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CDS: Steps, Ducks, & Celebrities Against Stigma!

CDS: Steps, Ducks, & Celebrities Against Stigma!

Community Day School was the last of our schools to be trained this year-but definitely not least! This group was small, but mighty and came up with some very innovative ideas for their projects!

The first day started off, well…interesting. The group sat in separate tables based on gender-but just because the tables didn’t interact didn’t mean the students weren’t engaging with each other! The girls especially had a lot to say from early on-and plenty to share. These students were very vocal about their personal experiences from the get-go and were ready to learn and, in turn, educate their peers.

Students spent the morning learning all about mental and substance use disorders, stigma, how to recognize the signs, and how to help a friend in need. Students asked a lot of questions and were eager to participate in activities. The afternoon was very meaningful for the students; many of them got real with issues they’ve struggled with and things they’ve experienced. And even though this school is small and tight-knit, they found out things about each other they didn’t know and things in common they never thought they would. The team built a strong foundation, a sense of community, and a passion for stopping stigma. Students finished the day with an even greater desire to talk about mental and substance use disorders and share the education and experiences they shared with their peers.

The second workshop was a whirl-wind! This group had so many ideas from the moment they sat down in the morning to walking out of the room that afternoon! They had so many novel themes, mottos, and activities, it was hard to keep them on task! The students focused on two main projects for the day using the Stand Together photo booth and Food 4 Thought toolkits. The photo booth has a VIP feel as they put a ‘Spotlight on Stigma;’ students will walk down a make-shift ‘red carpet’ with pictures of celebrities, while being asked questions about mental health, and culminating with a photo to remember the day! In addition, students will be having a duck pond (that was popular this year!) to test the student’s knowledge about our acronyms: WHAPP, STIGMA, and SHE (see below*), as well as myths/facts. And get this: their slogan is ‘Quack Away Stigma.’ (I just can’t…) The students will also kick-off the year by decorating 1:4 steps and their stairwells with mental health information. Whew!

These students are ready to stop stigma by increasing education and awareness and promoting social inclusion. Through creative, innovative projects and personalities to match, this team will engage their peers and dispel the myths that cause stigma. We’re excited for CDS’s first year in the program and are ready for that ‘red carpet treatment’ this Spring! Keep up the good work!

*WHAPP (signs of a mental/substance use disorder: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, personality change, poor self-care
*STIGMA (examples of stigma): stereotypes, teasing, inappropriate language, ignorance, myths, and attitude
*SHE (how to help): support, hope, encouragement

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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OCHS: Celebrities, Cookies, & Scrunchies…Oh My!

OCHS: Celebrities, Cookies, & Scrunchies…Oh My!

Lions and tigers and bears…Oh my! (Wizard of Oz) Celebrities, cookies and scrunchies…Oh my! (Oakland Catholic) Those animals are definitely something to be afraid of, but the students at Oakland Catholic High School weren’t afraid to tackle stigma in their school. Although this was their first year, the team created some great projects that will be remembered fondly for years to come.

light up sign

IMG_3134The team kicked off the year with visual representations to spread awareness. Team members decorated the staircases of their two building with different colored tape to represent the one in four youth that are affected by a mental and/or substance use disorders in a given year. Posters of prominent celebrities with these conditions were on the walls of the stairwells to spread awareness about the prevalence of these disorders and how they can affect anyone.DSCN1663-r Since it was their first year and first project, many of their peers were curious about the decorations and approached ST members to discuss the visuals. Many of the adults also commented that they did not know that these people lived with these disorders. This started the conversations that would be had over the course of the school year.


Students continued their discussion on the topic by using an activity to Crumble Away Stigma. Student participants spun a carnival wheel to select a questions about a mental health or substance use disorder. Students got to spin the wheel until they answered a question correctly. Some DSCN1688-rstudents had to get some help, but that just emphasises how much we need each other and that we’re not alone in our struggles. Participants were awarded with an infamous Ms. Judy cookie. Folks, these are homemade by one of the cafeteria workers and I can tell you from first-hand experience that they are amazing. No wonder this project was such a hit! Students were also encouraged to sign the Stop the Stigma pledge by means of a card on the cookie bag. The team continued promoting the 1:4 ratio with the cookies themselves: for every three Sprinkle with Kindness sugar cookies, there was a chocolate Chip Away Stigma cookie. Students were more than happy to participate with such a tasty treat at stake! Many of the school’s faculty and staff, including their priest and assistant principal joined in on the fun. I was so glad I could be there for this event!


