It's Mental Health Awareness week/month. A few weeks ago (was it last week? Not sure everything is blending together lately), I had the opportunity to go see Lizzo live in Raleigh. The energy, the empowerment felt inside the PNC Arena was electric. It was inspiring. It felt like a safe space of 20,000 people in attendance. She talked about being yourself. Being authentic. To be seen. To be heard. To be loved. She said "I don't think we say that to ourselves enough, on a daily basis... I deserve to take the time to sit with myself, to process this, to think, to be sad, to be mad, to be outraged, to protest. Most of all you deserve to be protected." Let's talk about that for a minute. Let me give you a few facts:
41% of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year—and young people who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers*
56% of LGBTQ young people who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it*
Nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation*
Nearly 2 in 3 LGBTQ young people said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school made their mental health a lot worse*
*2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, The Trevor Project
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Right now, in the US, we are not protecting our youth. We are not giving them a safe space to be their authentic selves. We are not giving them the care and love that they deserve. That's a problem. That is a huge problem. Black transgender and nonbinary young people experience higher rates of victimization, attempts from others to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and housing instability compared to Black cisgender LGBQ young people. Let me give you one more staggering statistic: one in four (25%) Black transgender and nonbinary young people reported a suicide attempt in the past year (The Trevor Project, 2023).
This is a public health crisis that deserves immediate attention. Our youth are under attack. Please educate yourself on what is going on in your state. I recently had the opportunity to listen & talk with Susie Silver, an experienced and effective consultant, strategist, facilitator, and content creator. She is also an LGBTQ+ subject matter expert and Certified Diversity Executive. She shared with us a way to stay vigilant in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, by staying informed on the anti-LGBTQ legislative bills in your state and around the country.
Continuing to educate yourself is extremely important for our youth's lives depend on it. Recently, I have been reading articles and guides created by and for The Trevor Project including: support Black LGBTQ young people, being an ally to transgender and nonbinary young people, how to approach conversations around the intersection of race and LGBTQ identities, and the magic of Black queerness. Please consider reading and learning more, not just for yourself but to help educate your children. Read LGBTQIA+ books to your kids. Have age-appropriate conversations with them acknowledging the fact that some people in our country are trying to take away their rights and how you plan to help.
We're attending our local Pride event in Wilson, NC. We will have a booth set up with some MOSS Mystery selections wrapped up for people to purchase. With those proceeds, we buy brand new diverse and inclusive books to donate throughout our communities. We wanted to do more. We started a Fill the Flag fundraising campaign to raise funds to buy 100 LGBTQ books for kids.
back to big, big feelings:
Last August, we read the book The Boy with Big, Big Feelings written by Britney Winn Lee, illustrated by Jacob Souva during a time when our oldest son had been experiencing some big changes, navigating new routines and a new baby sister. In the story, the main character has feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes, and jump up and down on his chest. When he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. When a loud truck drives by, he cries. When his loved ones are having a hard day, he feels their emotions as if they were his own. The boy tries to cope by stuffing down his feelings, but with a little help and artistic inspiration, the boy realizes his feelings are something to be celebrated.
Reading this with my sensitive 4yo (at the time) with BIG, BIG feelings was an absolute gift. He was finally able to see himself in a book character. We created an activity (see below) where he drew a self portrait & painted his emotions coming out of him (just like the book's cover). While he painted, we talked about all the different emotions he feels and how he doesn’t need to hide them. We even discussed how mama has big feelings too— just like in the book. Forever grateful to author Britney Winn Lee! I feel like I am constantly talking about how important books are as tools to initiate conversation. This book allowed us to talk as we created art. We talked about how each emotion makes us feel physically, about how they sometimes wish to bubble out or to hide us away. We ended up framing his self-portrait and refer back to it often. This is one book that should be in every school, library and home. Please be sure to request it be purchased by your local library. If you need help navigating the system request, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'd be happy to help.
the craft -- Feelings self portrait:
This one is pretty straight forward with minimal materials needed and can be used mostly to initiate conversations about different emotions/feelings. This activity can be modified easily. We helped to draw our 2yo's self-portrait where he helped to identify body parts as we drew them. He was the creative director, choosing the colors and what to add where. Then we let him free paint his own emotions and feelings. With our 5yo, we had him draw his own self-portrait. Any one can do this activity. I plan to do it tonight with my husband for our date night activity!
Paper; preferably watercolor paper as it dries better
Have child draw self portrait. You can help by setting up a mirror, taking a picture of them on your phone and letting them draw from there or let them draw what they believe they look like. You can have them "creatively direct" you, verbalizing body parts to work on body awareness.
Use the cover of The Boy with Big, Big Feelings as your example and allow children to paint their feelings/emotions coming out of their head. With each emotion, allow the child to acknowledge and feel the emotion. You can let them express themselves or guide them through your own physical manifestations of that feeling, your own internal dialogue. Be open and listen to their thoughts, their feelings. Be a safe space.
This is also a great opportunity to talk about mindfulness and mental health. Check out our full book list for mental health awareness here.
To check in with yourself too. Being a part of raising kind, empathetic, accepting world changers is hard work. Sometimes it's easy to find yourself running on fumes, nearing empty, completely burnt out. It's hard to be the the example you hope to set for our youth when you don't grant that same time to take care of yourself. So take that solo walk outside. Head to a quiet place to read. Take that hot soaker tub bath (completely jealous by the way). Talk to a therapist. Take your medications. Do things to fill your cup so you can pour some of that world changing magic into your little ones. I see you. I hear you. You are enough.