West Mifflin High School has been with Stand Together from the start and each year they continue to amaze us with their student’s passion and drive for ending stigma in their schools. Each year, they’ve created a sort of Breaking the Silence week or day in which they spend discussing mental health in a positive way and spreading awareness of stigma-and how to stop it. One of Stand Together’s mottos is: ‘Stigma causes shame. Shame causes silence. Silence hurts us all.’ West Mifflin is yet again breaking down barriers to decrease stigma and increase education/awareness, social inclusion, and help-seeking behaviors.
WMHS is usually our largest group and this year they had 41 students participate in the two-day workshops. Many of the students had been in the program before, but there were also a large portion that this was their first year in the program-even some seniors! Students were selected by the program by an application process that hones in on the goals of Stand Together and how participants can be effective ‘change-makers’ in their school. This group was excited, prepared, and vocal for both days of the training.
Although the school has been in the program for a long time, it was empowering to hear that some of the students felt that this was the tightest group so far. Although they were quiet at first (I had to pass around a happy sparkle stick so they’d all participate!), they bonded a great deal throughout the day and some students remarked that they had learned more than they ever had. This year, we added additional information about specific diagnoses and substances to the training, as well as scenarios that encouraged the students to assess the signs of emotional concern and determine how they would approach that individual, what they would say, and how they would use S.H.E. (support, hope, and encouragement) to reach out to that person. The students came up with very compassionate, empathetic, and supportive responses and I’m sure they would be ready if they were in a situation in which they were concerned about themselves or someone else.
The second workshop, as always, is the ‘fan favorite.’ We didn’t even get through the rest of the training, as the students were so excited and into project ideas and planning! Typically the group does a few large events and several small events each year. By the end of the day, the students had come up with concrete plans for five projects and had planned on working on a couple more throughout the year. This year, they will be bringing back the balloon release, truth booth, and an assembly. In a twist to their traditional ‘Break the Silence’ event, they will be engaging students in an activity to get to know other students that they did not know and find things they have in common. The team also want to have a concert-style event with participants from the school band, chorus, and drama departments, as well as recovery speakers and activities. It’s going to be a HUGE endeavor, but the students are incredibly dedicated to make this happen.
It was definitely emotional, exciting, and inspiring two days of training and WMHS is well on there way to having another great year-it could be their best yet!
Written by Danyelle, coordinator
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