Posts Tagged Montour


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All-School Summer Projects: eZines!

All-School Summer Projects: eZines!

This year’s “Summer of Isolation” originally seemed like it would be monotonous and boring. But, thanks to Stand Together, it was anything but that! After working extensively on school-specific projects for my school, West Allegheny, during the school closures, I saw an opportunity on Stand Together’s Instagram to join an All-School Summer Project. This post immediately caught my eye because Stand Together teams usually just work within their schools. But, as 2020 has continually shown us; anything is possible! I applied to work on these foreign All-School Summer Projects as soon as I saw the post and couldn’t wait to get to work.

~Click on the text links above to access the eZines!~

The All-School Summer Projects (<< link!) started off with big, virtual meetings. In these initial meetings, the Summer Team, with students from West Allegheny, Montour, Shaler, CAPA, and the Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy, shared ideas on what projects we could do. With limited options, FundaMENTALs: A Youth’s Guide to Mental Health Zines and Unless… A Teenage Discussion on Mental Health Podcasts were chosen as the projects that we would pursue. The Summer Team split, and I pursued the Zines. After weekly, team-specific meetings throughout the summer, we were able to release three great editions of the Zines; ranging in topics from ADHD to Anxiety to Eating Disorders. Personally, I learned so much regarding these topics, but I also gained skills in communication and collaboration, especially in difficult circumstances. I am certain that readers, too, learned facts, statistics, and other perspectives on the topics. Writing and contributing to the Zines made my “Summer of Isolation” much more enjoyable and memorable.

I would pursue it again in a heartbeat!

Connor from West Allegheny HS was a member of our All-School Summer Project’s eZine team. Thanks, Connor!

For more information on West Allegheny’s Stand Together projects, click here.

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Mental Health Advocacy & Me-ST Youth take on Legislation

Mental Health Advocacy & Me-ST Youth take on Legislation

We often hear: ‘Youth are our future.’ As cliche as it sounds, it’s 100% true. Change starts with you and YOUth across Allegheny County are paving the way for mental health education, resources, and parity by meeting with local legislators to discuss the future of mental health in our area.

Stand Together staff had the pleasure of assisting the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and PA Youth Advocacy Network in planning and implementing the Youth Mental Health Advocacy Workshop on Tuesday, March 3 during the Dan Miller Disability Awareness Summit-but the students did all the work. Members of Stand Together teams from CAPA, Montour, West Allegheny, and West Mifflin high schools joined students from other schools to gather their perspectives on teen mental health and work together to identify issues, formulate questions, and propose suggestions to advocate for mental health. Afterwards, the students had the opportunity to discuss their findings with members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate.

Team leads walked their groups through concerns and opportunities, current and proposed policies/bills, and the importance of youth voice in government. These weren’t easy issues either! Students discussed:
-Addressing disparities in mental health;
-Creating safe, inclusive school communities;
-Educating teachers and students on mental health;
-Equality in support for mental and physical health; and
-Promoting suicide prevention and awareness.
Stand Together’s goals address many of these areas: increase education and awareness, promote social inclusion, and reach out to an adult (which requires adequate training for staff and faculty). Because of this, Stand Together team members brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the tables that day!

Our students made some really introspective and keen observations and remarks:
-‘It’s important to talk about mental health just as much as physical health in school…it needs to be stressed and ‘normalized.’ – Emma Dischner (HB 1696: Mental Health Parity)
-‘The media needs to stop making suicide look like a way out.’ – Angela Brown, West A (SB 199: Suicide Prevention & Awareness)
-‘Females tend to get more mental health attention in schools. Talking about mental health is a ‘choice,’ but because of the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s also not a choice. ‘Treatment’ is for the behaviors, not the cause (mental health)…A big part of it is changing the cultre surrounding mental health and making small changes.’ – Aiden Magley, CAPA (Federal: HRes480: Disparities in Mental Health)
-‘It should be a conversation between youth and staff what Act 71 (suicide prevention education) looks like in schools. – Emma Dischner (HB 590: Ed. for Teachers & Students in MH)
-A student from Montour agreed: ‘Teachers are afraid to reach out to students because they don’t know how to or are afraid to.’

The legislators were invested and had much to add:
-‘You can’t reach your potential unless this issue of mental health is addressed.’ – Sen. Pam Iovino
-‘What’s more important as a parent? That my son has a cavity or a mental health issue?…I think it (mental health) should be prioritized…We’re bringing students together, but we’re not talking about it enough and this can cause social isolation. We need to teach all health in fullness and connect people together.’ – Rep. Dan Miller
-‘We need more human-centered policies that have real-world application (about the people, not the numbers). Engagement of students and citizens is so important.’ – Rep. Sara Innamorato

Students and legislators discussed a lot of key issues, but this is just the start. We need to keep talking about mental health in our schools and communities and advocate in government for policy reform and support. We will continue to support our students as they speak up and speak out against stigma and build a youth mental health advocacy movement that will change our county for years to come.

