Tag Archives: youth voice

22 Brief Thoughts on Life from a 22-Year-Old Advocate

June 12th, 2019

handsI always like to reflect on my life before a birthday. 22 marks 6 years past 16, which is 6 years past the lifespan I thought I would have when I was younger. Here are 22 thoughts I’ve had regarding life in my 22 years on this earth.

  1. You never know what’s going to happen. Try not to predict what your life will look like, because you can’t know, and in some ways I think that’s one of the beautiful things about life.
  2. You will experience loss and But you will grow, and you will find your strength to carry on. I didn’t believe this at first, but it’s true.
  3. Suicide is not without I lost my best friend to suicide, and I contemplated suicide for 10 years. But people will miss you. And you are loved, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
  4. You will find people who are Some people are not meant to stay with you forever.
  5. You will find people who are They are your people, and you should cherish them.
  6. Don’t let other people tell you what “beautiful” You do not have to squeeze yourself into their box to be beautiful. Define for yourself what it means.
  7. Never underestimate the power of finding people who understand It may just save your life.
  8. I highly suggest talking about your feelings with people you Silence is what almost took my life, and I am so much happier now that I talk about how I feel.
  9. Everyone has bad days, even in There is no such thing as being happy all the time. If someone tells you they are always feeling good, they are lying through their teeth.
  10. Don’t let someone tell you that you aren’t “sick enough” to ask for help. No one can determine that except for If you need help, there is no shame in that, you’re doing the right thing.
  11. The stereotypes you hear about people with mental health concerns are mostly inaccurate. Most of my friends have a mental health diagnosis, and they are the kindest, gentlest people you’ll ever
  12. Don’t judge someone because of their weight. I have an eating disorder, and also happen to be overweight, you never know what people are going through, so steer away from judgement or dirty
  13. Sometimes, you have to mind your own Not everyone will let you in, not everyone wants to be asked about their own health/mental health. So respect that boundary.
  14. Not everyone thinks like Not everyone has a heart like you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect them. Everyone is different.
  15. Some people will hurt you. Some people will come into your life, and all they do is drag you down and treat you like Don’t let them define you. You are strong enough to piece yourself back together.
  16. Sometimes, you need to let yourself fall When life hits you with something that hurts, you need to break down and learn to build yourself back up.
  17. You are made up of so many traits. Consider your traits to be Lego blocks, and build up the good traits, while learning to knock down the more negative It’s a good visual.
  18. Keep believing in the good in the I know sometimes it seems like good is gone, but there are good people in this world, and they make it go round.
  19. Journaling is a good habit to get I find I am most productive when I’m introspective.
  20. Self-care is so, so Like on an airplane, you have to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else, and the same goes for your mental and emotional wellbeing.
  21. Do what you love to do, whether it be drawing, singing, sports, or whatever it It’ll help you in the long run.
  22. And finally, be Don’t let anyone, or anything, change you. Let yourself enjoy being you, there really is only one of you. Embrace that.

I want to know if you have any pieces of advice or thoughts that have shaped you or that you feel are important. Life is full of ups and downs, and will throw you curveballs from time to time, but you learn so much.

Rae LaBrie is a young adult whose passions are advocacy and writing. They hope to one day write a memoir about their struggle with mental health, and the beauty they’ve found in life.

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A Letter to 12-Year-Old Me

May 9th, 2019

loveHi. I know you are probably confused as to why I am calling you Rae and not Rachel.

You know how you never felt really comfortable being called a woman, or how you thought “she” just didn’t suit you? You were right. You now identify as non-binary, and I am super pumped for you to learn about that.

With that out of the way, I wanted to talk about trauma and what’s happened to you recently. You were sexually assaulted, and the people telling you you are lying are really, really wrong and are going to make you doubt yourself. They will invalidate you. And you will become silent. Not forever, obviously, because I am writing you this letter, but it’ll take some time and some new friends in adulthood.

You are going to go through this again, and it hurts to write that. But you will, and you will survive it. It’ll be someone you love with all your heart. He has brown eyes and is very charming. And he’ll do some damage.

