March 23, 2023
USCHS hosts mental health awareness program
One in three school-aged kids have a diagnosable mental illness. This simple fact set the stage for a schoolwide program to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health.
Upper St. Clair High School hosted the Listen, Lucy program on Monday, March 20, 2023. The program was sponsored by USCHS’s Stand Together organization, USCHS No Place for Hate committee, the PTC Wellness committee, and the PTSO. The program offers a candid conversation with 35-year-old Jordan Corcoran and her personal struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
“By working as hard as I possibly could for over a decade through therapy, coping techniques and educating myself, I found the healthy life I longed for, but feared I wouldn’t achieve,” Jordan said. “Now, I have spent so many years putting myself out there, sharing my trauma and connecting with people in hopes to normalize this conversation and keep people from making the same mistake I made – hiding what was happening in fear of being judged.”
Jordan described her mental health diagnosis at age 19 as liberating.
“There was nothing wrong with me; there was something different about me,” she said. “Words matter. It’s not something I am, it’s something I have.”
Jordan stressed the importance of normalizing a focus on mental health in the same way society looks at physical health, including exercise, sleep and nutrition.
“Everyone has mental health – you do not need to have a mental illness to prioritize your mental health,” she said. “Asking for help doesn’t mean you failed.”
Stand Together, with 30 active student participants, is a program at USCHS with a mission to increase awareness and reduce stigma associated with mental health disorders. Shannon Dressler, school psychologist, serves as faculty advisor.
“Stand Together and its mission are so important currently because one in three students experience mental health and substance-use disorders, but only two out of three students receive treatment,” Mrs. Dressler said.
Mrs. Dressler had been familiar with Jordan and the Listen, Lucy program through shared experiences. Both women serve on the Professional Advisory Board for UpStreet Pittsburgh, a teen mental health service that offers free counseling to anyone from ages 12-22. In addition, Jordan previously worked for Stand Together. When the high school’s Stand Together students voiced a desire to host a speaker, Mrs. Dressler knew Jordan’s message would resonate.
“Providing this school-wide awareness and education to students helps to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance-use disorders and normalizes asking for help when it's needed,” Mrs. Dressler said. “Students need to know that they aren't alone in their struggles, that it's okay to ask for help, and who they can ask for help from.”
The Listen, Lucy program is one of several activities sponsored by USCHS Stand Together. In January, the group asked interested students to complete a Self-Care Tool in the spirit of “New Year, New You!”
“Students indicated self-care strategies that worked for them and strategies they would like to try. The tool also asked students to identify two adults they felt they could talk to and listed resources they could use, including the 988 crisis hotline and 741-741 crisis text line,” Mrs. Dressler said. “Once the students talked with a Stand Together member about some of their self-care strategies, they could choose a cupcake to enjoy and treat themselves!”
Several Stand Together members participated in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walk in October to help raise awareness around mental health disorders to reduce stigma. In addition, Stand Together members attended UpStreet Pittsburgh's groundbreaking in December. Students were able to see first-hand what resources are available through the center, which is located in Squirrel Hill.
Mrs. Dressler believes that Stand Together has had a positive impact on Upper St. Clair High School since its inception last school year. The group has highlighted the resources available within the high school through school counselors, the school psychologist, and the school nurse.
“We have helped students be aware of risk factors that could indicate that their friends are struggling and what to do about it,” she said. “I personally have had Stand Together students bring other students to see me knowing I could help in a moment of need.”
Students who are interested in getting involved with Stand Together can reach out to Mrs. Dressler. Because the number of participants is limited to 30, there are a limited number of openings each year. Stand Together students complete a two-day training requirement, which happens in the fall.