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Guest Blog: Finding Humanity Amidst the Chaos (Julius Boatwright)

Guest Blog: Finding Humanity Amidst the Chaos (Julius Boatwright)

We are honored that Mr. Boatwright has agreed to compose a special blog about community written specifically for Men’s Mental Health Month 2020. (More about Julius can be found after the blog.)

While we’re living in the midst of a public health pandemic and seeing some of the most wretched police brutality happen, it can be difficult for us to honor the humanity in other people. Every time we scroll through social media, we don’t have to look far to find someone making a divisive comment that alienates a group of people who are already marginalized. When we’re bombarded with these messages, it can be challenging for us to see the good in people as human beings.

As most of us know, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer on film. It’s important because the way he died was different than how other Black people have while in police custody. Watching an officer apply the weight of his body on George’s neck until he became lifeless was a shock to our souls. This was long, drawn-out, and heart-breaking. There are hundreds of folks who have been murdered during routine interactions with law enforcement. As a society, we’ve become desensitized to seeing someone murdered on video by officers. With George Floyd though, that desensitization was reset.

Then, something different began to happen across the globe. On social media, we started to see people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds coming together to impact change. At protests, white bodies placed themselves on the front lines to protect Black people. Companies began to donate millions of dollars to Black-led organizations doing work at the grassroots level. Politicians began to stand in solidarity with Black activists fighting against police brutality.

What happened to George Floyd, coupled with the world’s heightened emotions due to COVID-19, put people in a place where they finally said, enough is enough.

Does this mean that racism is over, police brutality will stop, and humanity is saved? We have a long way to go before we reach that point.

I believe that every day, people are beginning to see that Black people deserve to be loved, valued, and appreciated like everyone else in the world.

After losing my best friend from college to suicide years ago, I knew that honoring people’s humanity was part of my greater purpose. We have feelings and emotions. We go through trials and tribulations. We experience joys and successes. All of these things are part of being a human.

I hope that we continue to honor this sentiment when no one’s watching and the cameras stop flashing. I envision a future in which we don’t have to advocate for people to believe in humanity. I believe that as humans, there’s goodness in all of us.

I believe we have the power to stand up to racism and bigotry together for the betterment of our society. The younger generation is rising to the occasion and driving this movement in a sustainable, transformative direction. We should all be excited about how systems and archaic policies are being challenged right before our eyes. The revolution is happening today and it’s a beautiful experience to witness.

In solidarity,

About the writer: Julius Boatwright is a licensed social worker and Founder/CEO of Steel Smiling, a local organization that bridges the gap between Black community members and mental health support through education, advocacy, and awareness. Mr. Boatwright’s work engages Black communities in the Pittsburgh area and throughout the country to create connections and address the specific challenges they face. His personal experiences, education/background, and passion for addressing trauma and mental health have overflowed into a range of services to help Black children, youth, and families learn about mental health, share stories about their experiences, and strive to collectively heal.

Special thanks to Julius for sharing a part of himself and his wisdom in this meaningful blog. You can learn more about Steel Smiling at their website and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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DL Lancers: Armed with SHE, Defeating STIGMA

DL Lancers: Armed with SHE, Defeating STIGMA

We’re pleased to welcome Deer Lakes High School to the Stand Together program this year! Having worked with this school district in a previous position, I was anxious to return and see how things have changed since then-and maybe run into a few of my old students along the way! That didn’t end up happening, but I did meet an amazing group of youth that were full of passion, laughter, and love.

Although slow to start (they are teenagers and it was early in the day), they quickly gained energy and momentum as we went through the exercises. It was a very a diverse group and students were eager to participate, learn, and get to know each other throughout the two training workshops. They asked a lot of questions, came up with a bunch of great ideas, and made some new friends along the way.

As you can see, the group had so much fun. All I could see were smiles, hear was laughter, and feel the excitement as the youth participated in activities to learn more about mental and substance use disorders and stigma and come together as a group:
-4 Corners: the classifications, effects, and examples of substances
-Ships’n’Sailors: understanding the feelings of isolation and consequences of stigma
-WHAPP! learning how to recognize the most common signs and symptoms of mental and substance use disorders
-Sparkle: put it all together to review and reiterate that mental illness is not a choice (1:4 students don’t even have a chance to answer a question)
-WWYD? students role-play in various scenarios to recognize the signs and symptoms, respond, and provide SHE (support, hope, and encouragement)
-Common Ground: a kind of ‘musical chairs’ to find similarities between the students
-The Big Five: the most important pieces of our training: 1) You matter; 2) You’re not alone; 3) SHE; 4) 1 in 4; 5) WHAPP.
Recognizing the signs, spreading awareness and promoting social inclusion, and knowing how to respond are how Stand Together stops stigma. And we know these Lancers are going to slay.

