Q: What unique approach do you bring to the table in your helping role(s)?
A: Vulnerability. How can we expect people to be vulnerable with us if we aren’t vulnerable with them? Mentorship, trust, and respect are two way streets. So as a ‘helper’ I find it imperative to challenge myself: open up and share. Each time I do, someone is touched, and feels moved to be vulnerable with me. This cycle wakes people up and calls people forward; to ask for help, to hear the hope, and to realize it’s okay not to be okay. That reassurance is what makes my approach unique. The only aspect that makes me different is that I’m a teenage survivor. I can empathize, but I can also have discussions in hope oriented ways. I’m a vulnerable mentor and that is my strength.
Q: What makes being a helper satisfying/ worth it?
A: My motivation each morning is the hopeful thought that “I can make a difference today”. No matter what I’m going through, I have the power to make a difference – we all do. My story, trials, tribulations, and hope undoubtedly support others in their journey. It is for that sole reason that I do what I do. Sharing my story in front of people is scary; I do it anyway because my fear is nothing compared to the potential for positive change.
I love my job because each time I share my story, someone opens up to me. I love my job because after each event, young people are crowding in to get a 13 Reasons to Fly bracelet. I love my job because people who are struggling have the opportunity to get help. Being a helper is worth it because you’re simply that – a helper. I have the privilege to help someone else. That statement in itself makes my work 100% worth it.
Q: How do we support people to see human beings versus stereotypes?
A: Personally, we all have the power to eradicate the use of stereotypes in our language. In the broader scheme, I like to do a labeling activity with balloons. Each participant thinks of a negative label someone else has given them, or one they’ve given themselves. They write their label on the balloon and place it in front of their face. Stereotypes box, cover, and swallow. What stereotypes don’t do is accurately describe a person. The final part of the activity is going around in a circle and popping the labeled balloon. What remains? The person. There’s a person behind every little label you give.
I always preach and practice that you’re more than what you’re going through. You may be feeling angry or being hurtful, but you are NOT an angry or hurtful person. Stereotypes harm. Observations state. We are all human beings. Realizing that has helped me rip off life’s labels, and discard them from my vocabulary.