Posts Tagged new year

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

Posted in:

Leave a Comment (0) →

Let’s Get It Started! Stand Together 2019-2020

Let’s Get It Started! Stand Together 2019-2020

Summer is winding down, but Stand Together is just getting started! We’ve been meeting with advisors, training new assistants, and getting Montaja ready to start her new role this year. We’re almost ready…are you?

This year, 21 Allegheny County schools will be trained to plan and implement projects in their schools. This year’s school’s include:

Allderdice HS (PPS), Avonworth HSCAPA (PPS), Deer Lakes HS (Cheswick), Dorseyville MS (Fox Chapel), Montour HS (McKees Rocks), North Allegheny HS (Wexford), North Allegheny IHS (McCandless), North Hills HSOakland Catholic (Pgh), Perry HS (PPS), Propel HS (Braddock Hills), SciTech (PPS), Shaler HSShaler MSSouth Allegheny MS(McKeesport), South Park HSThomas Jefferson HS (Clairton), West Allegheny HS (Imperial), West Mifflin HSWoodland Hills HS (Churchill)

(Click the links above to view the school’s past projects or website to learn more!)

Montaja & Danyelle with Smiley after an advisor orientation

In addition, we have some new and returning staff. Montaja has transitioned from assistant to trainer and assistants Jamie, Jordan, Julianna, and Ami are returning for another year. We also have three! new assistants: Ky, Savana, and Savanna. Yes, two Savan(n)a’s…at least their names will be easy to remember!

As Stand Together continues to grow, we look forward to working with more schools in Allegheny County, and even across the state and country! This summer, Danyelle and Mike trained a group of youth to facilitate Stand Together programs in Delaware. In addition, Stand Together will be offered in the Jewish Day Schools in Squirrel Hill and a high school in Venango County. As you can see, we’ve been quite busy!

Delaware squad

But now, it’s your turn! School trainings start in a few short weeks and we couldn’t be more excited. Tried and true activities are coming back in fun, improved ways and new members are getting ready to share their passion for mental and substance use awareness with the world. Hang tight-school workshop blogs will be up soon! See you in a few!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

Posted in:

Leave a Comment (0) →

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!

1.3.18 new year blog (6)

Written by Danyelle, Project Coordinator

Posted in:

Leave a Comment (0) →

2016 Recap: A Year of Celebrities Speaking Out for Mental Illness

2016 Recap: A Year of Celebrities Speaking Out for Mental Illness
  • As 2016 comes to a close, many people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions, goals, dreams, aspirations, but it’s also good to think about the past, our experiences, lessons we’ve learned, and things we’ve accomplished. I recently came across an article that specifically addressed the rise of celebrities with mental illness speaking out in the media and sharing their experiences. This is HUGE! On our quest to combat stigma, celebrities bringing mental health into the mainstream is a great conversation starter and meaningful piece for others to share their stories and communicate their experiences with others. It’s great to hear celebrities and the media are using their influence to positively attack stigma.


Here are some of the celebrities that have opened up about mental illness this past year and what they had to say:

  • Kristen Bell, on feelings of depression: Its debilitation was all-consuming and it shut down my mental circuit board.
  • Selena Gomez, on her strugg12-30-16 post Kid Cudiles & recovery: I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside. And I kept it all together enough to where I would never let you down, but I kept it too much together, to where I let myself down…If you are broken, you don’t have to stay broken.
  • Kid Cudi, on his struggles & recovery: My anxiety and depression have ruled my life…[but] I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling.
  • Wentworth Miller, on resiliency: My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without. Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.
  • Hayden Panettiere, on the significance of mental illness in her life: …impacted every aspect of my life…
  • Zayn Malik, on understanding mental illness: My anxiety is so upsetting and difficult to explain. It’s this thing that swells up and blocks out your rational thought process…It’s a constant battle within yourself.
  • Lady Gaga, on empathy: My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others.
  • Brandon Marshall, on standing together: How many others are out there suffering?…we have to galvanize this community.
  • Justin Vernon, on self-disclosure: I don’t like talking about it, but I feel it’s important to talk about it, so that other people who experience it don’t feel it’s just happening to them.12-30-16 post Demi Lovato
  • Demi Lovato, on continuity of care: It’s something you maintain to make sure that you want to live with mental illness. You have to take care of yourself.
  • Brandon Brooks, on anxiety: What I mean by anxiety condition [is] not nervousness or fear…I have an obsession.
  • Evan Rachel Wood, on stigma: For so long, I was ashamed. You’re dealing with the shame that the world has imposed upon you, and then on top of that, the shame of identifying that way…A good way to combat that and the stereotypes is to be vocal.
  • Cara Delevingne, on appearances: I realized how lucky and privileged I was, but all I wanted to do was die.
  • Prince Harry, on assumptions: A lot of people think if you’ve got a job, if you’ve got financial security, if you’ve got a family, you’ve got a house, all that sort of stuff-everyone seems to think that is all you need and you are absolutely fine to deal with stuff.
  • Rowan Blanchard, on mental illness as an opportunity: I learned this year that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive. They can exist within me at the same time in the same moment. While also becoming more forgiving of myself and my emotions, I became more forgiving of others.
  • 12-30-16 post Michael PhelpsMichael Phelps, on self-stigma: I went in with no self-confidence, no self-love. I think the biggest thing was, I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and nobody else…I was lost, pushing a lot [of] people out of my life-people that I wanted and needed in my life. I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from.
  • Jenifer Lewis, on getting help: I couldn’t ignore the fact that something was wrong anymore.
  • Adele, on experiencing mental illness: It can come in many different forms.
  • Jared Padalecki, on self-worth: I am enough. And you are enough…I know I can keep fighting and I know that I’m trying to love myself, but sometimes you feel like you’re not enough. So this message is helping me kind of understand that I am enough-just the way I was made.
  • Amanda Seyfried, on medication: What are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else.
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones, on receiving a diagnosis: Finding out that it was called something was the best thing that ever happened to me! The fact that there was a name for my emotions and that a professional could talk me through my symptoms was very liberating.
  • Devon Murray, on speaking out: Open up, talk to people. If you suspect a friend or family member is suffering in silence [reach out] to them. Let them know you care.



So as 2016 comes to a close, I’m grateful for the celebrities that have opened up about their experiences to begin to increase awareness and end stigma, but this is only the beginning. YOU can make a difference in your schools and communities, especially through the Stand Together initiative. As Gandhi said,

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. 12-30-16 post Gandhi


  • As Aaron Harvey describes our mission:
  • Many celebrities have helped bring the conversation around mental health into the main stream. But it’s on us to make the real change happen. While it’s amazing to have celebrities out there blazing trails and introducing a radical new transparency, the most important thing is that individual sufferers communicate with their everyday connections.

    If we really want to make an impact on stigma, it can’t just be a headline.

12-30-16 post Keep Calm

Special thanks to Robbie Couch who compiled these quotes into the article, 31 Celebrities who Smashed the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness in 2016, on (12/20/2016).

Posted in:

Leave a Comment (0) →