The group’s last activity for the year combined a video presentation with an incentive give-away. 90s trends are making a comeback and scrunchies are a BIG deal at OC. In the video, students explained the idea behind the scrunchies, but, more importantly, the clip featured students and staff sharing their experiences with mental health and the ST program. ST students and members of the student body shared how the projects have affected them. One brave teacher shared that his own sister died by suicide. This video also gave students a lot of hope and helped others realize that they are not alone in their struggles. Then, students were encouraged to reach out to a ST member and discuss something they learned from the video to receive a scrunchie. As they said, ‘Together, we can scrunch away stigma.’ Students were proud to don their scrunchies as a symbol of solidarity against stigma.



OC is well on their way to ending stigma at their school. One student remarked,

Some of my friends deal with mental health issues and they were more open to talk about it at school because of the projects that the club put together.

We love hearing about the impact our students teams are making in their schools. When we  Stand Together to ‘crumble’ and ‘scrunch’ away stigma, more youth can get the help they need without fear of STIGMA (stereotypes, teasing, inappropriate language, ignorance, myths, and negative attitudes) and discrimination. Outstand job, Oakland Catholic! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!


group scrunchie throw


Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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It’s Time to Recognize! ST Teams 2019

It’s Time to Recognize! ST Teams 2019

Every year this is always the most difficult blog to write because I don’t know where to begin to describe the talent and passion of the youth that I am so blessed to work with. I usually only try to speak for myself, but I can say with 100% certainty that Montaja, Mike, all our TAs, and I are so incredibly proud of each and every one of you. This week’s Recognition Event was an absolutely magical experience and if you missed it, we can’t wait to share it with you!


featureA little bit about Stand Together/this year: ST has been in schools for the past six years, expanding each year to reach more and more middle and high school youth through student-driven anti-stigma projects that are increasing education and awareness, promoting social inclusion, and encouraging help-seeking behaviors. This year, ST trained 18 schools, 16 of which completed projects, and 14 were able to participate in this year’s event. The Heinz History Center was packed with youth and adult advocates that are enthusiastic about ending the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders. This was our biggest year yet, with around 300 in attendance!


Our schools designed and implemented so many uniqueOC table-r and innovative projects for their peers. The tried & true food and beverage stands are always a hit. Mental health fairs and presentations are making a come-back. Several schools decorated 1 in 4 stairs and their stairwells, while others created murals and plastered pledges on the walls. Some of our most creative projects for this year included Propel BHHS’s ‘Shine a Light on Mental Health’ paper lantern activity, WMHS’s ‘Toilet Talk’ booth, Shaler HS’s ‘Truth Tree,’ and SVMS’s ‘March Madness’ basketball tournament. Each year the students’ projects amaze us more and more, but the most important piece is the impact the students share about the changes that are taking place in their school culture. Take a look:


WMHS presenters

WMHS presenters

Student presenters shared that students are more comfortable talking about mental health and are more apt to reach out to ask questions and seek help. Students are using less stigmatizing language and aware and respectful of the invisible challenges they may be facing. The school culture is more accepting, encouraging, and supportive. Teachers and staff are forming relationships with students and challenging their own assumptions and stigmas. Lives are being changed daily thanks to the work of these students and advisors and we couldn’t be more proud.


Stigma is not gone, but little by little, our teams

N. Allegheny students at the photo booth

N. Allegheny students at the photo booth

are ‘chipping’ (cookie joke) away to break stigma and create better mental health environments in schools and even their communities. Events like these help the students see that they are part of something bigger than the projects in their individual schools-they can and are making a difference. As our keynote speaker remarked, ‘You may never know the ripple effects of your work,’ but we can already see the changes that are taking place-and we look forward to an even ‘brighter’ (lantern pun) future for mental and substance use disorders.


We can’t thank you enough for all the time, talent, and commitment you’ve contributed to this cause. We’re lucky enough to be able to lay the foundation-and then you run with your ideas and plans and turn this into something marvelous and meaningful. To our all teams, congratulations on another amazing year stopping stigma, one project at a time.



