AwareNow: Issue 28: The Mental Edition

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Beside me now are the parts I’ve come to know But never fully understand And stand I will For something more than I’ve become With change my constant And direction my variable My compass has evolved Still so many problems to be solved With no direction at all Here I rise or fall But it’s not the win that matters It’s my intention I’ve yet to mention Or even comprehend Here now we start not end Last but not lost Inhale, exhale, repeat I’ll not accept defeat.

In this issue, we explore the issue of mental health. We start within and venture out, examine internal matters and external factors. One story at a time, we explore what can’t be physically touched only emotionally felt. For those who have shared their personal stories to support others, thank you for having the strength to speak out and speak up. Your voice gives courage to those silenced by fear for all too long. Together we rise.

ALLIÉ McGUIRE Editor In Chief & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties Allié is a Taurus. She started her career in performance poetry, then switched gears to wine where she made a name for herself as an online wine personality and content producer. She then focused on content production under her own label The Allié Way™ before marrying the love of her life (Jack) and switching gears yet again to a pursue a higher calling to raise awareness and funds for causes with Awareness Ties™.

JACK McGUIRE Production Manager & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties Jack is a Gemini. He got his start in the Navy before his acting and modeling career. Jack then got into hospitality, focusing on excellence in service and efficiency in operations and management. After establishing himself with years of experience in the F&B industry, he sought to establish something different… something that would allow him to serve others in a greater way. With his wife (Allié), Awareness Ties™ was born. DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in AwareNow are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Awareness Ties. Any content provided by our columnists or interviewees is of their opinion and not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, political group, organization, company, or individual. In fact, its intent is not to vilify anyone or anything. Its intent is to make you think. @AWARENESSTIES @AWARENESSTIES @AWARENESSTIES 5


My home is and always will be Kyiv. IRYNA BUSHMINA





A single conversation can change your life. One question asked and one answer given can alter the course of your life forever. When war first broke in the Ukraine with Russia’s advance, Iryna Bushmina had such a conversation that instantly altered her reality. ALLIÉ: A familiar voice with an unfamiliar tone… Iryna, please share the story of the phone call you received before leaving Kyiv. What were you doing before the phone rang? What did you do after you hung up?

IRYNA: The day before the war, we celebrated a family holiday until late. When we got home for about 2 hours we talked with my mother, we like to do it over a cup of tea. By 3:00 I went to bed, and already in bed I checked the news and decided that in the morning I needed to pack 2 suitcases (1 for vacation and 1 for a quick escape). I got up in the dark and wrote it down in my diary on the table. It still lies there. Already in the evening, everyone felt a warning in the air... At 5:00 I woke up from my sister's call. She said about the missiles that flew to Kyiv... When I hung up, I realized that I had 1 hour to pack and leave. I woke my mother and said, "Mom, get up, the war has begun."

ALLIÉ: You and your sister, with her 3 month old baby, had to leave behind your parents, family, friends and everything else besides what you could not fit into 2 small bags. Of the personal belongings you packed, what was the most important to you?






When I hung up, I realized that I had one hour to pack and leave. IRYNA BUSHMINA



“Now is not the time for PR, now is the time for action.” IRYNA: I've traveled a lot, so I often have a ready-made minimum set of things. Now I can remember a couple of important things:

1. A computer so that I can earn at least some money.

2. My cosmetics, because if I like myself, I have more energy to help others.

3. Soft toy rabbit to create comfort wherever I stop: another city, another country, basement or forest.

4. Rotaract badge and DRR necklace to make sure the Rotary family is always around.

ALLIÉ: Leaving behind your home, you were forced to find a new ‘home’ for right now. Where did you go? And who helped you?

IRYNA: My house is still in Kyiv. And it can't be changed so easily. Rotaract, Rotary and their friends help me with everything. Now I stopped in Vienna, Austria. But I am often invited to other cities and countries to give a speech and say what Ukraine really needs. And I still understand that if I, as a Ukrainian, stop, the whole world can give up.

Therefore, my home is and always will be Kyiv. My things are in Vienna, and I am ready to be wherever I am needed.

ALLIÉ: Once you got safe, you got to work. Tell us about your Rotary Family and the work you are doing to help others forced from their homes in Ukraine.

IRYNA: On the first day of the war, I wrote one message to an international WhatsApp group of Rotaractors. In the first hour, more than 500 people responded to help. The first project was - finding a place to live for those who left Ukraine. And in the beginning, there were more people willing to help than those who asked for help.

