by engaging their peers in Common Ground, an activity where students learn more about each other by moving seats when different statements apply to them. This helps break-the-ice and get people moving and talking.

The rest of the time was spent sharing information and engaging in a diagnosis/definition match game and Kahoot! This medium has been a favorite for many of our schools as it uses technology and competition to keep the students engaged while learning the information. Students also shared some resources and how individuals could get help if they were worried about themselves or someone else. They covered all three goals in this project: increase education and awareness, promote social inclusion, and encourage reaching out to a trusted adult! Woah!

West A’s squad also had a W.H.A.P.P. day for the students in their school. The team painted their faces with a hand-print to signify the ratio of 1:4 individuals that are affected by a mental health and/or substance use disorder. Painted in green (mental health) and purple (substance use) awareness colors, their peers could visualize the number of youth experiencing these conditions and were also reminded of the W.H.A.P.P. acronym-signs they could see that someone was struggling and needed emotional support.

During this activity, students learned what stigmatizing language is, how to recognize it, and positive words to replace it with instead of the negative connotations associated with mental and substance use disorders. Students wanted their peers to know that a person is just that-a person-first and that a behavioral health condition doesn’t define who someone is; that disorder is only part of who they are. Although it may affect that individual in many ways, people with mental and substance use disorders recover and have successful, meaningful lives.

Students demonstrated this by removing a red post-it note with stigmatizing language on it with a green note with a personal characteristic or appropriate word/phrase. Youth that engaged in the activity also received a ticket to win a gift card as a token of the team’s appreciation. By the end of the day, all of the red had been replaced with green in the shape of a green ribbon for mental health awareness! What a meaningful visual and physical activity for students to participate in!

Students also signed the anti-stigma pledge, agreeing to:
-speak up and speak out against stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders in their school and community
-not use stigmatizing language, like ‘psycho,’ ‘crazy,’ or ‘mental,’ to refer to anyone, whether that person has a mental illness or not
-share information, resources, and experiences to spread awareness and acceptance
-provide support and hope and encourage others to seek help when they’re struggling (S.H.E.)

The team also had plans for a mural that is still in the works. This whole quarantine thing has really dampened a lot of our teams’ plans, but West A continues to work virtually to educate their peers and provide resources. They have recently started an online campaign to provide their peers with tools to help them deal with anxiety and engage in self-care, become aware of the signs, and learn when and-more importantly-how to get help. This virtual project continues to keep the team’s momentum, even if they can’t hold events in person! How awesome is that?!

Thank you, West A, for another great year! We can’t wait to see the finished mural and follow your virtual project for tips. You’re changing the world-one student and staff member at a time!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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DLHS-Lancers Slay Stigma

DLHS-Lancers Slay Stigma

Deer Lakes High School was more than eager to participate in Stand Together this year; with a resounding, excited YES! their mental health team and administrators elected to begin a chapter in their school.

Since it was their first year, the students wanted to make sure their peers became aware of the Stand Together program and understood what the team was going to set-out to accomplish. The DL team produced a video outlining the goals* and explaining the importance of discussing mental health and substance use disorders. Students shared the prevalence of these conditions (1 in 4 youth) and encouraged their peers to reach out to an adult if they’re worried about themselves or someone else. Check it out!

Students followed the video with an assembly sharing information about mental and substance use disorders with their peers. They showed the Nuggets video to educate them about substance use disorders and I got to share my recovery story to inspire students. It was an amazing experience-over 400 students and staff members were present! The students concluded the assembly with a Kahoot! game; students from each grade competed to get the highest score and prove their mental health IQ. It was a great way to get the students involved in the activity.

Thankfully, the group was also able to engage students with an additional activity before they switched to online learning. The team created a spinning wheel with various options for the students to respond and participate: myth or fact, pop culture, definitions, and even player’s choice! Posters surround the sign encouraging the students to recognize the signs of stigma (S.T.I.G.M.A.**) and mental health conditions (W.H.A.P.P.**) and how to help (SHE**). All students that participated got candy and students that answered correctly got a ‘bonus prize;’ these included an assortment of mental health awareness items like pins, lanyards, pens/pencils, and keychains. Everyone was encouraged to sign the anti-stigma pledge and wear a DL Stop the Stigma! wristband to show their united support to end stigma.

Deer Lakes HS is off to a great start. Although they might not be able to get in another in-person project this year, we’re excited to see what they come up with in the years to come!

*The three goals of Stand Together are to increase education and awareness, promote social inclusion, and encourage youth to reach out to an adult they trust when they’re concerned about themselves or someone else.

**The acronyms are, as follows:
-S.T.I.G.M.A.: stereotypes, teasing, inappropriate language, ignorance, myths, and attitude
-W.H.A.P.P.: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, personality change, and poor self-care
-S.H.E.: support, hope, and encouragement

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Avonworth Antelopes are Attacking Stigma-One Activity at a Time

Avonworth Antelopes are Attacking Stigma-One Activity at a Time

Avonworth Senior High School leaped into its first year with Stand Together with a lot of energy, fun ideas, and passionate youth. This year’s plans included two Food 4 Thought activities and a photo booth. The Stand Together team was really excited to share their knowledge with their school to stop stigma.

 

Screenshot_20190313-135256The group kicked off the year with classroom presentations to acclimate their peers to the Stand Together group and give them an idea of what will be going on this year. Around the same time, the students implemented their first give-away activity. Students selected a random slip of paper from a large bowl and they had to determine whether the statement was a fact or myth about mental and/or substance use disorders. The ST team hoped that they would be able to eliminate the stigma created by myths and replace them with facts. Afterwards, the students received a ‘Jolly Rancher’ candy and one to put in a jar. Once the jar was full after the activity, students were encouraged to guess the number of Jolly Ranchers in the jar to win the jar. That’s a lot of candy!

 

Screenshot_20190313-135332

 

The group also had a S.H.E. Cookies event. Students wereScreenshot_20190314-150744 incentivized to come up to the stand with a promise of free cookies, but first they had to talk about S.H.E. with the ST team members. It’s not only important to know how to recognize the signs/symptoms of a mental and/or substance use disorder, but also how to respond when someone you know is struggling. That’s where S.H.E. comes in: Support, Hope, and Encouragement. We’re not counselors or mental health professionals,Screenshot_20190314-150757 but we can be there for our friends and family and support them with a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, hold hope for them when they struggle to do so themselves, and encourage them to get help from a trusted adult when it’s interfering with their daily life. S.H.E. doesn’t ‘sell sea shells by the sea shore;’ S.H.E. helps others when they’re struggling.

 

photo booth crop

 

The group’s final event, which I had the pleasure of attending,props crop was their photo booth. There were three green streamers for every purple streamer, signifying the 1 in 4 individuals that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorder in a given year. Also on the background were thought bubbles with their social media info. Students could also choose from various props to have fun while learning about mental health and taking a photo to remember their experience. The photos will be printed out for the students to keep and another copy will also be used to create a collage to display in the school. Mara did a great job explaining the reason for the fun:

 

 

You had a great first year, ‘lopes, and we can’t wait for next year! Keep up the good work and see you in a couple weeks at the Recognition Event! (Shameless plug: for more information on the event, click here.

 

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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