Special thanks to our school teams:


ST TY poster-r



Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic Eagles Eliminate Stigma

Oakland Catholic is our first private high school and we are so excited to have this group join us this year. The school jumped at the opportunity to join our team after a presentation at a regional Student Assistant Program meeting. (SAP is made up of staff members at schools that work to improve student’s education, whether it be mentally, physically, or academically.) It’s hard to believe I first spoke with them almost a year ago today! OC leadership was also quick to schedule a Youth Mental Health First Aid training for their staff before school started to educate their faculty even before Stand Together started. Their interest in improving the mental health environment for their students is inspiring and refreshing. Mental health matters!




IMG_20181205_105714These girls were a blast to work with! Although chatty at times (it was a group of teenage girls!), their enthusiasm didn’t end. All the students were fully committed to the program and activities. They had a lot of great questions and really came together as a group by the end of the first day. It was even more meaningful for the students that our assistant for the day, Julianna, went to OC herself. We laughed a lot, as you can see from all the pictures! And even though we had a lot of fun, the group was determined and passionate as they ‘stand together’ to stop stigma.


The team came up with so many good ideas on the second dayIMG_20181205_101539 that it was really difficult to narrow it down to three. From scrunchies, raffles, decorations, and so many other ideas, the group was adamant about educating their peers, spreading awareness, and breaking down social barriers, especially when it comes to seeking treatment. Of course, they had great slogans, too: ‘Stairways Against Stigma’ and ‘Elevators for Awareness’ were just a few they came up with. The students really wanted to focus this year on helping their peers realize that there are a lot of people that struggle with these issues, it’s okay to not be okay, and they’re not alone; people care, it’s okay to get help, and it can get better. These students warmed my heart with their wisdom and dedication to decreasing the stigma associated with mental and substance use disorders.


We’re proud to work with OC this year and we’re certain they’re going to make a big impact in their school with their creative activities and eye-catching marketing. Between the Stand Together team and faculty Mental Health First Aid-ers, they’re off to a great start. You go, girls!



written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Guest Blog: Let’s talk about African American Men’s Mental Health

Guest Blog: Let’s talk about African American Men’s Mental Health

As we come to the end of Men’s Health Month, I wanted to talk about mental health from my perspective. I hope that in doing so you might find the common thread of human experience that binds us as a society.  In writing this, may I first say that I am not an expert on mental health.   However, I do get to play one at work each day in my role as a Recovery Specialist. Anyone who knows me will confirm my lack of authority on the topic, so I am in no position to preach to anyone.  However, I am quite willing to talk about what I know best, my story. My story is common in the African American male community.  You’ve seen it or presumed it, men neglecting their mental health to the detriment of their family, community and society.  I was no different, I waited until I was 50 and out of functional relationships to wake up and address a few things.


MMH blog 2

I am a strong African-American Man. I am the parent of children who have grown up to contribute to the world.  I breezed through grad school with a 3.75. I’ve had a success filled career in Education and Mental Health Services that has lasted over 30 years.  I coached a high school basketball team that scored 82.0 points per game with only one player over 6’.  I was hit by a moving train and walked away relatively unharmed (and because of that).  I have earned the right to wear a cape and a big S for ‘superhero’ on my chest.


MMH blog 1Also, I am an African American male with a mental illness: depression. I have spent my share of hours in the therapist’s office.  I know recovery for me, is a process I must work on daily. At times, it takes a village to keep me on task.

I used to be ashamed and secretive of the reality of having depression, but now I’m proud of the life I live.  Now my life is an integrated whole, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I know that pushing aside the leotard to reveal the inner workings of the person behind the S does not make me any less of a strong African American male.  Superhero status is not really required.  I cannot save the world and often I am the one who needs saving.  Like many people, I once felt that having a mental illness was a sign of weakness. So I avoided treatment.


As a mental health professional, I spent lots of time convincing people otherwise, but when it was my turn I felt going to the psychiatrist was a sign of failure.   I tried MMH blog 4running, yoga, drinking, smoking, meditation and most of self-help books in the Carnegie Library catalog.  Anything but mainstream medical attention.  I did not want to go to a psychiatrist because “nothing is wrong with me I’m not crazy!” But I had no issue going to the dentist, my primary care doctor, or orthopedist.


