DHS News November 2013
Group Members “Stand
Together” to Reduce Mental Illness Stigma
Dedicated work by a volunteer Department of Human Services
(DHS) stakeholder committee has resulted in a $100,000 grant from the Staunton
Farm Foundation to move a mental illness anti-stigma project forward in nearly
a dozen middle and high schools in the region.
The eight members of the stakeholder group worked for 18
months on their own time to get the anti-stigma project going, said Michael
Gruber, OBH Systems Transformation Specialist in the Office of Behavioral
Health (OBH), who organized the group. It consists of representatives from DHS provider
agencies and people who have themselves experienced ostracism and
discrimination as a result of their illnesses.
“We were very excited to hear about the grant,” Michael
said. “The committee members were really committed to doing something about
stigma toward people with mental health illnesses. They saw the potential to
help shape youth perception about people and to help them grow up without
holding a stigma toward people with mental illness.”
The nonprofit Pittsburgh Cares received the grant, which
will fund the campaign, called Stand Together.
The money will fund training and public service projects completed by students
at Pittsburgh Perry High School, Pittsburgh South
Brook Middle School, Propel Braddock Hills High School, South Allegheny Middle
and High School, South Park High School, West Mifflin Area Middle and High
schools, and Woodland Hills Junior High School.
Stand Together will formally get underway this month and
continue for two years. Michael said the fact that it is starting so soon after
getting the grant – issued in September – is a testament to the dedication of
the stakeholder group. Pittsburgh Cares
applied for the grant in the spring and the stakeholders continued to work on
the project for months afterward, not knowing if the grant would come through.
When it did, so much work had been completed by the
stakeholders committee that Stand Together was ready to go, Michael said.
Teachers will select 20 to 25 students at each school to participate and they
will develop project proposals by mid-January.
DHS will contribute in-kind services to the project,
including data collection and providing a content expert to answer questions at
Stand Together has as goals decreasing negative attitudes
and beliefs among adolescents about peers and adults with mental disorders
and/or substance use disorder; decreasing social distance between the groups;
and encouraging adolescents to speak to an adult when they are concerned about
a peer exhibiting possible signs of mental illness or substance use disorders.
Students will train, conduct research, develop a community
service project and more. They will apply for mini-grants of $100 to $1,000
from Pittsburgh Cares to fund their projects.
Jamie Harris, Director of Advocacy Programs at Mental Health
America Allegheny County, who chaired the stakeholder group, said the project’s
fit with Pittsburgh Cares was perfect.
The group carefully considered its goals and outcomes, and Pittsburgh
Cares’ role as a leader regionally in educational projects and its continuing
relationships with school districts meant Stand Together could move forward
quickly and easily.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Jamie said. “The partnership
makes it more likely the project will be able to grow and develop.”
She praised Mike and the stakeholder group.
“I think Mike Gruber did an incredible job of driving this
project. It was really fantastic to work with him and the other members of the
committee who were really committed to this.”
People who have experienced the stigma of mental illness who
would like to speak in workshops may contact Mike at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be a blogger on the Stand Together website, standtogether.pittsburghcares.org, contact Holly McGraw-Turkovic at email@example.com.
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