Steve Bisson

Our Fundraiser with B.Good

We had our fundraiser with B.Good on Tuesday night in Boston, and it went great! We're so excited to have partnered with such an incredible company. If you haven't heard about B.Good, check them out. They have many locations across the East Coast, which is why we highly suggest eating at their restaurants and supporting them. Between their awesome food and incredible mission- B.Good is one of our favorite places!

Some lovely girls showed up to support M.I.N.T. and we loved talking to them about growing up and being strong women! Our team highly suggests parents start talking to their teens about social media + self-love at a young age, and these girls are following such a great path. It's so important to implement healthy ideas in children's minds the minute they are old enough to speak.

Thank you to everyone who showed up, and we're excited for the next upcoming M.I.N.T. talks happening in September!

 

Substance Use

Fair warning, this is a raw blog on my part. I hesitated to write this blog but I figured I need to put out there a very silent and deadly killer and its effect.

Background: 2 weeks ago, I lost a client to a possible overdose. I had worked with him over three years and he had been in recovery during this time  I worked with him through  some relapses. He had worked hard to change his life after many  traumatic and devastating losses in his life. He had turned to opiates and opioids at times, to the point he had become addicted before the age of 18. Sure, he had had injuries, but the doctors over prescribed, as he was very charming and convincing with his doctors.

His father, concerned, had contacted my client’s doctor to let him know of his concerns in regards to his prescriptions. The doctor, at the time, citing the confidentiality of all clients over 18, stated he could not talk to his dad. His dad, devastated, wrote a heartfelt letter explaining his concerns and his fear his son would die from opioid issues. The doctor, of course, never acknowledged receipt of the letter or anything to make the father feel recognized.

Fast forward to today: I was at a memorial service for my client with many other of his friends who were distraught. His father, of course, was devastated. The girlfriend, two weeks later, still in shock. Lots of memories were shared of how great he was and how his smile, intelligence, and humor, made everyone feel better for the moment. I was equally devastated, despite the professional distance. Why? I'm a human being who has feelings.

So the effect of substance use should be apparent based on this story but let me make sure I list them:

Family

Partner

Friends

Neighbors

Acquaintances

Colleagues

Professionals

Community

 

Yes community. We should all feel a sense of loss. It needs to be said that we are fighting a war against substance use, a war we are losing because of apathy: not my family, didn't know him, I don't know for a fact what he died from, he should have done something about it. I also see an increase willingness to experiment from younger teens. Why?

 

Apathy. We need to talk about substance use to our teens and the risks associated it. Not minimize it or ignore it. Parents know it's happening but don't want to set limits. So talk about it instead of limits. Open conversations, let others know of these struggles. It is the silence that makes our biggest accidental killer, substance misuse and abuse, the monster that no one talks about.


After all, think about the excuses to not talk about substance use. Would you do that about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes?

Why Not Us? Why Not Now?

Ever wondered how this project got started? Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

I met Alexa at a Talkspace conference in April 2016 in New York City. She presented eloquently and was very engaging during her discussion at the conference. At the end of her panel, the moderator noted that she was 18 years old. I was so impressed, I had to seek her out and tell her.

While lining up for lunch, I saw her. I told her I was really impressed by her knowledge of teen and young adult issues and her life experience. As we chatted quickly (of course, she was going somewhere else quickly!). we exchanged business cards. She was working out of Boston and we decided we should meet at some point.

When we did, we had two other collaborators who wanted to do the impossible: replace DARE in schools with a 60 minute panel discussion on mental health, teens, social media, and the stressors they faced. We did not have a name at a time but we had ideas and enthusiasm.  That was good enough to start creating a curriculum and talking to schools.

Our team worked at exchanging ideas and suggestions on how to present the material. It was exciting and we really wanted to go across the country and make these presentations. Our goal was to offer information, as well as educate in a fun, creative way, about the social media.

In time, our collaborators have worked with us behind the scene, as they had other personal and professional obligations that were happening. We both consider Jamieson and Abbey part of our team. Alexa Curtis and I have been working diligently to set up schools, create surveys, get good information based on studies, and a host of brainstorming ideas.