Like many African American males, I stigmatized mental illness in a way we do not stigmatize obesity, diabetes, hypertension and so many chronic and life-threatening illnesses prevalent in our community.  We take pills to lose weight or lower our blood pressure but not to get or stay mentally well.  According to the mythology that surrounds the strength of African American men, “falling apart” is just not something we do.  We survived the Middle Passage, slavery, racial oppression, economic deprivation and a few political campaigns.  We know how to “handle our business”, “be a man” but we see therapy as the domain of “weak”, neurotic people who don’t know what “real problems” are.


MMH blog 5

So how do African American men begin to eliminate the stigma of mental illness so that we can get the help we need and support those who might need it? May I offer a few suggestions?

  • Talk about it.

  • Don’t whisper or gossip about it.

  • Talk about it at the party.

  • Talk about it at church.

  • Talk about it on TV/the radio/social media

  • With our loved ones

  • With our doctors

MMH blog 6

If we can talk about our high blood pressure, our asthma, our lung cancer we can talk about our depression. Support each other in getting help.  We send friends to the doctor for nagging back pain, so send them to get relief from their mental and emotional pain too.  And don’t forget to be a friend and ask them how they are doing from time to time.  Don’t stigmatize the brain!  It is attached to the body, so mental illness is a physical illness.


Finally, support people who share their stories of mental health disorders.  It is time to show that the faces and lives of African Americans with mental illness are not just the faces and the lives of the homeless person talking to the unseen.  It is my face and my life and the faces and lives of others just like me.  “Coming out” requires courage.  Like any other consciousness raising process, a range of role models who represent a variety of experiences with mental illness will change perceptions.


As a local community we have a list of accomplished African American men to inspire us in our various endeavors.  Andrew McCutchen, Ju Ju Smith-Schuster and Coach Tomlin come immediately to mind.  We need a list of African Americans with mental illness who survived and thrived. No doubt MMH blog 3due to stigma it was difficult to find the names of locally well-known African Americans with a “confirmed” history of mental illness and this is not the place for gossip or rumor, so I will start the list with me:


My name is Bill Boyce and I have depression.  I am a father, athlete, artist, writer, musician, social activist, mental health professional and as sane and happy a person as you would ever want to meet. My mental health disorder does not define who I am.


-Written by Bill, STU Recovery Specialist



(The images above are African American males that have shared their experiences with mental health conditions: Kid Cudi, Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, Wayne Brady, Jay-Z, and Brandon Marshall)

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‘Preventing Suicide is Everyone’s Business’-Linda Rosenberg

‘Preventing Suicide is Everyone’s Business’-Linda Rosenberg

Preventing Suicide is Everyone’s Business: Statement by Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO


The high-profile deaths by suicide last week of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade shed light on a growing national problem. While 5th Anniversary of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fundother causes of death are declining, the suicide rate keeps climbing – alarmingly so. The same week Bourdain and Spade died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study which revealed that suicide rates increased in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with half of those states seeing an increase of 30 percent. Nearly 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016 – that’s one person every 12 minutes.


suicide blog 2Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade and to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. Clearly, suicide is not an isolated incident and it’s not just a mental health problem. The CDC reported that more than half – 54 percent – of people who died by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental health condition. Among the other factors that contributed to suicide deaths were relationship problems, substance use, physical illnesses, job loss and money troubles. Suicide is a public health problem that can and must be prevented.


suicide blog 3

First, we must recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s business. We all know someone who is living with depression or anxiety, has lost a loved one to suicide or is struggling to find mental health or substance use treatment for themselves or a loved one. The time has come when our response to someone with a mental health problem or an addiction should be no different than our response to someone with cancer, heart disease or diabetes. The National Council’s Mental Health First Aid offers tools to help start a conversation, listen with compassion to someone who has thoughts of suicide and direct them to professional help.




Second, we must make it easier for people to get the help they need. The National Council’s 2,900-plus members are transforming health care delivery for individuals at risk of suicide by offering same-day access to services and beginning to adopt a Zero Suicide approach to care, which makes all health care settings suicide safe. Zero Suicide is a bold goal that we are fully capable of meeting.


