Sometimes our friends can be the ones engaging in bullying, and that can be harder to recognize. They may laugh it off or say, “just kidding!” But when the behavior doesn’t change, it still hurts.
We all have bad days. If a friend hurts your feelings once in a while, it’s probably an accident, a misunderstanding, or a mistake. But if they consistently make you feel bad about yourself, even after you ask them to stop, that’s not friendship.
Spend your time around people who lift you up, not people who tear you down. If you need help understanding or dealing with the situation, ask a parent, teacher, or trusted adult for help.
Story sharing is powerful. Through our stories, we realize that we are not alone in our suffering or our triumphs. We use stories to create safe spaces — free of judgment, free to love.
“I Define Me” stories are about stepping into your power and overcoming adversity. They are real stories from real people, meant to inspire.
We invite you to share your story. Your perspective matters. Through it, you can inspire, uplift, and empower others.
Mental health is a state of emotional and psychological wellbeing. Your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and relationships are all impacted by your mental health.
Positive mental health allows you to cope with life’s challenges, form healthy friendships and boundaries, be productive, and achieve your full potential.
Many factors can influence mental health, including stress, trauma, adversity, loneliness, isolation, bullying, discrimination, genetics, and family history.
If you are struggling with your mental health, it does not mean you are weak or flawed. It’s not your fault. It’s okay to ask for help. You are not alone.
Studies have shown that youth who spend three or more hours a day on social media are at increased risk of mental health problems.
Social media feeds are carefully curated, and it’s easy to fall into a comparison trap. Scrolling Instagram or Facebook can make you feel like everyone is leading perfect, ideal lives — except you. Of course, when something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
There are many benefits to connecting with people online, regardless of physical distance and other barriers. But social media is no substitute for personal interaction. When we rely too much on social media for connection, we may end up feeling lonelier and more isolated.
For more information, check out our blog post Social Media: 5 Tips to Break the Cycle and Find Balance.
Depression is characterized by long-lasting feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, and/or a loss of interest and pleasure. It’s not the same thing as feeling sad once in a while. People with depression may experience difficulty sleeping or concentrating, changes to their appetite, weight loss or gain, low energy, prolonged feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and intrusive thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Depression is real, and it’s serious. It’s the most common mental illness, affecting over 10% of adolescents and young adults. But fortunately, it is treatable.
80% of people with depression begin to feel better within six weeks of starting treatment. But only about half of those affected ever get treatment. That’s why it’s so important to speak openly about mental health and reduce the stigma surrounding depression and other illnesses.
For more information, check out this blog post: What Does Depression Feel Like?
If someone is bullying you at school, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher, or counselor. They want you to feel safe at school, and they can help put a stop to the behavior.
When bullying happens, don’t respond. When people bully, they are looking for a reaction. Instead, firmly tell them to stop, then walk away. Or simply ignore them and focus on something else. Avoid the person who is bothering you and buddy up with a friend whenever possible.
Remember that bullying is not about you. When people bully, it’s often because they are in pain themselves. Be a role model: be kind to others, stand up for love, and celebrate individuality.
You may have heard people say anxiety is “all in your head.” But anxiety is real, and it can interfere with your ability to enjoy and fully experience your life.
Physical symptoms of anxiety include rapid heartbeat or breathing, tightness in the chest, upset stomach, sweating, headache, muscle tension, and insomnia. Mental anxiety symptoms include excessive worry, intrusive or unwanted thoughts, fear, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and restlessness.
Everyone experiences anxiety a little differently, but one thing is certain: you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Bullying is using words or actions to hurt someone on purpose. It usually happens repeatedly over time, and it can be hard to stop. Bullying behaviors include ridicule, threats, rumors, embarrassment, taunts, intimidation, hate speech, assault, and sexual harassment. It can happen anywhere: at school, in the community, or online (cyberbullying).
For more information on what bullying looks like, check out these blog posts:
People with depression need support. You can make a difference in someone’s life by letting them know you’re there, you care, and you’re in their corner.
If you think someone you know is struggling with depression, share your concern. You don’t have to know the “right” thing to say or give any advice. Just be present. Listen without judgment. Ask how you can help, and let the person know that they are important and valued. Your support may be exactly what they need to get through.
If you are concerned that someone may be in danger of hurting themselves or others, get immediate help. Tell a trusted adult, call 911, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
For more information, check out our blog post on Suicide Prevention: 5 Action Steps to Prevent Suicide.
Many factors make bullying common in schools. Social status, power imbalances, and the overall school climate — such as whether or not there are clear rules and expectations, tolerance of diversity and individuality, and open communication — all impact bullying and how it is handled.
Friendship groups are increasingly important throughout childhood and adolescence. Sometimes these groups set themselves apart by bullying or excluding others.