The second day was an amazing experience. The students couldn’t wait to share their ideas and plan projects to stop stigma in their school. Utilizing the education and experiences they obtained in the first workshop, students focused on what they thought their peers and staff should know. Then they viewed some project examples-and the juices were flowing! There were so many ideas, they might run out of time this year! So much to do, so little time!

The group settled on plans for a kick-off assembly with a recovery speaker, 1:4 visual, and Kahoot! trivia, as well as three definite events to be held throughout the year: a myth/fact spinning wheel, a rubber ducky pool/pull, and a balloon release to visualize the 1:4 ratio and unite by sharing their own experiences with mental and substance use disorders. The group plans to track these balloons to see their impact after they let them go as well, as they release not only their challenges, but also information to the greater community.

One of my favorite parts of the day is when students think about their own interests and talents and commit to contributing a specific skill to the project:

We absolutely cannot wait to see these projects in action! I’m so excited to be able to share my story with the students and staff at the assembly and be a part of this amazing experience. Keep an eye out for posts on January 30th!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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PRIDE: Let’s talk about LGBTQ+ Mental Health

PRIDE: Let’s talk about LGBTQ+ Mental Health

As Pride wraps up for the year, I find myself to proud of how far Pittsburgh has come in supporting its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, etc. (LGBTQ+) population. Pride serves as a platform for LGBTQ+ people to combat the prejudice and discrimination they face on a daily basis with positivity, love and dignity. Seeing an increase in support for Pride from the general public and businesses this year, as well as rainbow lights shining at City Hall, has been a step in the right direction. Thousands marched at Pittsburgh Pride Parade this past Sunday in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

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LGBTQ blog 2But Pride isn’t something that LGBTQ+ people can turn to for support year round. Therefore, when LGBTQ+ people are targeted and socially discriminated against, it can leads to an increase in suicidal ideation; LGBTQ+ youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide. Fortunately, resources like The Trevor Project [1-866-488-7386] and the Trans Lifeline [(877) 565-8860] provide support for LGBTQ+ youth. Family acceptance and social support also help to protect against mental illness, including depression and anxiety, as well as help to prevent suicidal behavior and substance abuse. In addition, acceptance can allow LGBTQ+ people to have greater access to healthcare resources.


Acceptance is so important when it comes to both LGBTQ+ identities and mental illness because of the stigma attached to both communities. The fear of what others may think if you come out as being LGBTQ+ or having mental illness is bad enough that people don’t get help . Concealing one’s mental health concerns, however, makes it difficult to receive help or be referred to vital resources. This is where a local organization like PERSAD CENTER comes into play.

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PERSAD works to connect LGBTQ+ people of all ages to the resources they need. These resources include counseling, affordable services, giving aid to individualsLGBTQ blog 1 who seek to change their lives (perhaps along the lines of substance abuse recovery), and more. Having an LGBTQ+ centered organization like PERSAD provide counseling is a game changer. People who face stigma both from their LGBTQ+ identity and mental health status can get the help they need without worrying about the social discrimination and prejudice they could face from a regular counselor. PERSAD serves as a safe space. More information about their counseling services can be found by calling 412-441-9786 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm).


Additional resources like Pride, The Trevor Project, the Trans Lifeline, and PERSAD CENTER provide LGBTQ+ people who lack access to more traditional healthcare resources with the support they need to freely celebrate their identity, overcome adversity, and live a healthier life. The public must support these resources to improving the health of LGBTQ+ people. For more information about The Trevor Project and the Trans Lifeline, please read below.


LGBTQ blog 5The Trevor Project [1-866-488-7386] provides support for LGBTQ+ youth under the age of 25 through a 24-hour phone, chat (3pm-10pm daily), and texting (Monday-Friday, 3pm-10pm) services with counselors. The project also offers peer-to-peer support through TrevorSpace.


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The Trans Lifeline [(877) 565-8860] is specifically geared towards transgender people who are going through a crisis, dealing with gender identity confusion and self-harm prevention. The Trans Lifeline is a phone line open 18 hours daily (11am to 5am).