Finally, we must remember that suicide is caused by disconnection and isolation. The best thing we can do if we are worried about someone attempting suicide is to tell them we are concerned, ask them if they are thinking about death and get them help from professionals, family members and friends. Suicide deaths are preventable, and we must start today.


suicide blog 6

             suicide blog 5








suicide blog 4The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained. For more information, please visit



(If you are interested in Mental Health First Aid for adults or youth and you live/work in Allegheny County (PA), please contact Danyelle at for more information.)


*note: This article was not written by Stand Together and does not claim ownership. This is for public information only and has been credited above.*

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Hooray for High School! Recognition Event 2018

Hooray for High School! Recognition Event 2018

Stand Together students had another phenomenal year and our team couldn’t wait to celebrate with and recognize them for all of their hard work to end stigma in their schools! I had the pleasure of working with many of our high schools this year and they blew me away with their passion, commitment, and courage.


This year’s projects were innovative, creative, and incredibly impactful. We trained nine high schools, seven completed projects, and six participated in the recognition event. Here’s what the students designed and implemented at their schools this year:


3The Academy Charter School: The Academy chose a different approach to decreasing stigma in their school by creating a ‘safe space’ for students who might be struggling with something. This room was staffed by faculty and had many coping techniques available, including quiet music, comfy chairs, sensory objects, and inspirational MH images. In addition, the students promoted education and self-care with the faculty by giving out cups with coffee/tea, an awareness wristband, and a bookmark with the ST anti-stigma pledge on it. In working with the faculty, they hoped to increase their knowledge and change attitudes that would hopefully filter down to the students.


Taylor Allderdice High School (PPS): The students at Allderdice created and presented a mini-presentation about mental health and stigma to the freshman Civics classes. In addition, they worked with the art department to create a dragon (their mascot) painting. Students signed flames agreeing to ‘breath fire on stigma.’ This mural will remain a permanent fixture at the school signifying their solidarity in the fight against stigma. The Stand Together team finished their year with an 1:4 assembly, in which mental health and stigma was reviewed and the students were rewarded by pie-ing four teachers in the face for their participation in the year’s activities.


Propel-Braddock Hills High School: Propel HS has been in Stand Together for all five years! Switching things up from their typical ‘Black Out Stigma’ theme, this year the Stand Together students chose ‘BLOCK Out Stigma.‘ This theme utilized larger-than-life lego blocks for their projects that addressed all three of Stand Together’s goals: 1) ‘Block’ Stigma (education/awareness); 2) ‘Build’ Relationships (social inclusion); and 3) ‘Lego’ of Fear (ask-an-adult).  Students did activities within their ‘crews’ (like homeroom) and during a Block Party during lunch. (All those puns!) PBHHS always comes up with out-of-the-box ideas that really get the student body interested and involved in Stand Together at their school.



Science & Technology Academy: Although SciTech’s group was small, they were mighty! Students were given cups of Lemonade for Change that had mental health facts on them. The team used the lemonade as an incentive to get their peers to visit their booth and learn about mental health in a casual environment. The team also made posters that were shared around the school to remind the students of what they had learned during the activities. They mentioned they could definitely see an impact with their students and that students were very receptive and interested in what they had to say. Sounds like a success!




 Shaler Area High School: Although it was their first year in Stand Together, Shaler did a great job incorporating two goals into two projects. DuringMaker:L,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y lunch, the team had students ‘Take a Bite out of Stigma by reading facts about mental health and substance use disorders and stigma (education/awareness) before receiving a cookie. Students also participated in a social inclusion‘No One is Alone.‘ Several prompts were provided on a large poster and students had color-coded post-it notes to anonymously respond to the statements if they applied to themselves or someone they know. These statements included such as: I have been personally affected by a mental illnessI have been personally affected by substance useI’ve felt excluded or disadvantaged. Students also received a ‘sucker to stop stigma.’ This project was incredibly moving; the post-its filled the entire poster and it was powerful to see so many students being honest about their struggles, but also have the visual to see that they are never alone in what they’re going through.


