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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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SVMS Ironmen Interrupting Stigma

SVMS Ironmen Interrupting Stigma

Another veteran school, Steel Valley Middle School, has been with us quite some time and their projects never disappoint. From the beginning, they’ve been a Tier-3 school (the highest level we offer)-and the have some of our youngest members; Ryan’s group spans from 5th through 8th grade! Their maturity surpasses all expectations and they’ve always been a great group to work with; I’ve been lucky enough to work with them all three years I’ve been with Stand Together!

 

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Students started off their day going over some of the most popular myths and separating them from the facts in pairs. One of Stand Together’s goals is education and oftentimes, stigma is perpetuated by the inaccurate beliefs people have surrounding IMG_20181003_103811mental and substance use disorders. We discuss these with the students so that they can, in turn, address some of these myths and stigmas with their peers. In addition, we spend some time teaching students about the five most common signs of a mental health concern: withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, poor self-care, and personality change. To help them remember this, we have the students repeat the five signs to a partner and give each other a high-five. Did you know that physical activity increases brain activity and your member? We do…and we use it to our advantage! Besides that, it keeps things fun; Stand Together isn’t just about learning and  sharing, but creating connections and enjoying the activities while doing so!

 

The students spend the second day designing their projects for this year. The hardest part of the day is not necessarily coming up with ideas for the projects, but voting for the ones that they want to pursue this year. They had so many great ideas, but we finally whittled it down to a do-able amount.

 

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For the first time, SVMS has gone with a sort of theme to connect their projects. Many of the members of the group are involved in basketball or cheerleading and to increase awareness, students are going to be working with these teams, as well as the art and technology departments IMG_20181009_110819to market their events. The women and men’s basketball teams will be wearing green socks and the cheerleaders will be wearing green bows to symbolize the importance of mental health. (Mental health is also closely connected with physical health, so this is a win-win!) In addition, the Stand Together team will be making announcements and have a booth at the event with their spinning wheel and other activities to engage their peers and the community. They will be having mini-basketball tournaments in homerooms to encourage social inclusion. In addition, the students will have a door decorating contest in February and, to wrap-up the year and the basketball theme, the winner of the student homeroom tournaments will play staff to promote relationships with staff and encourage students to reach out to reach out to an adult they trust when they are worried about themself or someone else. (Tier-3 schools have to incorporate all three of our goals-they certainly are!) The capstone of the day was when the students received their Stand Together wristbands-it’s official!!!

 

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The Steel Valley team has already had an opportunity to share their projects with the community. Last month, they participated in the Funder Down Under event at the Waterfront. This is an event for the community to come together and learn about the great things students and other organizations are doing. The Stand Together team printed out graphics we use with the youth during the training. They also gave away wristbands to help remember what they learned that day and ‘Lifesavers’ candies to remind others that they could be the difference in someone’s life. The students brought their spinning wheel game and frame for ‘selfies with a stranger.’ What a way to start off the year!

 

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Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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ECS: Catalyst, Character, Collaboration, & Commitment

ECS: Catalyst, Character, Collaboration, & Commitment

Okay, okay…Those are some heavy words, right? Those are the four things Environmental Charter School has committed to providing for it’s students. But what do they mean?!
catalyst: to start something, like stopping stigma
character: the way someone thinks, feels, and behaviors (and trying to change these to end stigma)
collaboration: working together for a common goal, aka stopping stigma
commitment: pledging to a cause (stopping stigma)

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See the connection? We’re all about building connections, including everyone, realizing that we’re all human (and people that have a behavioral health condition are still people-first), and we can all work together to stop stigma. (and yes, stigma is a part of all of these things!)

One of the things we changed this year is having two types of trainings: 1) basic emoticons for ecs blogtraining, for students that are new to the program and middle schools, and 2) advanced concepts, for students that are returning and already have a foundation. Basic training focuses more on the signs of mental health concerns. We use The Campaign to Change Direction‘s five signs of emotional pain:
personality change (different friends, attitudes, behaviors than usual)
agitation (anger or irritability)
withdrawal (not hanging out with friends)20171025_105019
poor self-care (not taking care of yourself)
hopelessness (not feeling like life is worthwhile)
Students guess what these are, learn them, and then repeat them back to each other, giving ‘high-5s‘ to help remember them, especially since physical activity helps us remember things. And the emoticons don’t hurt either. (haha)

Students also work on their listening skills and empathy during a shoe-based activity, in which they decorated shoes and shared their ‘story’ with a partner whom they did not know. Students also discuss what are positive and negative listening skills and incorporate them into their conversations with their partner. Communication builds connection and this allows people to feel comfortable to reach out when they’re struggling. The students’ job is to provide encouragement, support, and hope.

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Students really enjoyed the project planning phase on the second day and came up with many ways to make the Lemonade for Change toolkit their own. Students explored the ideas of hot chocolate, cupcakes, ice cream, and cookies and how they would talk about mental health, substance use, and stigma with their peers. They also decided they wanted to hand out bracelets so their peers would remember the event and have a raffle for students that signed the pledge. You gotta do what it takes to get their attention and get them interested-and then use that opportunity to educate them and stop stigma!

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At the end of the review session, we also give away Stand Together t-shirts to the students that remember the most from the last training. Check out these star students-all with awesome smiles! We can’t wait to revisit them in a few weeks to hear which great idea they decided on. Keep up the good work, ECS! You’re going to ‘change’ minds and warm hearts!

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(Written by Danyelle, Coordinator & Trainer)

 

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