Posts Tagged Shaler Middle School


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Shaler MS is On Their Way

Shaler MS is On Their Way

Middle school can be a challenging time, especially if someone has a mental and/or substance use disorder. Shaler Area Middle School wants to decrease the stigma associated with these conditions by increasing education and awareness and promoting social inclusion. This is the group’s second year in the program and it was great to see some familiar faces as well as meet new additions to the team.

Even though the students had already attended their first classes for the day, it took a little effort to wake them up. To get them moving, we kick-off with an exercise that not only gets the blood flowing, but teaches them something along the way. Students are directed to jump up and down 10 times while whispering their favorite colors. Obviously, participants at opposite ends of the room wouldn’t be able to hear each other, but just because the other student couldn’t hear it, didn’t mean that person didn’t have a favorite color. This is a lot like mental and substance use disorders-just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Students learned not only about the definitions and prevalence of these conditions, but, more importantly, how they affect individuals outside the symptoms of the disorder. Students learned about the impact of stigma on their peers-and what they can do to help. W.H.A.P.P. was introduced to help students recognize the signs that someone may be struggling and students used S.H.E. in scenarios to think about how they would help a peer that was struggling by providing support, hope, and encouragement and reaching out to an adult they trust when they are worried about themselves or someone else. Students also got to know each other better and realized they had more in common than they thought, creating a sense of unity in the group and reaffirming their commitment to the program and each other.

After completing their first day of training, students were ready to start using the education and experiences to design projects to decrease stigma in their school. Students were excited to included food (because who doesn’t like getting free food) again this year and also expand on myths and facts. The group also wants their peers to be more aware that a lot of people struggle with these disorders and #itsokaytonotbeokay. They want to create a culture of acceptance and support where their peers feel welcome and know that they matter. The support of family and friends is so important in recovery and for wellness and the more we engage others, the more we create relationships that foster connection and trust. When these qualities exist, people feel comfortable talking about their experiences, sharing their feelings, and reaching out for help. And that’s what Stand Together is all about.

By the end of the day, I was really impressed with the groups innovative ideas and slogans and lofty goals for the year. Their passion will only help propel them forward as they continue planning and implement their projects. Hopscotch, paper chains, popsicles, and Kahoot! will all be used to entice their peers and further their anti-stigma message in a fun, but purposeful way. Personally I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so that we can ‘Freeze Away Stigma,’ but that’s just me…

These group is sure to change minds, hearts, and even lives by challenging myths and bringing their peers together to end stigma. We look forward to another year at SAMS and can’t wait to see your projects grow!

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

Shaler MS ‘Bands Together’ Against Stigma

You know how much we like our puns! And we know that fun slogans get students interested and help them remember the activities our teams do. We love it when students come up with their own creative ways to increase the impact of their projects and Shaler Area Middle School was no different. The first project they implemented this year encouraged students to ‘band together’ against stigma, a fun play-on-words (‘Band Together’||Stand Together).

 

The Stand Together team set-up tables outside of the lunchroom, which was a great idea since every student had to walk past them to get into the cafeteria. In addition, students announced the event on the PA system to encourage students to visit the booths. At quiet times, students even recruited friends and other students from the lunch room to participate in the activities! The team was excited to involve their peers and provide education and awareness to stop stigma.

 

 

t2 redoOnce students reached the tables, they were greeted by Stand Together team members. The student then spun a wheel to determine which question about mental health and/or stigma they would answer to get a prize, in this case, either a green or red/blue wristband to symbolize the 1:4 youth that are affected by mental and/or substance use disorders in a given year. That’s a lot! Not only could students see the visual in the basket of bracelets, but they will be able to continue to see it as they walk through the school and see all the students wearing their bracelets. Students received a wristband whether or not they answered the question correctly. The point wasn’t necessarily to ‘test’ their knowledge, but to act as an opportunity to educate the students in a casual way.

 

After the students answered a question, they were encouragedDSCN1501 to sign the anti-stigma pledge. Cards with the pledge and Stand Together logo and graphics were given to the students to sign and date as an official commitment of their conscious efforts to decrease stigma. The students then plastered the walls with these pledges as a reminder to the entire student body of how they were going to ‘stand together’ to address stigma and change the culture of their school.

 

 

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DSCN1514There’s was plenty of handouts and information on hand and the students were willing and eager to answer any questions their schoolmates may have about the topic. I overheard some really great discussion and a lot of students were very invested in talking about mental health and stopping stigma-which is great, because that’s Stand Together is all about! Ms. Coleman, one of the advisors and a guidance counselor, even got a local policeman to participate in the discussion. He candidly shared how he deals with stigma every day on the force, especially towards individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders and how he attempts to combat this at any opportunity he gets. It’s such a wonderful thing to hear that this is happening in the community as well as the school environment. Change is a continual process and take a lot of time, energy, and people, but we can stop stigma, one person at a time.

 

Shaler MS also has a Snowflakes and Snickerdoodles Against Stigma activity and give-away planned as well as another cookie event to encourage their peers to ‘Take a Bite Out of Stigma.’ We’re impressed with the passion and creativity of these students in their first year and can’t wait to hear about their other projects at our Recognition Event in the Spring! (Innocent plug, if you’re interested in attending, mark your calendar for April 10 from 10-12:30 at the Heinz History Center!)

 

Written by Danyelle, coordinator

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