After the project with accommodation, 3 more directions were created: supplies, fundraising and dissemination of truthful information about the war. It is currently impossible to count how many projects have been done. At first it was more centralized and I could keep track of every help. Now clubs separately often help directly. And I'm very happy about that. I'm not ready to distract people with questions like, "What did you do for Ukraine?" I believe that everyone does what they can. If someone needs advice or help, my contacts are already everywhere and everyone can write to me directly. Now is not the time for PR, now is the time for action.

ALLIÉ: For those who want to help, there are so many places to donate to provide help for Ukraine. With so many places to give, what place is best to ensure funds actually get to where they need to go?

IRYNA: If we are talking about each person separately, then I would ask to donate to the account of the Ukrainian army. Because only with heavy equipment will we be able to save the lives of Ukrainians and defend our country.

But if we are talking about donations on behalf of Rotary and Rotaract, which cannot officially support military institutions, then give money to those you trust: twin clubs, Rotary District 2232 or Rotaract Europe, that money also goes to Ukraine.

ALLIÉ: The needs of refugees are great. Food, clothing, shelter, and medical supplies are all needed. But there’s more. In addition to preserving physical health, there is a need for protecting mental health. What can be done there? 9


AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive interview with Iryna Bushmina


“This is one nation that will never abandon its people.”

IRYNA: Many Ukrainians do not speak English, but they need to communicate. The first steps that could be:

1. Help create Ukrainian communities in cities, even if there are only 5 people. Ukrainians sometimes need to communicate live with those who have the same problems. Then they don’t feel lonely.

2. If possible, organize a psychologist with knowledge of Ukrainian or Russian. It is possible to conduct psychological training/meetings in a group.

3. Ideally, help them with work or other activities. Ukrainians need to feel that they are not a burden, that they can be useful. They need to pass their time so as not to think about war all the time. Some Ukrainians feel guilty for being able to escape. And work will help them to get rid of this feeling at least a little.

ALLIÉ: We see and hear streams of updates from various news sources about this war, unprovoked and unwanted by Ukraine. If there was one truth about this war that you would want the world to know, what is it?

IRYNA: The war is being fought on the territory of Ukraine. This confirms the fact that Russia has attacked Ukraine. Ukraine must defend itself by all means to save its people, nation and state. Therefore, it does not matter what Ukraine decides to do in the future in the name of protecting its country and its people, do not judge it, remember that Ukraine does not need anything that doesn’t belong to it, but it does not plan to give its own. Ukrainians have survived to this day only because they are how they are. This is one nation that will never abandon its people. ∎

Follow Iryna on Instagram: @iryna_bushmina


I always say we're all prisoners of our own perspective. LEE SHORTEN




Lee Shorten is of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese ancestry, adopted by Caucasian parents in Australia, moved to Canada, worked as a tax lawyer turned actor, director, and a producer appearing in Swan Song, Man in the High Castle, The Flash, iZombie, The Terror. Sorry. Give me a minute to catch my breath. The complexity of his background is just the tip of the iceberg. As I spoke with him on a sunny afternoon in April, I realized that he is an old soul that is wise far beyond his years. TODD: Because of being such a diverse person, is this a benefit or a hindrance when trying to "fit in?"

LEE: Wow, that's a good question. I think it depends on the circumstances. I think earlier in my life, I would have seen it mainly as a hindrance. But as I've gotten older, it's more of a benefit. I always say we're all prisoners of our own perspective. Everyone comes from a different context, and we're all informed by environment and so many different things. As I've gotten older, I've really appreciated my strange random background and other people's. I love hearing about other people because I don't have the answers. I think it's a strength because, you know, it allows us to see things in a different light. And hopefully, if we're all listening to one another, we take the best of each and create something unique and hopefully better.

TODD: As you get older and experience different things because you're not wholly part of one background or whatever it may be, it's tougher to fit in with that background or those in that situation. Isn't it a double-edged sword?

LEE: Yeah, definitely. You're right in a sense, especially in the age of social media. Unfortunately. 90% of the world is very nuanced in shades of gray. And it's only a very small part of the world that's black and white. But because of the fast-paced nature of the world, we don't really want to deal with that. We want things to be clean and straightforward. And, if your backgrounds are more singular, it's simpler and cleaner, so it's easier for people to immediately project something onto you. If you're just Australian and white, people immediately understand that and feel something. And if you're born and raised in Japan, it's a comprehensible medium.

