STEP UP Westmoreland (Students, Therapists, Educators, and Parents United in Prevention) is built upon the foundation that mental wellness is essential for the safety and success of all students. In 2017, the PA Youth Survey found the following troubling statistics regarding 4,894 students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 in Westmoreland County:
- 33.5% of respondents felt sad or depressed most days in the past 12 months
- 15.1% stated they considered suicide in the past 12 months
- 12.1% of the students said they planned suicide
- 9.2% of students shared they have attempted suicide
Slam the Stigma's main purpose is to promote emotional health and wellness in all 17 school districts in Westmoreland County in an effort to change these statistics for the better. The student engagement committee of STEP UP Westmoreland, which is comprised of students, parents, educators, student support providers, and administrators, is planning a student summit for October 8, 2019.
Slam the Stigma is a peer to peer program promoting mental health and wellness and pushing back against the stigma of mental health that often results in students not seeking support. The summit will bring together a diverse group of student leaders, staff, and administrators from the 17 school districts to learn about mental health, stigma, and student-led mental health awareness programs already implemented in three schools within Westmoreland County. Several agencies and businesses within the county have also offered monetary donations to help sponsor this event. There will also be t-shirts designed by students and lunch provided.
The goals of the event include: training core teams of students in each district to promote education and support in schools regarding mental health and wellness; to learn to recognize the signs/symptoms of mental health concerns in themselves and others so support can be sought; and to Slam the Stigma so everyone feels comfortable speaking up. This event is a great way for students, from varying districts within the county, to collaborate in an effort to promote mental wellness and end mental health stigma in their schools.