My dear, dear friend you will experience heartache and loss and abuse but you come out so much stronger and more compassionate on the other side. You are such a wonderful, well-rounded human now. You have a job supporting other young people, you’re working on moving out, and you’re on the Board of Directors for a national organization (at 22 holy crap!). There is so much to look forward to.

I want you to know I love you. I know you don’t love yourself yet (you are getting there) and I know you cannot see the future. But you are such a valid, incredible, vibrant young person, and I want to congratulate you on sticking to who you are and what you believe in.

As Elton John said, “I’m still standing after all this time.” And you are too. Thank you so much for staying alive. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Love,

Your Future Self

Rae LaBrie is a young adult who’s striving to make the world a better place, one step at a time. They are currently working at PPAL and serving on Youth MOVE National’s Board of Directors.

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Gillette, the Best a Man Can Get

February 25th, 2019

men at window Lately, there has been a lot of controversy over an ad that the company Gillette released on January 13, 2019. There is an argument that the commercial is making it so that men are soft and not the masculine figures so many believe that a man should be, while the subtitle of the ad is “The Best a Man Can Be.” The commercial depicts the very real emotions that men feel when toxic masculinity has become an unfortunate part of life as a man in the United States of America. It also shows examples of how this affects not only men but women of all ages as well.

Violence, sexuality, physical strength, and disrespecting women are some of the things this ad is focused on. Showing examples of catcalling, fighting, name calling and the fact that men are not holding other men accountable for their actions, this commercial brought light to the affect toxic masculinity has on the population of young adults to seniors. It also explains how men can be much more respectful of everyone and to make sure that if you see something, say something.

Many men experience pressure from society to be “a man” and not show emotion when emotion needs to be experienced, not suppressed, like so many boys and men have to do while in the company of other men. Self-esteem is another thing that this ad touches on and how it can be affected by things like bullying due to shaming of things like being a virgin or crying publicly. The way that this affects young boys while maturing can teach lessons that are toxic to them and makes them act in a way that they probably wouldn’t if there wasn’t so much harassment about being your true self.

One other thing that this ad focuses on is men stepping in and calling out other men who are being toxic in ways that refer to women; for example, calling women “ladies” or “sweetheart” and generally disrespecting the other sex. Women suffer from toxic masculinity just as much as men. They can be abused or mentally damaged by things men do because of what toxic masculinity has made them feel that they have to do. Feeling like men have to “wear the pants” in a relationship and be the one in charge can lead to verbal and physical abuse of spouses.

Personally, I have fallen victim to toxic masculinity. Having to throw punches when a conversation is the real solution, having to fight my inner thoughts of being attracted to other men, and feeling like I’m not the person I should be because I have these feelings. Being pressured by every other male in high school that being a virgin is the weakest thing you can be. Also, I’ve been ridiculed for crying at school and showing my actual emotions instead of trying to “be hard”. All this leads to feelings of insecurity and self-loathing only because I felt that I was lower and weaker than other young men in my high school.

So, in conclusion, the Gillette ad shows that men can be doing more to help end this cycle of toxic masculinity and the harassment that follows. Many people have brought up their concerns that Gillette is trying to take a stance on making men softer and weaker. However, they are missing the point of the ad. Gillette is showing how toxic masculinity is harmful and men can make a positive difference by speaking up and stepping in. The title of the advertisement it “The Best a Man Can Be” not “Men are being attacked for being masculine.”  

Author: Anonymous

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Rise UP

January 23rd, 2019

silhouette of people jumpingThe other day I got stuck in this moment of thought. A short moment where I truly observed where I was standing, where I was breathing, what I was looking at. A room full of youth and walls filled with art work that screamed hope and resilience. The air filled with laughter and belonging, like there was this sense of safety and an absolution that something was going to be okay. It was our weekly youth group, something I had gotten so use to facilitating that I had forgotten that I once walked through the doors of the group for the very first time. It suddenly dawned on me that where I stood now and where I stood many years ago is a victory and I must remind myself every day to appreciate and acknowledge it.

