Young Adult

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.