Aaron Taylor: Director of #SameHere Sit-Downs

#SameHere Sit-Down at Cornell University

#SameHere Sit-Down programs have been designed for Colleges and Universities, as well as a Conferences that come together for annual meetings.  While many of our programs have focused on the mental health of Student Athletes, and have been coordinated in conjunction with Athletic Departments and/or Counseling Centers, the content delivered in each program speaks to all different types of students and administration – from Arts departments to Music departments, to General Studies.  Programs have been deliver to groups as small as 50, to as large as over 2,000.   We named these programs: “Sit-Downs” because of the feedback we received from campus partners about how difficult it is to get their students to “sit” in one place, together, for any long period of time, given all the activities involved in campus life, to focus on this vitally important topic.

By collaborating with your campus organizers, we help change (or build on) your campus’ culture, together.  The hallmark of the #SameHere message is that it takes a complication and often misunderstood topic, and shares it in a way that speaks to “real world” applications.  We stress that mental health is a combination of many factors including life experiences and challenges, traumatic and stressful events, and genetics. We position mental health as something that lives on a continuum that impacts all of us, “5 in 5” to varying degrees, at varying levels, throughout our lives.  A key focus is also the encouragement of proactively looking at our mental health, to take care of ourselves before problems may arise, just like we do with our physical health. This particular concept resonates strongly with student athletes.

Program Overview

The Movement and its Alliance recognizes the complex nature of addressing stress and mental health in colleges and universities – especially as it pertains to students involved in teams and clubs who are trying to balance many activities.  This program is primarily focused on mental health awareness, prevention, education, and positive culture development, via the following initiatives:

All Varsity Athletes at Towson University

A) #SameHere Sit-Down Culture Rally with the entire community of students you are hoping to reach, led by members of The Alliance who share their own stories of overcoming life’s challenges, and how they ended up asking for help – learning practices and healthy living styles that changed their lives.  The concept of #SameHere (how “5 in 5” of us face challenges and we ALL have a story) is woven in as a theme throughout the two-hour session. It provides students and staff with relate-able comforting back-stories to introduce this powerful message. The Alliance Members shares their own personal mental health challenges, to show that – we all go through obstacles in life, even those who appear to “have it all,” and therefore it’s OK to ask for help; even the strongest among us do.  To hold attention and keep the session flowing, these Sit-Downs have “10-elements” that serve as a framework, but all of the elements are fully customizable based on your group’s needs. Those elements turn out to be an amalgamation of sports meets pop culture, meets vulnerable story-sharing, meets stress and trauma education, meets examples of positive coping mechanisms and practices. The end result is an interactive Q & A session, where your students feel a part of the program, willing to open up and work with the facilitators, to crush stigmas and attack important questions. We also work with your college or university to tie-in key message points and even important campus resources/stakeholders, so that we are re-enforcing your important messages.

USC Student Break-Outs

B) Break-Out Sessions tailored to each of the following groups, that your college/university/conference may choose to incorporate (on top of the Rally above). You may choose to do one, some, or all of the following break out sessions, to ensure messages are being re-enforced and specific topic areas are covered with the entire school community, for: 1) Professors and/or Coaches, 2) Athletic Directors and College Administrators, 3) Counseling Center Staff and/or Sports Psych Staff, 4) Deeper Dive with Specific Student Groups.

C) #SameHere Mental Health Scale implemented across your campus. Mental Health lives on a “continuum,” or in simpler words, a “scale” that stretches from “Thriving” to “Sinking.” It’s a fluid scale that everyone in the world lives and moves on, at different points in their lives (or even their days, weeks, months, etc.).  By understanding mental health in this broader context (broader than what we traditionally hear about: “1 in 5 with mental illness,” specifically), we can better educate every group we speak with about how mental health does in fact apply to them, their life experience, lifestyle, and even genetics. It also allows us to bring groups together around basic concepts and common language that can apply to everyone. Join thousands of other colleges and classrooms around the world and access options for the #SameHere Scale Apps or large #SameHere Scale visuals for your campus.

D) Daily Release & Rewiring Exercise taught to a group of Behavioral Health/Counseling Staff, Administrator, and Student Leaders (selected by each college/university) for them champion and implement for a few minutes per day within their group in the school population to reduce stress, elevate moods, and raise overall performance. We call these exercises “STARR” Exercises (Stress & Trauma, Active Release & Rewiring).  We deliver training for these types of exercises directly with your school community. We also have STARR Exercise Courses, for leaders in your group to learn directly, in a self-paced format from the top experts in mind/body science and modalities.  You can even access STARR Exercise cards before we begin to work together.  Want to take it to the next step? We help colleges build STARR Exercise “Gym for the Brain” rooms.

E) #SameHere Student-Led Mental Health Clubs where we work with a group of students (whether they be part of the SAAC group or others), as well as a board of at least one professor/administrator.  Your student leaders are your biggest advocates for change, on an on-going, daily basis. We work with your students (based on where they may already be at in the process of developing a club), on things like: empowering name development (e.g., #OwnYour Roar for the Towson Tigers), to social media set-ups and content to keep students around campus engaged, to a cadence of weekly or monthly activities that can be coordinated to make sure mental health programs are available to students.  We also have relationships with a number of technology an app providers we make introductions to, who can help set up programs like anonymous peer-to-peer chat rooms, so that everyone feels like they have someone they can talk to without judgement, as a bridge to traditional therapy.

#SameHere Sit-Downs programs may be implemented with all of the activation points above, or colleges/universities/conferences have the option to choose which of the sessions, beyond the Rally, are most important and applicable to you.  We have worked with colleges and universities all over the country, big and small, from Richmond and JMU to USC, Cornell, and Indiana. We look forward to the possibility of working with you.

What people are saying!

Unsolicited post-program feedback:

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