Teen

Texting and Consequences

Steve and I are in our in our office today in Holliston, MA! It's a very exciting day because we finally have a location geotag on Instagram! Woohoo! 

We were talking about the current Massachusetts case with the young girl who was convicted of manslaughter, and then we decided to write a blog post on it. There was no way this was going to be an easy case. Steve made a vlog (above) about his thoughts on the case, and I am having a difficult time coming around to a specific viewpoint on it. The fact that there are consequences even when you're texting is something to think about for adults AND teenagers. Steve thinks the court made the absolute right decision because in the future, there shouldn't ever be a situation where a teen girl can get away with telling someone to kill himself. She encouraged him to kill himself. 

Parents; if you have a teen who is suicidal; you need to get involved. You're responsible for monitoring them. Don't think that it's just the schools job. For teens; the power of words and what you say to others can have very negative consequences. If you know someone who needs help, sometimes you have to reach out to them and not wait for them to reach out on their own.

We'd love to hear your thoughts- leave them below! 

Our Recent Press!

"The first thing that popped into my mind when watching it was, 'Wow,' " said Curtis, who founded the nonprofit Media Impact and Navigation for Teens, a program that raises awareness about online bullying.

Thank you to everyone and all of the press outlets who have been supporting our journey to help and inspire teens- we can't thank you enough!

If you want to be a part of what we are creating, click here!

Our Ethics

Us at M.I.N.T. stand for a few things. Here's some Monday inspiration and guidance to get you through your week!

1. We stand with Planned Parenthood

Our team doesn't have any issues supporting this cause. With a President in office who doesn't believe in many of the topics we believe in, it's important that more people start standing up for their rights. We are trying to reduce the stigma around mental health, AND supporting the causes you believe in.

2. We stand with teens taking over

The past few years have revolutionized how people view teens. In the past, teens weren't given nearly the time of day that adults were, but now, teens are running the game. Millennials are writing for the top magazines, learning how to pitch the minute they're born (literally) and following their dreams. That's what we like to see!

3. Mental health issues are not your fault

There is a stigma around mental health issues that we are trying to reduce. But many people still blame the person with mental health issues, stating that it's "there problem" or "their issue" when it actually isn't. About 1/25 adults in the United States face mental health issues, and instead of blaming, be a friend for whoever you know is facing some issues. You may be able to help them overcome them.

4. Teens need M.I.N.T.

We're a bit biased, but from our research, teens need M.I.N.T. Teens need to hear about their bodies, their wellness, and their lives. We believe strongly in opening up the discussion on health to teens, and we need your help to continue pursuing our passion to make every teen fall in love with who they are.

Happy Monday!

Q&A with Libby Vilner

Libby Vilner is one of the coolest girls around the blog. Alexa met her at a Boston fashion event last year, and they reconnected earlier this year when Libby heard about M.I.N.T., and wanted to be a part of the magic.

Libby is passionate, dedicated and driven. She runs her website, Life with Libby, while attending grad school at BC. She's into health and wellness, which makes her a fantastic addition to our team. With her own spout of domestic violence, she brings in a new perspective to teens and mental health.

Welcome to the team, Libby!

What inspired you to start your blog, Life with Libby?

When I turned 17 I signed with Modeling Agency, and doing photoshoots, fashion shows and events, they put on so much makeup on you all the time and use all of these chemicals. One day my older brother asked me if I know what was truly within those products, and made me aware of how toxic it all is. I began to slowly learn more and therefore exchange my beauty and home products to non-toxic and organic ones. I thought to myself, if I wasn’t aware of how harmful these mainstream products are, so many other probably aren’t as well! I began my blog with a focus on raising awareness about this subject, and organic living in general. Organic living for me doesn’t just end with the products we use, it continues into the people we surround ourselves with and the life that we make for ourselves. Going through a rough childhood and teenage years, I also decided to share my story on my blog in the hopes of helping others who may have gone through similar things such as parental divorce, domestic violence, moving to a new country, and more. This is why I named my blog Life With Libby, because it focuses on wellbeing and life as a whole rather than just a portion.

  Why do you want to work with M.I.N.T.?

Being a social worker, I want to work with MINT because I am looking to make a difference, even the slightest one, in people’s lives. Through sharing my own experiences and using the knowledge I have from my masters in Social Work, I hope to inspire others to take control of their lives, to seek help, or simply to feel as though they are not alone. I wish that in my high school days someone that had gone through what I was going at the time came and spoke to us, it would have given me hope, motivation, and someone to go to for help.