We got to speak to our first school in October. We then spoke in several other schools, 6 to be exact, spread across 3 states. We have enjoyed all the talks and gotten feedback on what was working and what was not. Alexa and I continue to work on MINT daily with passion and do everything to promote it.

So why us? Because we are a great team, we have added other collaborators since then. It will bring more excitement and more discussion, as well as a great set of opportunities. We can be flexible and present a curriculum that is adapted to the school need based on the surveys and information provided in them. We want this project to succeed. We want to reach out in every state. This is not something that is our job: it is our passion.

And we need to do it now. No one is talking social media, texting, and other newer communication devises and how it affects our teens lives significantly. We need to address it now before it gets more difficult. We are not looking to take away social media from teens: we want them to be more responsible and respectful with it, seeing the impact it has on them and on others.

It needs to be done now and we are the collaborative team to do it!

Meet Our Team: Steve Bisson

1. What inspired you to start M.I.N.T?

Alexa! I was so impressed by her presence at a conference I attended. She was inspiring then. We exchanged information and she was really into doing this project. Her energy helped me also get energized on a subject that I have observed from a far for years.

2. Why are you interested in social media and it's effect on mental health?

I have seen what it does to my adult friends. I can also see it in my teenagers that I see. Teenagers feel so isolated, it is important to remind them that they are not alone. As a therapist, I see the long term effects of bad experiences with others as a teenager. 

3. Why is this so important to you?  

Growing up, I lost my best friend when I was 12. He died in a fire. It devastated me a great deal, to the point I was more isolate and was really struggling with depression, weight gain, and self-esteem issues. I had no one to talk to. With social media and mental health, it is the same thing. While saying it is social media, I also see many people who don't know who to turn to for support.  

4. How is M.I.N.T different from other anti-bullying campaigns that are out there? 

No one is actually talking about the biggest bullying going on right now: the social media bullying. We know it's a phenomenon but we don't address the depression, anxiety, fear of missing out (FOMO), obsessive compulsive behavior it is causing. We also need to find  ways to show it is happening so that everyone can see it and how teenagers and adults CAN do something about it.

5. How does it feel to get out there and spread your message to teens across the country?

It feels awesome. I feel we have developed a great message that is based on reality and the actual issues teenagers face on a regular basis. IT is important to be able to get a message that is based on actual things teens are going through. I hope we can continue to share this message and give them the hope and courage to go forward. 

6. What has the response been from your program so far? 

Excellent. I think we have made many people uncomfortable discussing this issue and that is a good thing. I see teenagers and school staff cringe and be uncomfortable when we bring up some subjects such as cutting, as well as body image. Making people uncomfortable creates their little group discussion, which is key to get the conversation going.

7. Who inspires as you continue to build M.I.N.T? 

I like to think of my work here as groundbreaking, an innovation so to speak. We need more of these services around social services. Those innovators and people who pushed despite the odds against them really inspire me. To name a few would mean to forget some. So I will just leave it as that.  

8. What is the best advice that you received that has really helped you?

Be yourself. Do not change who you are to please others. I always wanted to make others happy but it caused me to lose respect in myself, as well as not be able to do things for me. I think that being able to be me allowed me to see that I am liked and that people will accept me for who I am. 

9. What are your goals for this year?

Go to more schools, get to do it on both coasts of the continental United States, as well as create the curriculum to make it even more real to potential schools, donors, as well as form our non-profit

10. Where do you hope to see M.I.N.T in 5 years from now?

The program is stronger than ever, being implemented in schools across the 50 state plus some westernized countries. I am still doing presentations with Alexa but we are also training other well motivated, great people to do the presentations their way, so they can inspire others for years to come. I have vanity license plates that say M.I.N.T.

 

Don't Be a Bully

Bullying is something that has been talked about for years, and is sometimes wrongly thrown around.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. 

This aggressive behavior can take many forms:

  1. Physical Intimidation: this is the most commonly known form of bullying. It involves using physical power to push around, beat up, or hurt someone. 