TODD: Life can be very unexpected or rough sometimes, especially as an actor. How do you take what you learned from that and apply it to your life when times are difficult?

LEE: The thing about acting is it's so up and down. There's so much beyond your control. It's taught me a lot of patience, acceptance, and gratitude. Reinforcing the value of being happy with the things you have and having good people around you. Actors especially think if I just get this one thing, then I'll be happy. But then you get that one thing, and the goalposts move. I'm sure that applies to a lot of areas in life. When you start to realize the thing is not going to make you happy and the goalposts keep moving, you begin to understand that's not a sustainable way to live and is not healthy. You start understanding that I should be happy now, and everything else is a plus. So how can I be happy now?


Representation was going to solve all the problems. I don't know if that's true anymore… LEE SHORTEN


“Ultimately, the more saturation you have with all these underrepresented groups, you can paint more colors.” TODD: AAPI representation is on an uptick in film and TV. What do you think the next steps are for moving from stereotypical roles to actual representative roles?

LEE: I think things are better, and you're right; it used to be very tokenistic or just stereotypes. Now we've moved to the next level where there are probably morals. I think it was Steven Yeun who said, even though there are more Asian roles, the defining characteristic or the narrative reason for that character is rooted in their 'Asianess' or otherness. It's the defining, fundamental, or sole reason for that character's existence. The next stage is moving beyond that. I was just using the example of the Black community, who still have their own struggles and are still not on parity. But when you look at Will Smith or Denzel Washington, they've been allowed to play characters where the blackness is always there, and it informs their character, but it's not the sole reason for their character's existence. In Men and Black, Will Smith just happens to be Black. He's not playing a Black character. I think that's the next level for Asian-Americans because right now, Crazy Rich Asians, Minari, Warrior Kung Fu, all these shows are great, but they're so solely rooted in Asian identity. I want to get to the next level where we can just do whatever we want. I think Everywhere Everything All at Once is the closest we've got to that in a while. That could have been an all-white cast, but it's not. Elements of their heritage are brought in but not the defining characteristic of the movie, plot, or cast.

TODD: AAPI hate crimes are on an upward trend. But because pop culture has an undeniable influence on the population, is there something that film or TV could do to help chip away at the hate and marginalization?

LEE: When I was younger, I was a bit more of an idealist. Representation was going to solve all the problems. I don't know if that's true anymore. People say Pachinko and Minari are going to change things and humanize us. They are wonderful, beautiful stories, but cynically, are the people who hate us watching these stories? Probably not. Those stories aren't going to suddenly help us because the people who need to see us as human beings aren't watching them. I always think about the Simpsons. When the Apu thing came up, people said the character is stereotypical, and others said, well, everyone's stereotypical in The Simpsons. Homer's a fat, lazy drunk, and Mr. Burns is an evil businessman. BUT the thing is by having breadth, it dilutes the stereotype because you have so many white characters that even if they're all stereotypes, you're still getting this holistic picture of like complexity and breadth of whiteness, whereas you only have Apu. The burden of representation is solely on him. So really, I think the only answer is breadth. If you just have one Asian or LGBTQ character on a show, they must shoulder all of the burdens. Ultimately, the more saturation you have with all these underrepresented groups, you can paint more colors. It becomes more normalized and more natural.

TODD: Hollywood seems to be kind of an ebb and flow business. In 2017-18 there were all these strong, powerful women leader movies that popped up like Wonder Woman, Ocean's Eight, and Captain Marvel. That faded in 2018-19, and African American movies like Harriet, Just Mercy, began popping up. In 2020-21, we started to see Minari, Parasite, and Squid Game. Now it seems like more projects are revolving around the LGBTQ plus population. Do you feel like Hollywood is more into exploiting a trend for cash than true representation? 15 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

Now we've moved to the next level where there are probably morals. LEE SHORTEN


“Every kind of instance of racism is just like a math equation in my head.” LEE: Hollywood is a business, right? I think it's so easy to talk about Hollywood, but I, and maybe this is a cop-out answer, but people want to be like Sony this or Sony that, but I don't even know how many executives are at Sony in a development and purchasing capacity. So, no matter what the corporation is, it's comprised of dozens of people who all have their own goals. I'm sure there are a lot of executives who are very passionate about representation, and they're pushing through stories of various natures because they believe in them and believe that community. Then I'm sure other people are just cynical, chasing the dollar, and exploitative.

