April 8, 2022
Stand Together spreads awareness for mental health issues
Members of Upper St. Clair High School’s Stand Together initiative were recognized at a regional celebration on April 6, 2022, at Montour High School. Upper St. Clair was one of five local schools that shared details regarding their efforts to spread awareness about mental health and substance abuse disorders. Other participating schools included South Fayette High School, West Allegheny High School, Montour High School, and Propel-Montour Middle School.
Stand Together is a new partnership with the high school this year that is organized and coordinated through and with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. Stand Together trains, inspires and equips students to take action against stigma toward mental health and substance abuse disorders, decrease social distance, and encourage peers to seek help. Shannon Dressler, school psychologist, and Dr. Dan Beck, assistant principal, serve as advisors for the student-led group.
“Stand Together has helped me improve how I can support my friends that may be struggling,” sophomore Daniel Seewald said.
Throughout the day-long celebration, students had the opportunity to visit tables and displays that were set up by other schools to share their activities and experiences.
“It was a great day of collaboration and camaraderie within and between the student groups,” Mrs. Dressler said. “The students are very excited to continue their efforts to spread awareness and be part of ending stigma.”
The 25 Upper St. Clair High School students participating in the Stand Together club span grades 9-12 and were nominated by high school staff members. Upon the club’s inception, students took part in a two-day training program to learn about various mental and substance abuse disorders, as well as the impact of stigma on youth with these disorders. Students also engaged in team-building activities to encourage solidarity and strength within their group.
“I feel more informed and better able to spread awareness from the training that we did,” ninth grader Ava Kasper said.
Stand Together’s first of three school-wide events was a Hot Chocolate for Hope project, which was held on Feb. 10, 2022. This event focused on spreading awareness by reviewing acronyms associated with supportive factors (SHE–support, hope, encouragement) or at-risk factors (WHAPP–withdrawal, hopelessness, agitation, personal changes, poor self-care). Students were asked to provide an example to demonstrate understanding in exchange for a hot chocolate. Stickers featuring the acronyms were distributed as a take-away.
“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to spread awareness while getting to interact with so many other students at our events,” ninth grader Mia Manalo said.
Next up in April, students will be spreading awareness visually to represent that one in four individuals is affected by a mental and/or substance abuse disorder in a given year. Stand Together colors are green to represent mental health awareness and purple to represent substance abuse awareness. Green and purple bracelets representing the one in four ratio will be distributed to students.
“I like that more people are involved now and willing to stand up for this cause,” junior Yoshna Venkataraman said.
The final activity of the year will be a week-long event in May to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month. Students will participate in a different theme each day of the week as well as have two school-wide activities to visually represent “you are not alone” and “blocking out stigma.”
“I have really enjoyed the friendships and bonds that I have created by being in this group,” sophomore Justin Oswald said.
Members of the Upper St. Clair Stand Together Club include: Havala Bayles, Skyler Bruno, Ava Cerny, Calla Dressler, Maggie Dowds, Jodyce Duplessis, Diana Funaro, David Goldberg, Marina Gzikowski, Jacob Hamilton, Ava Kasper, Adam Levine, Mia Manalo, Lucia Miles, Justin Oswald, Rhea Punjabi, Carter Richie, Sarah Robert, Daniel Seewald, Anna Snyder, Sarah Spencer, Nate Stohl, Adin Teres, Max Thomas and Yoshna Venkataraman.