I had just turned eight years old when my adoptive mother chose to no longer be a part of my life and to no longer be a mother to me. She kept my two brothers, therefore separating us when she sent me away into the system. In this moment as a young, curious, and fragile child without a care in the world, I was introduced to the most excruciating, painful trauma that life can bestow on one’s journey.

It was a second time shock, giving your heart, your soul, your belonging, to someone the world chose to be your mother, for them to just one day change their mind. I no longer had a mother to guide me, take me to my first day of middle school, brag about me at a high school graduation, and send me off to college. I no longer had a mother to go to one of my baseball games, be proud of me when I received awards, and cheer me on when I performed at talent shows.

However, all of those little things I realized I could still do while standing proud and strong. I could still grow up a man and know how to treat a woman. I could still receive an award and have people who support me look up at me and be proud of me. I could still be proud of myself. I could fall and tumble down the hill, make a whole bunch of new mistakes, and still get up and come back better than before.

The love and respect I could not receive from one woman was not going to impact the love and respect I had for myself, nor what I could give to others. Yes I acted out, yes I did drugs, yes I got into fights, yes I was lost and my heart was filled with anger! But that was then and this is now. I am 20 years old and I provide for myself. I live in an apartment in the city and I have a job. I advocate for youth and young adults from ALL backgrounds and I give them a voice. I’ve spoken on panels and facilitated trainings to educate others and make change. I did this despite one woman’s decision to decide my worth, to decide my value. I am where I am today because I chose that this is where I belong, I choose to be strong, and I choose to prove everyone who said, “You won’t succeed” WRONG.

The other day I got stuck in this moment of thought. A short moment where I truly observed where I was standing, where I was breathing, what I was looking at. A room full of youth and walls filled with art work, and where I found myself standing, where I am today, I can truly tell myself…. I AM PROUD, I AM VICTORIOUS, I AM STRONG.

Mateo Anderson is a young adult whose focus is on supporting and advocating for youth and families of mental health. He is currently working in the peer support field. 

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Question 3 from the Perspective of a Non-Binary Young Adult

November 28th, 2018

trans military ban protest

By: Rachel LaBrie

Recently, in our midterm elections on November 6th, we had a ballot question that could’ve made life a lot more frightening, and potentially dangerous, for folks who are not cisgender. For anyone who is confused, cisgender means you identify with the sex assigned to you at birth. For example, if you were assigned female at birth, and you identify as female, you are cisgender. Transgender, which is an umbrella term, means you do not identify with the sex assigned to you at birth.

The law that we were voting on, and we inevitably kept in place with our votes, made it illegal to discriminate against someone for their gender identity in places of public accommodation. For example, it made it illegal for places like sports venues, hotels, and restaurants to discriminate against you for that reason.  If we had a “no” vote on this question (question 3 on our ballot), this law would have been rolled back. We would have been the first state in the country to roll back protections for transgender people. That would have set a dangerous precedent for the rest of our nation.

As someone who is not cisgender, this law being taken away would have had an impact on me. I identify as non-binary and gender fluid. Basically, for me, that means sometimes I identify as female and use she/her/hers pronouns, and other times I feel like I’m somewhere in between male and female, and on those days (which are most days) I use they/them/theirs pronouns.  I could have been denied service based on this fact. That would be devastating to me.

I’ve been asked, as someone who is a contractor for a youth organization (Youth MOVE Massachusetts) and PPAL, why it was and is such an important question for our organization to have a stance on. A lot of our youth and young adults are transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming. This law put the livelihoods of our folks at stake. It is so important to recognize that this law is so important and crucial in keeping our folks protected and involved in their community.

There is still a lot of work to be done to educate the community on gender identity. So many people don’t understand the terminology, or the disparities in care that people experience when they are transgender. I hope to see a day where we can all coexist without this constant judgement and that people will stop feeling entitled to have an “opinion” on whether or not people like me exist. Because we do, and it is not a matter of opinion. We are here. And we will continue to be. And the sooner we can all respect each other, the better.

Rachel LaBrie is a advocate and a writer. They are currently working on compiling a book of poetry about their struggles with mental health. 

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