West Allegheny High School: A first-year school like Shaler, West A. did fantastic projects that were presented the information in fun, free food projects that were meaningful and memorable. Students not only engaged in ‘food give-aways‘ (including cookies, HerSHEy kisses, and gum>>check out their other blog for the great slogans!), but also began and ended their project season with assemblies for the student body. The first included an overview of Stand Together and mental health and the last had students participate in a ‘Mental Health Jeopardy.’ Trainer Danyelle also shared her recovery story for the group. The team remarked that students really enjoyed the activities and are excited to continue participating in Stand Together next year.



Assembly 2.13.18

jeopardy crop







I Am muralWest Mifflin Area High School: This is also WMHS’s fifth year with Stand Together. This year’s projects included an ‘I am…’ reflective mural, their annual Glow Dance so spread awareness about mental health and substance use disorders and suicide, and a Mental Health Fair, featuring a Celebrity Art Gallery, depicting and describing celebrities that are affected safe haven graphicby MH/SUD. Students have promoted social inclusion in a Worry Monster, in which students would right down a struggle with anxiety and students could see that they are not alone ; the team also responded to these with uplifting messages of encouragement and hope. In addition, the school’s Safe Haven’ program promotes relationships with adults by creating ‘safe classrooms’ and ‘safe teachers’ that are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and are willing and able to help students get the help they need.


Lacey and I are incredibly proud of all of our high schools and we look forward to working with you again next year! If you want to see more of these amazing projects, check out our YouTube Playlist, the individual school blogs, and the full-length Stand Together Student Project Reel 2018 below:


Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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WBD Day: What you need to know about Bipolar Disorder

WBD Day: What you need to know about Bipolar Disorder

Every year on March 30, World Bipolar Day is celebrated across the glove to raise awareness about bipolar disorder and eliminate stigma. It is celebrated every year on the birthday of artist Vincent van Gogh, a famous Dutch painter diagnoses with bipolar disorder that died by suicide after struggling with psychosis. Bipolar disorder affects around 3.4 million children and adolescents.3.30 bipolar blog 5 Although mood swings are typical in adolescence, when these start to affect the individual’s life on a daily basis, this can be cause for concern. Famous recording artist Demi Lovato has also become a strong public advocate as well.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by period of mania (hyperactivity, impulsivity, reckless behavior, high energy, lack of sleep) and depression (little activity, anxiety, potentially suicidal thoughts/self-harm, low energy, and often increased sleep). Some forms of bipolar disorder also include psychotic episodes, when people can experience hallucinations, delusions, and odd thoughts/ideas. As you can imagine, this is a complex and difficult disorder for youth to experience, especially if they’re experiencing these symptoms for the first time on adolescence. (Click the roller coaster below!)

3.30 bipolar blog 2

There is a lot of stigma associated with bipolar disorder. How many times have you heard the word bipolar used as an adjective to describe someone that changes their mind often or when the 3.30 bipolar blog 1weather is unpredictable? Using these words can be offensive to individuals that are affected by BD (bipolar disorder). Although known for their rapid changes in mood, mania and depression typically change only several times a year or at most a month. These transitions can be exceptionally difficult and confusing.

The good news is-like most mental health disorders-bipolar disorder can be treated and recovery is possible. For most individuals, a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective. Medicines may include things like mood stabilizers to help even things out and anti-depressants to help with the lows that can be more difficult. The medication isn’t a ‘magic pill;’ the individual may still experience symptoms, but it helps them become more manageable. Therapy includes cognitive behavioral interventions that may help manage the individual’s thoughts, moods, and behaviors. These types of therapies help the individuals cope with the changes and intense feelings that they experience and help them to challenge their thoughts, which, in turn, impacts their moods and behaviors.

Coordinator, Danyelle

I myself have been diagnoses with bipolar disorder. As a teenager and young adult, I was afraid to seek help; I was scared that everyone was going to think I was ‘crazy‘ and getting help was a sign of weakness in3.30 bipolar blog 3 my family. A lot of that was from stigmaEven though I was clearly suffering, I was unable to get the help I needed until much later in life. Now, despite these challenges, I am a successful adult. I have a job I love, I’m getting married in December, and I frequently share my story to help decrease the stigma associated with this and other mental health conditions. Sometimes I still struggle, but I have a great support system, I can always reach out to my therapist and psychiatrist, and have the tools and coping skills I need to overcome the bumps that come along the way. There may be potholes, but I can dig myself out.

