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NASH Tigers #talkaboutit for a Clearer Vision in 2020

NASH Tigers #talkaboutit for a Clearer Vision in 2020

North Allegheny Senior High School is returning for their second year in Stand Together and what a whirlwind it has been! Their team was able to complete two of their activities before the ‘quarantine’ went into effect and have really left an impression on their school this year, excelling beyond their previous work last year.

NASH’s first project was an interactive anti-stigma fair with various stations of educational activities for their peers. Building off of last year’s peer-to-peer presentations, they went many steps further this year. In 2019, the group prepared a moving video (link) of students and staff sharing their personal experiences with mental health and substance use disorders. They then broadcast this movie to students during their gym classes and engaged the students in a true/false activity accompanied by a PowerPoint of education and review of resources.

This year, the team hit it out of the park! (Can you tell we’re missing baseball?) Instead of a small classroom of students with a video and a presentation, students created a huge event with activities for all the students to rotate through. They also produced another video (link), this year focusing on treatment and recovery. Students again shared their struggles, but also talked about how they bounced back and who-and what-helped them along the way. After the video, students went through various stations around the room to learn about stigma, challenge myths, and use physical activities as a metaphor for mental health challenges:
‘Stigma Ducks’ (a play on words) – educating students about the S.T.I.G.M.A. acronym* and challenging students to think about the consequences of stigma.
‘Be a Helping Hand Obstacle Course’ – students went through the ‘course’ blind-folded-only one person got to have a peer help them as they went through. This activity signified the importance of S.H.E.* and the support of family and friends when someone is struggling with a mental and/or substance use disorder. Students received a mini hand clapper for participating. (Get it?!)
Myth or Fact spinning wheel
1 in 4 Hoops – 1 in 4 individuals got a football instead of a basketball to show how mental and substance use disorders make it harder for the 1:4 individuals that struggle with them.
The Pledge – students read and signed the pledge on a huge poster to show their commitment to ending stigma in their school.
Whew! That’s a lot of education and awareness in one event!

The group followed that amazing event with another that covered all three of our goals: their take on a ‘truth booth.’ Students and staff alike were encouraged to visit the stand and select a color-coded tiger (their mascot) paw or paws that represented themselves to add to the ‘tree.’
Purple : I personally deal with a mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
Green : I am a friend or family member of someone with a mental and/or substance use disorder.
Blue : I support or advocate for someone with a mental and/or substance use disorder.
Yellow : One way that I can help someone with a mental and/or substance use disorder is to… (fill-in-the-blank)**

The impact was remarkable. Multiple students and staff shared their own experiences with mental and/or substance use disorders (‘I have…’ ‘I have a brother…’ ‘I am a cousin to someone that has a substance use disorder.’) Without being asked to, students disclosed some of their struggles; others wrote inspirational messages for their peers that were experiencing this issues:
-‘I will be okay.’
-‘You are strong and you are worthy.
-‘Last year was extremely rough. The recovery I had was huge…but there’s much more to improve on.’
-‘Be kind to yourself.’
-‘You’re never alone.’
-‘I have a good friend that deals with one. Much love to her.’


‘Schizophrenia does not have the right to control you.’

Anonymous

I can’t believe how eager students were to participate and how vulnerable they were willing to be with each other. Even though it was anonymous, students and staff had a visual reminder that they were not alone and that we’re all in this together. We all are affected by mental health and substance use disorders in some way and mental health is just as important as physical health. These youth are addressing myths and breaking down barriers to treatment by normalizing discussions about mental health in their school communities. After students put their paw on the tree, they were given a package of resources and treats for participating, including how students could help a peer, Resolve crisis cards, End the Stigma: NA Stand Together stickers, and a green bead necklace to remember the event.

I was so glad that I was able to attend and participate in these events. I could tell the students were having fun and engaging in the activities, but were also having intimate and sometimes intense conversations about mental and substance use disorders and the stigma associated with them. The team also plans to design a permanent mural for their school to remind them of the program, the pledge, and NASH’s commitment to ending stigma. Congrats on another job well done! Thanks for all your doing-you’re changing lives!

*S.T.I.G.M.A. – stereotypes, teasing, inappropriate language, ignorance, myths, and attitude
*S.H.E. – support, hope, encouragement

**Click here to view a list of things you can do and say to help your peers.

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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