PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – How do you change something if you don’t know it exists?

That is the challenge when it comes to the subject of mental illness.

Hundreds of middle school and high school students joined together to say we need to end what they call “the stigma.” The students presented various projects during a Stand Together event that was  overseen by Pittsburgh Cares.

Some groups chose videos, while others opted for paintings. Another asked people to enter their friend tent, where they get to know each other by asking ice-breaking questions written on balloons.

“We tried to make new friends and show that everyone’s the same. We all have different personalities and it doesn’t really matter about the mental illness,” Tyler Wehrer from Propel Braddock said.

Their goal is to get people to start the conversation.

“Our main goal is to get families, friends, communities all to come together to start talking about it so that they are not keeping silent so that people realize it’s okay. We all know somebody who has a mental illness and there’s no reason for the mistreatment,” Pittsburgh Cares Director of Youth Programs Holly Turkovic said.

The kids at Woodland Hills asked people to pose for a photo with a complete stranger — not just a snapshot, but an intimate picture. It’s uncomfortable for many and that’s precisely the point.

“With the photo activity, it was going to symbolize how kids with mental illnesses feel everyday sort of coming to school,” Woodland Hills Junior High School student Raemon Prunty said. “I learned that it’s not okay to bully people because I know, as myself, I used to say some words that aren’t so nice to say. But, during this project, I learned that sometimes you have to have to watch what you say around people.”


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