Every studio has people that run the gamut of all perspectives. I think in terms of what does tend to happen if you take a step back, remember when like there was a year there was Deep Impact and Armageddon. Inevitably what happens is some studio buys a script, and then another studio is like, oh hell, that is a brilliant idea. We should have bought that. Go find me something like Armageddon. I think that's a similar thing happening here. It's like we should have bought Squid Game! Find me a Squid Game, and then it all happens simultaneously. But because things are in development and bought so many years ago, they're unwilling to keep funneling the money, so they probably move on. But the issue becomes when they say, we're going to make this female-led movie, and then if that female-led movie tanks, some people want to say this is why we don't have female-led movies because they don't sell. Whereas traditionally, with a straight white man-led movie, people don't think about it in the same way. If a straight white man has a failure movie, people shrug and say, man, it happens.

TODD: Have you personally dealt with the stigma of being an immigrant or a member of the AAPI community?

LEE: Unfortunately, I have to say, of course. But I've experienced a lot of racism in my life, and it's just par for the course, unfortunately.

TODD: Since it is, in your experience, par for the course, how do you deal with it?

LEE: I mean, again, it's a good question. There's a spectrum. You have to take every instance on its own and then assess how I should feel about this? If some random guy I don't know on the street says, 'hey, f*** you, ch**k, which happens, is that worth getting mad about? What's going to happen if I get angry about it? Or do I walk by knowing I'll probably never see this guy again? That guy's probably a terrible human being with a horrible life. I can just let it go and go home now and do something I love. Some days you can't be that because that's the 10th time someone said that to you on the street today. Other times it's a much bigger thing, more of a systemic issue in the workplace and happening often. That's a different question. Do I try to confront this because it's going to affect me every day, potentially affecting other employees? Every kind of instance of racism is just like a math equation in my head. How bad is this one? What is the most appropriate reaction to this? What's the most effective response? Is it worth it?

TODD: I just read research that the Asian-American demographic between 15 and 24 is the only group of people in the United States that the leading cause of death is suicide.

LEE: I didn't know that.

TODD: For anybody that's reading this, what kind of words of wisdom do you have to help people?

LEE: Oh, man, I… I wish. It's always so hard because not being in someone's shoes makes it very hard to give advice. But I always say, what feels like your whole world now will be like one sentence in one chapter of your life. When you were six years old, if you weren't allowed to play with your friend, it felt like the end of the world. And now it's like, I don't even remember that happening. Or you really wanted this one job when you were 19, and you didn't get it, and it felt like that was it. Then ten years later, you look back, and it is all okay. Time makes everything so small. 17 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

LEE: (continued) But again, that's so easy to say because I don't know what specific problems you are confronting. For instance, if you're a member of the LGBTQ community and your whole family and friends don't support you, then it's very hard to say, hey, no worries, that's just going to be a footnote in your life one day because that is a huge emotional weight. I like to hope that even though something is incredibly challenging, you'll find something to pull you through. And then, one day, you'll be able to look back, hopefully, and say it was just a footnote. But it feels so condescending to say that to someone I don't know, what challenges they're facing. I will say, for better or for worse, the beauty of the internet means it is theoretically easier to connect with people in similar situations. Back in the day, if you were an Asian in a small rural town, like me, that's just too bad. But with the internet, you go and find a forum of like Asians living in small rural towns, and you can connect. I think, in some sense, that might be the answer. If you're facing problems, maybe you can fight. You can use the internet to find someone else in the world who is facing a similar problem, and you can help each other out. ∎

Follow Lee Shorten’s story on Instagram: @lcshorten


Awareness Ties Columnist Dr. Todd Brown is a winner of multiple education awards, including the U.S. Congressional Teacher of the Year Award, U.S. Henry Ford Innovator Award, Education Foundation Innovator of the Year, and Air Force Association STEM Teacher of the Year. Dr. Brown is the creator and founder of the Inspire Project and cocreator of Operation Outbreak, which was named the Reimagine Education Award for Best Hybrid Program in the world. He is also an Education Ambassador for the United Nations and an Educational Ambassador of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).






This is a puzzle that I'm gonna have to put together for the rest of my life, because I am in love. GINGER ZEE


Photo Credit: @heidi_gutman

ABC News Photography




Chief Meteorologist of ABC News, Ginger Zee is a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM), but don’t you dare call her a ‘weather girl’. Ginger has done more than meteorology. In addition to greeting our nation with news of the weather every morning on Good Morning America, she’s danced with Val on Dancing With The Stars and answered to Alex on Jeopardy. Beyond this, she’s a mother to Adrian and Miles, a wife to Ben, and a New York Times Best Selling Author who is an inspiration to millions as an advocate for mental health awareness. ALLIÉ: When did you fall in love, Ginger, with the science of our atmosphere, climate and weather? Can you recall the moment you decided you wanted to become a meteorologist?