Written by Leah, STU intern

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A Happy, Healthy New Year: New Year, Better You

A Happy, Healthy New Year: New Year, Better You

The common phrase we hear around the New Year is: New Year, New Year. I want to tell you that you are already enough! But there’s always things we can work on to better ourselves and achieve our goals. We don’t want a ‘new you;’ our goal is to give you some tips and tricks to incorporate into 2018. No matter if you set resolutions or just see it as another day, it’s important to remember that the small things matter, you’re not alone, and we’re in this together.

The most important of them all:


You DESERVE to be HAPPY!!!

1.3.18 new year blog (1)Should I say it again? YOU! Yes, you! Many of us struggle with self-confidence, high standards/expectations, and so much pressure. Sometimes it’s hard to think that there’s more to life than the hustle and bustle of everyday or the chasing the ideas of perfection. You are unique. There is no one else exactly like you in the world. You are human and you deserve love and happiness. And that starts with you. You’ve got this!

You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
– A. A. Milne

2. Treat yo-self!

I know we preach and preach about self-care, but is it so 1.3.18 new year blog (2)incredibly important. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so the saying goes. As members of Stand Together, we ask you to be there and practice SHE: support, hold hope, and encourage each other. You can’t do that if you’re not well. Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise, and do things you enjoy. Be kind to yourself. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit (aka holistic wellness). Take care of yourself and you’ll be able to share yourself with others.

3. Surround yourself with positive people.

We all need SHE in our lives. Friends and close family members are some of the most important tools for resiliency (the ability to bounce back after difficult experiences). You’re never alone and we’re in this together. Don’t be afraid to share your joy, your fears, your struggles with someone else. We have more in common than we do different.

1.3.18 new year blog (5)4. Don’t sweat the small stuff-but the little things matter.

This comic is me to a ‘T.’ So often I focus on the few negative things than all the great things. It’s so hard to do! We have to rewire our brains to make this happen-but it’s well worth it. At the same time, we need to appreciate the little things in life: a text from a friend, a sunrise/sunset, (for me) a nice cup of tea…the list goes on. Gratitude helps us stay centered and have a more positive outlook. Have you given thanks today?

Last, but not least…
5. This is YOUR year.

You have the power to change things you do not like. You have the ability to set boundaries to protect your mental health. You have the chance to advocate for yourself and others. You can and will make a difference. We believe in you. Live in expectation; the best is yet to come. Happy, Healthy New Year!

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Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

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Kissing Stigma Goodbye: Steel Valley HS Stands Together

Kissing Stigma Goodbye: Steel Valley HS Stands Together

Steel Valley HS capitalized on Valentine’s Day with their Love is LOUDER than Mental Illness series of events this February. In addition to DSCN0280participating in the Breaking the Barriers dash with the middle school, the high school students held several activities during this past month for their peers. From Hershey kisses telling students to ‘Kiss stigma goodbye’ to Huggies when students shared a hug with a peer, SVHS spread the love in their school to increase awareness of mental illness, increase social inclusion, and talk about getting help when having a mental health need.

decorating lockers example friends

Stand Together took to the hallways of Steel Valley High School to spread the love and break the stigma surrounding mental illness! Students posted inspirational quotes to motivate and encourage students in their daily struggles, as well as anyone that might be silently suffering from a mental health concern. In addition, students posted information on the prevalence of mental illness, what stigma is, and flyers urging students to sign the anti-stigma pledge on our site. Over 240 students committed to stop stigma, challenge their preconceived notions, and advocate for mental health in their school and communities.

Students also held a door-decorating contest. Participating students and teachers covered their doors with facts regarding various mental health conditions and other decorations to get students attention and learn about a specific disorder. The winning classroom received gift cards for their efforts.

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Their projects concluded with a Mental Illness fair during all lunches on Friday, February 25. This tremendous event took over the entire school gym.DSCN0282  Upon entering, students were given a green ribbon sticker for the day and a Stand Together wristband to remind them of the event and message. Tables were set-up around the room with various activities. 10 tables were set-up highlighting facts and sharing information on various mental illnesses, including autism, anxiety, suicide, self-harm, depression, and OCD. Music and games were played and the students and staff really united together against stigDSCN0317ma.

One impressive highlight was a mural the students had created to emphasize the concept that no one is alone. Students answered questions anonymously with sticky notes to create a visual representation of the impact we have on each other. Additionally, some students stepped up and spoke with their peers about their first-hand experiences with mental illness. It was a great success!

Check out these videos from the event to hear what students and staff had to say about the fair!


Thanks to Mrs. Kamnikar and the Stand Together team for all their hard work!

group pic

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