Fox Chapel Area ‘Stands Together’ for mental health

Fox Chapel Area School District  |  Posted on

Fox Chapel Area High School students are standing together to help their peers better manage mental health and substance abuse struggles, and the stigmas association with them, by participating in FC Stands Together Week. FC Stands Together Week was held April 25-29 and all activities took place during lunch periods from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Monday, April 25: Take the Pledge Day – Students and staff chose the color of a disorder that has affected their lives either directly or indirectly (green for mental health disorder, red for substance abuse disorder), and those who are willing to help fight the stigma associated with these disorders added their handprint to a large banner. This served as a visual indicator of just how many people have had their lives affected by mental health, substance abuse or both.

Tuesday, April 26: Self Advocacy Day – Students and staff had the opportunity to make a color-coded bead bracelet. This activity created a visual representation of the types of mental health and/or substance abuse disorders that have affected students and staff either directly or indirectly, and also recognized the mental health benefits of engaging in hobbies of interest (such as jewelry making).

Wednesday, April 27: Opportunities Fair – The Stand Together team hosted a table at the Opportunities Fair, which all students attended. Students and staff had the opportunity to earn raffle tickets for a chance to win a self-care gift basket.

Thursday, April 28: Anti-Stigma Day – “Chip Away at Stigma” incorporated chocolate chip cookies to entice students and staff to learn about the ways in which particular words can cause people with mental health and substance abuse disorders to feel ashamed and embarrassed, potentially causing them to withdraw and isolate themselves.

Friday, April 29: Get the Scoop Day – All students and staff members were invited to an ice cream social to “Get the Scoop” on the many support services available to them right here at Fox Chapel Area High School. This provided the opportunity to meet and interact with representatives and to gather information regarding how to access important services offered by the school. Information also was included on a card that was handed to each participant when they came to get their sweet treat.

Stand Together is a program of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. The participating students began their yearlong commitment by participating in two five-hour workshops that focused on mental health and substance abuse disorders, the stigmas associated with them and service learning. Following the workshops, the team planned and implemented projects that they believe would be impactful for their school. Although the Fox Chapel Area group is primarily led by students, the Stand Together initiative is co-sponsored by gifted support facilitator Lisa Gibson and school counselor Rachel Machen.

The group has already done a number of activities to heighten awareness. Team members delivered “candygrams” to every student in the school that included a note of support and resources that students can utilize if they are experiencing any struggles related to mental health and/or substance abuse. Students also wrote and published a variety of articles in Fox Tales Quarterly, the high school’s student news magazine, pertaining to mental health stigmas and self-care. In mid-March, the group delivered two presentations: one to the student government and one to the entire high school faculty. The purpose of these presentations was to explain the goals and reason for the initiatives, educate the groups about the fact that 1 in 4 people suffer from issues related to mental health and substance abuse, and to encourage them to stand with the group to fight stigmas.