2. Financial Intimidation: this is the lunch money issue we once knew. It also comes in form of paying someone to be protected. It may also relate to socioeconomic status, as well as what brands of clothes you have.

3. Cyber Bullying: this is becoming disconcertingly common, happening to 33% users of social media under 18, with 95% of social media users witnessing it. It uses social media to pressure someone out on purpose, telling other teen users not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, embarrassing someone in public. It is related to verbal bullying as it was once known. Our talks relate many issues to cyber bullying constantly. 

It can be intimidating to intervene in cyber bullying issues, as you don't want to lose your social status, appear uncool, or even policing your peers. We can also keep in mind of many cases where cyber bullying and bullying have led to some teenager to kill themselves and citing bullying and social media as the main source of their despair.

So what you should do?

Speak up anyway. It is a risk to take but don't you wish someone would support you if you were going through it yourself? You may lose a few friends but were they really your friends if this is all it took? 

Report it. Most social media platforms have a reporting button. It is usually anonymous and can be addressed by a neutral third party. You can also let a trusted adult, social worker, adjustment counselor about the issue. They will be more than happy to help the victim. You can also report it to law enforcement if it is of violent nature or sexual.

 Ask questions to the bully. It usually disarms the person bullying and makes it more difficult to continue to hurt others when others question you. It may encourage others to support you.

We all have a role in it. Don't go silent, your voice is needed by everyone.

Talk to your peers. Talking to your friends and other kids in school can also be beneficial. It takes away the power from the bully and you may also find allies that have been through what you have been through. There is something to be said about having strength and numbers. We are social and having a social support network definitely helps.

We all have the power to stop bullying. And it's in your hands. You are not powerless. You have the possibility to change things.

M.I.N.T Takes Brooklyn

Yesterday, our team took on Charles O. Dewey Middle School in Brooklyn, NY. It was a fun and interactive talk. We brought on a new panelist which added a new level of content to our talk. Meet Cassell, a Brooklyn based photographer who is an awesome and genuine person. A big part of hiring folks for this line of work is seeing the traits immediately of someone who is going to change the world. They have to be very good with kids, and not get intimidated standing up in front of a group of faculty + teens in a massive auditorium. You'd be surprised at how intimidating that can be!

For this talk, we focused on trolling, body image and following your dreams. Trolling is quite interesting, and is becoming a huge phenomenon in the teen space. If you've never heard of trolling, the definition of trolling can be found here.

We find at each school talk that many people hide behind their phone for different reasons. They may be scared to accept who they are, or may be insecure, and find the need to put other people down. People, especially kids, don't realize the harm that comes in the present and future from putting people down on the internet. The next time you feel poorly about yourself, or like you need someone to lift you up, simply text your friend, or start a thread on Reddit. You'll be so much happier talking to someone in person than you will be putting someone else down. 

We promise!
 

Meet Our Team

Welcome to the official M.I.N.T blog! Thanks for visiting our site. We're very excited to finally be LIVE! 

Most importantly, we're excited to give you BTS access to everything going on with Media Impact and Navigation for Teens. 

Let's introduce you to the creators of M.I.N.T first...

Steve Bisson and Alexa Curtis founded this project in 2016. 

Steve Bisson is a licensed LMHC based in Holliston, MA. Born and raised in Montreal, Steve moved to Boston 17 years ago and has lived here ever since. He speaks French and English. He studied at McGill University with a concentration in psychology, and we like to consider him the "book smart genius" on the panel. Steve has two young kids, and already sees the impact that social media has on the child brain. With a strong passion for influencing teens to start speaking out, Steve makes a fantastic addition to the team.

Alexa Curtis founded A Life in the Fashion Lane when she was 12, and began dealing with severe bullying and body insecurities. Many of her online pieces have gone viral, including this one on her experience in the modeling industry. She's appeared on shows like TODAY, GMA, Good Day LA and more discussing her experiences inspiring teens across the globe to follow their dreams and love who they are.

The M.I.N.T team is looking to expand. If you're a suitable candidate for this project, and are interested in young adults, please contact fashionlane@alifeinthefashionlane.com.