What do you hope to accomplish while working with us?

I hope to connect, help, and inspire teens through my story and my knowledge in the field of social work. I hope to be a resource and safe outlet for teens who need it. I hope to bring awareness to taboo subjects, to clarify societal misunderstandings, and to provide a sense of community within each school we work with.

  What's the best advice you could give to teens who are feeling down about their body image?

I would say to be more skeptical about what they see in magazines, on screen, and social media. These days everyone has access to airbrushing, photo edits, and the famous have stylists, personal trainers, cosmetic surgeries, and other tricks. Also, your body is not everything that you are, we all obtain such talents, personalities, and accomplishments, be proud of those, shine bright like the diamonds that you are! Comparison get tricky, try to focus on being better than you are today rather than better than that person is that you’re comparing yourself to. Truth is, they are probably insecure too!

    Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

My biggest inspiration has been my mother. She always has been my guidance through this life, the person that has pushed my limits, that has set my boundaries, that has trusted me even in my worst, and that has never given up on me. She is a fighter and has gone through so many obstacles in her life as well, yet she still oozes kindness, happiness, and inspiration.

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!

Thanks Girls' Life!

Thank you Girls' Life Magazine for the fantastic feature!

 

Whether we like it or not, social media is a *huge* part of our lives. Some people are more involved with it than others, but it's basically impossible to escape it and it's all too easy to get lost in it. Our lives seem so much different from the famous models, actresses and Insta-babes whose feeds we scroll through day after day, and it can really have an impact on how we view ourselves—especially when it comes to our bodies.

Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and shades. But when you see the same body shape time and time again you might start to believe that that’s what the most beautiful or ideal body is. But the truth is far from that. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, or what the color of your skin is—you are beautiful in your own way, even if your version is not reflected in the media.

That's a reality that Alexa Curtis understands *all* too well. The fashion blogger and entrepreneur recently chatted with us about her struggle with an eating disorder that stemmed from her experience in the modeling industry. As a teen, Alexa was severely bullied and dealt with depression for many years as a result of constantly comparing herself to what she saw online. Alexa explained, “[Social media] gives these girls who don’t necessarily have the 'perfect' life or body this unrealistic expectation that they should be that by the time they're 19, 20 or 21. And then they get there and that’s not what the reality is.” 

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.

 

Depression & Social Media

Have you just read someone else’s status, seen someone’s tweet, or someone’s picture and got a little down? Are you feeling upset about the recent post of a friend or family member? Are you getting down or having trouble sleeping because of your social media use?

One of the things that can be a side effect of the use of social media is the effects it may have on our mental health. One of the most common feelings that we can see is the fact that we get down when we see someone else’s post where they appear to have fun or other stuff that makes you feel “less than” that other person. It is a very common phenomenon but sometimes, we see so many things that do that to us that it affects us in a deeper way.

We start feeling down about ourselves, which effects our self-esteem. We start thinking some negative thoughts about ourselves as we continue to compare our lives to what we are seeing on our social media and how it appears boring and unexceptional. We start isolating and start staying in bed, eating less (or more, depending on the person), and even start thinking if our lives are worth living? It is more common than you think.

It is estimated that 20% of teenagers will develop depressive symptoms that meets criteria for the diagnosis. While this stat may seem low to some (1 out of 5), this has to do with meeting the clinical definition. It is common for many teens to have some of these symptoms but it cannot be underemphasized how often it is related to the social media bombardment that they receive. But let’s also be realistic about it.

Previous generations were more isolated (no Internet) and had these symptoms in their lives also. They could, however, leave their social problems at school and go home and not hear about it.  With the advent of mobile phones, teens today cannot “Get away” from it as easily. It is important, however, to limit some social media use, not because it is bad, but what it does to their thoughts.

Please also remember that a person takes on average 5 selfies before posting the “right” one (6 for girls, 4 for boys). The post you see is a snapshot of a moment and not the entire time of the event. Most posts are meant to raise the self-esteem of the person posting, not to put yours down. Most posts put the best foot forward and this may be the best they feel all day. And finally, life is lived face to face not on social media. Try those uplifting thoughts when you see something that brings you down.

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.

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.