‘Keep it going…you are just as much our constituents as your parents are. Keep using your voice.’

-State Senator Lindsey Williams

Written by Danyelle, ST Coordinator & JHF planning team member

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Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Demystifying Mental Health at Montour

Students at Montour HS started bright and early the last two weeks, waking up their minds and bodies, getting to know each other, and starting to plan some incredible projects to educate their peers about mental and substance use disorders, decrease stigma by promoting social inclusion and increasing awareness, and encourage students to form relationships with adults to feel comfortable reaching out if/when they need help. 7:30 AM is early-but these youth were ready to go!

Team members were all-in from the get-go, but really enjoyed the physical games. Matching the diagnosis to the definition encouraged teamwork and tested their knowledge, while Sparkle assessed their understanding of key concepts. It was evident from the first day that the students felt a large part of the stigma in their school stemmed from the myths that perpetuate our society. We form our beliefs in many different ways: from our parents, our friends, past experiences, the media-but these ideas may or may not be true. Stand Together workshops spend a lot of time talking about what stigma looks like and how it affects individuals, oftentimes preventing them from getting help; student projects are all about decreasing this stigma and one of the ways Montour participants wanted to challenge this stigma was by demystifying mental health and confronting these myths head-on.

Students spent the second workshop in small groups working on a giveaway, a ‘truth booth,’ and a staff-student activity to engage their peers and address Stand Together’s three goals. A fan-favorite is always the Food4Thought toolkit, which utilizes incentives to entice students to have a conversation about mental health and stigma. Students were excited to think about the possibility of having students spin a wheel to decide whether a statement was a myth or fact to receive a cookie, or whether they would give away pins and ‘Put a Pin in Stigma.’ Other students were passionate about spreading awareness by creating a visual and making sure teachers and staff were informed and ready to assist students that might be struggling. We left the second day with concrete plans for six projects and it’s up to the group to decide which three (or four 🙂 ) projects they want to implement this year.

All in all the group had so much fun learning about mental health and each other and getting ready to work to end stigma in their school. Each student left with a clear commitment to how they were going to use their skills and talents within their service-learning projects. We can’t wait to see your projects in action soon! (And of course we’ll have a blog for you, too!)

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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Montour HS ‘Pops’ Stigma: Using Popcorn to Start the Conversation

Montour HS ‘Pops’ Stigma: Using Popcorn to Start the Conversation

popcorn machineMontour High School didn’t let the polar vortex freeze away their enthusiasm! Monday morning, the halls and cafeteria were filled with the buttery smells of a classic snack, popcorn! The Stand Together team and their advisor, Ms. Hester, wore black Montour t-shirts with #standtogether written in green letters on the backs of the shirts to represent mental health awareness. For three separate lunch periods, the team held a ‘Pop’ Stigma Stand and bravely engaged their fellow students in conversations about mental health, substance use disorders, and stigma.

 

Some of the team members helped topopcorn bags keep the table running smoothly, others helped bag popcorn, and some asked their peers myths and facts and asked them to sign the anti-stigma pledge. One Stand Together member explained the difference between mental illness and intellectual disorders to a group of her fellow peers at a lunch table. Other members had conversations to debunk myths and learn facts about mental illness. Students that participated in the activity were rewarded with a bag of freshly popped popcorn-all in an effort to ‘pop’ stigma. Students and staff were seen gathering at the table signing pledges, listening to their peers explaining the information, and enjoying their treats. The turnout was great! Stand Together members also discussed how to display the student pledges in their school as a reminder of the event and their commitment to change.

 

pledge

 

It was clear that Montour is serious about ‘popping’ stigma at their school. They are looking forward to bigger and better ways to do so in the next few months and in the coming years. Congratulations to Montour on your first Stand Together event. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

small group

 

 

written by Montaja, trainer

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Speak to Me: Montour HS Talks about Stigma

Speak to Me: Montour HS Talks about Stigma

3The first school we had this year for training was Montour High School. Before we even began the training, I was so impressed with this school. They have an awesome room where students can go talk with another student peer. I could tell this school was going to have a great couple of training days.

 

By the end of day 1, I was so impressed with this group and how2 emotionally mature they are! All of the students were participating during our education section which made for some intriguing conversations. At the end of day 1, you could feel the excitement that the students had for this program.

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On Day 2 we did some project planning and almost completed the “Food-4-Though” toolkit! The students worked in groups to discuss separate ideas for how they could do the project. We all came together at the end and collaborated. The students showed each other respect and listened to one another’s ideas, giving their opinions and suggestions in a kind manner. Before we knew it, the day was over!

 

I am so excited to see what these students will create. I really feel like they have a passion for ending the stigma within their school. Excellent job, Montour!!!

 

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Written by Lacey, trainer

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