For more information, check out these websites:

Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)-particularly the Young Adult section

BP Hope Magazine-People Like Me: Four Personal Stories about Living with Bipolar (featuring coordinator, Danyelle!)

#worldbipolarday #bipolarstrong #strongerthanstigma #socializehope

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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ED: What You Need to Know About Eating Disorders

ED: What You Need to Know About Eating Disorders

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Although our program doesn’t go into depth about this mental health condition, it is important to be educated and aware as much as possible. This week is a great time to learn about eating disorders.

ED blog 6An eating disorder is a serious condition in which an individual is preoccupied with food and weight that the person can often focus on nothing else. These can cause serious physical problems and can even be life threatening. The biggest stigmas surrounding eating disorders are: “Why can’t you just eat?” and “Why can’t you stop eating?” But ED are real mental health conditions and need to be discussed seriously and with support, hope, and encouragement.

Our culture has complicated relationships with food, exercise, and appearance. 30 million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that have untold negative impacts on their lives.

Obviously, ED is short for eating disorder and many individuals with this condition talk about it as a person controlling their thoughts to obsess over their physical appearance, referring to him/her as “Ed.” Sometimes, personifying something, such as an illness, makes it easier to understand, cope with symptoms, and engage in recovery.

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This week, ED have been featured in many media outlets. Teen Vogue published a great article  on the myths surrounding eating disorders. You can find the article here. In addition, YouTube phenomenon and musician Lindsey Stirling is hosting a Facebook Live! tomorrow, Feb. 28 at 3:30p discussing her eating disorder and recovery. It can also be found at the Child Mind website if you don’t have Facebook (haha). There are many celebrities that have shared their struggles and recovery as well, including: Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars), Lily Collins (Netflix’s To the Bone), Zayn Malik (One Direction-yes, men also experience ED!), Demi Lovato (in addition to substance use and bipolar d/o), Ke$ha, and Shawn Johnson (Olympic gymnast).

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Zayn Malik attends the 7th Annual amfAR Inspiration Gala at Skylight at Moynihan Station on June 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Tachman/Getty Images)

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Although there are many different kinds of eating disorders, what’s important for us is to recognize the 5 signs (of MHC), have empathy (check out this video for a young person’s experience), and know how to talk and support someone with an ED. As always, if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know, it’s important to reach out to an adult you trust.

For more information about eating disorders, click here. (SAMHSA)

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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West Mifflin High School: Breaking the Silence

West Mifflin High School: Breaking the Silence

West Mifflin High School has been ‘breaking the silence’ around mental health and substance use disorders and stigma for the past five years and have been doing a great job changing the culture of their school regarding mental health. This year they continue to deliver. Mr. Mike had the chance to visit WMAHS for their Break the Silence day last Friday, January 26. Let’s #talkaboutit!


Insta image 1For the last few years, WMAHS has been having a Break the Silence day, a peer-to-peer event at which the Stand Together students hold a ‘fair’ in Screenshot_20180128-083830their common area during lunch to promote education, awareness, and social inclusion and decrease stigma. Students can visit various stations that have been set-up to provide information and help the student’s understand more about mental health, coping skills, and resources, both in the school and the community.


The group will also hold a Mental Health Art Gallery in the spring, but at this event, senior Hayley created over a dozen posters focusing on mental health in celebrities. This has been a passion project for Hayley, as she has been in the group for four years and will be focusing on art next year in college. Great job, Hayley!


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In addition, another senior, Trinity, wrote and produced a short video to share with her peers. She reached out to teachers and even the school nurse to get their feedback. Over 40 educators and 20 students are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and are equipped to be ‘first responders’ when other students at the school may be experiencing a mental health concern or crisis. Trinity hopes to encourage her peers to become more aware and make proactive efforts to combat the stigma in their school.



The entire group did a phenomenal job presenting mental health and substance use disorders in a more positive light and are clearly making an impact in the lives of the students in their school, whether they are changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or helping students receive the resources and support they need to aid in their mental health. Thanks for being five-year members of the Stand Together mental health revolution-you guys rock! You just don’t stop amazing us!


-Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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