Bullying is not just an individual problem. It’s social and systemic. Schools can create a positive climate by:
- Teaching emotional and social skills around self-awareness, decision-making, and relationships
- Addressing positive and negative behaviors without labeling people (“bullies” or “victims”)
- Providing safe spaces and opportunities for connection and open communication
- Encouraging and celebrating individuality, diversity, and creative self-expression through the arts
It’s best not to escalate bullying behavior. That means don’t bully back or retaliate. Don’t give the person the reaction they’re looking for. Instead:
- Calmly and firmly tell the person to stop or simply ignore them.
- Walk away, and if possible, buddy up with a more supportive friend.
- Tell a teacher, parent, or other trusted adult what is happening.
But we can all stand up for love at any time and any place. Be the change you wish to see: spread kindness, celebrate individuality, and speak up against hate.
For more info and actionable tips, check out these blog posts:
- Talk about it. Reach out to a trusted adult — like a parent, teacher, or counselor — and tell them what you’re experiencing. They want you to stay safe and will help you solve the problem.
- Save the evidence. Take screenshots and keep the messages you receive. Share them with the adult helping you so they can fully understand what’s happening.
- Block the person. Stop all communication. Don’t engage or respond to comments. Block the person on social media, screen their calls, and don’t read their texts.
- Be careful of what you share online. Never share passwords, private photos, or personal information like your address or phone number online, even with your friends. That information can be used to target and hurt you.
For more information, check out these blog posts:
LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk of being bullied. 9 out of 10 have experienced harassment and other bullying behaviors in the last year.
Many LGBTQ youths feel isolated. The people around them may not accept them for who they are. They struggle with their identity and feel like they can’t be their authentic selves. As a result, they are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and six times more likely to experience depression.
Members of marginalized groups are often targets for aggressive and inappropriate behaviors. People are attacked because they are perceived as “different.” That’s why it’s so important to stand against hate, celebrate diversity and individuality, and break down social barriers.
An excellent place to start is by listening to each other. Check out these blog posts:
Free2Luv is committed to spreading change, inspiring bravery, celebrating individuality, and ending bullying. We support mental health and saving lives through the arts.
Join us by taking our pledge:
I believe LUV is STRONGER than hate
and BRAVER than bullying.
I believe when we stand together,
we stand strong.
I will be a voice for the voiceless.
I have zero tolerance for bullying
or discrimination of any kind.
I am committed to being the best
version of myself to create change.
Our empowerment events and arts programming impact youth online, in schools, and communities across the country. And our We Care program has gifted over 20,000 empowerment packages to youth suffering from low self-esteem, bullying, and destructive thoughts.
We invite you to stand with us.
Your mental health affects how you think, feel, and act every day. When you’re mentally healthy, you can overcome difficulties, cope with stress, build positive relationships, and make good decisions.
Each year, one in five people experience mental health issues. These include anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and ideation, self-harm, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and conditions like OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. However, only half of the people affected receive the treatment they need, partially because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
It’s important that we speak openly about mental health and support each other so we can all lead happy, fulfilling lives.
There are many ways to improve your mental health. Here are a few steps you can take to boost your mood and wellbeing:
- Connect with others. Spend time with friends and family. Talk about your feelings. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Practice self-care. Eat a balanced diet, move your body, and get plenty of sleep. Taking care of your body can help you feel better.
- Learn something new. Try a new hobby or take up a new skill. Express yourself creatively through art, writing, dance, drama, or whatever makes your heart happy.
Sometimes people with depression are encouraged to “just snap out of it.” But depression is an illness, not a choice. It requires treatment and support.
The symptoms of depression, such as sadness, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating, also make it hard to manage. The things that can help you feel better are often the hardest things to do. Start small and remind yourself that the first step is usually the hardest one.
Some steps you can take to feel better in the moment include:
- Reach out. The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone. People with depression often feel ashamed or isolated. But people care about you and want to help. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or a burden. So tell a trusted family member or friend what you are experiencing. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable, connect online, or call a crisis line:
- Do something to make yourself feel good. Even if you feel like you’ve lost interest in the things you once enjoyed, try doing them. Whether that’s listening to music, doing art, writing, being with a pet, taking a walk, or playing a game, you may find something that helps boost your mood.
- Take care of your body. It’s easy to neglect your self-care when you’re depressed. Make sure you are eating well, drinking enough water, getting adequate rest, and exercising. Try to get some fresh air and sunlight. Find ways to manage stress, such as deep breathing, stretching, and other relaxation exercises.
If at any time you feel like you’re in danger of hurting yourself or others, get immediate help. Go to a trusted adult, call 911 or a crisis line, or get to an emergency room.