GINGER: Yes, it is a vivid memory. Being on lake Michigan, when I was a child, most kids don't get a chance to live at the lake and I certainly had not before this particular summer in the late eighties. It was after my parents divorced. My mom was dating our dentist, and he had a place on the lake. I say that because it was really privilege and access that allowed me to have this vision and view that was clear as day.

You could see across the lake every morning, and it was this constant changing picture. And I remember being very fascinated by what I would see in the distance. That was a very stormy summer, and I would see thunderstorms. Sometimes they would come across the lake and come right at us. It would rain, and the wind would be horrible.





I love being uncomfortable. GINGER ZEE


Photo Credit/Location: Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson/Iceland


“…my most important thing is not to think of the word balance, but to think of the word focus.” GINGER: (continued) Sometimes they would go to the north of us, and sometimes to the south. Sometimes the rain would die out before it even got to us. I started realizing that not every storm was the same and the atmosphere seemed to have different components coming and going together. And I realized it was a puzzle. From that summer when I saw a waterspout from one of those storms, I thought this is a puzzle that I'm gonna have to put together for the rest of my life, because I am in love.

ALLIÉ: Not only a meteorologist, you are a mother. And weathering motherhood can be difficult, especially in a pandemic climate. I remember watching a few episodes of GMA where you were conducting science experiments in your home with your boys, Adrian and Miles. You beautifully balanced your roles, wearing both hats of mother and meteorologist. For those who have many hats of their own to wear, what advice do you have for managing that balancing act?

GINGER: Well, the truth is every single person has so many parts of them, and we are all so complex. We have hundreds of hats, if you really look at it... And I think that the first part is to give yourself grace. It's a lot to switch out those hats. It's a lot to figure out how much time you spend with one hat on versus the other. After you've given yourself and others grace, my most important thing is not to think of the word ‘balance’, but to think of the word ‘focus’. And so what I tend to do is say, “Where am I right now and what can I focus on?” And give my time and effort solely to that thing. I know we pride ourselves on multitasking, and I would also say I'm pretty good at it. But from what I've learned from meditation and more, that doesn't always give you the best result. So, I use the word ‘focus’ so that when I'm with my children, I’m focused. When I'm at work, I’m focused. If I can keep that in the back of my head and make every moment as mindful as possible, that's where I really find myself succeeding in those things more than I would have if I was trying to think of 10 other things at the same time.

ALLIÉ: Balance is a requirement when it comes to your personal and professional life. It’s also a necessity when on the dance floor. It’s not everyday that you’re invited to take the stage with a two-time World Latin Dance Champion, but when that day came with the invitation for you to perform with Val Chmerkovskiy for season 22 of Dancing With The Stars, I have a few questions. What was your initial reaction? What was your favorite song you danced to? What was your most favorite moment on or off stage with Val?

GINGER: Oh, it had been a long time coming. So, when I got the chance to do it, finally, I was elated. I love being uncomfortable. I gotta tell you. Whether it's chasing tornadoes or taking adventures, I love to live… I love to do things that are out of my comfort zone because it always ends up bringing me somewhere that I never could have expected. I knew that dancing would be that. Speaking of balance, that was my biggest issue because I had just had my baby and so Adrian was six weeks old when I started practicing with Val. So, I think as much as I was elated, I was also like, wow, right now? Ok. Let's do it. There was a little extra trepidation because I had never had a postpartum body, and I didn't know what that would feel like. And it was certainly different than it would have been had I done it two years before when I had initially started talking with him. 23 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

I finally found the approval that most people are looking for. I found it in me. GINGER ZEE


Photo Credit: @heidi_gutman

ABC News Photography


GINGER: (continued) Favorite song versus the dance… I'm a Beauty and the Beast fanatic. So, doing Bell and the remix of Bell – there's nothing that makes me happier in life. It's not like I'm glory dazing and watching it over and over, but I've shown my kids that one because I'm just so proud… and they love Beauty and the Beast too. It's such an iconic character, and to be able to embody that and be a Disney princess… Come on, who doesn’t wanna do that?

I will never forget when we did our Argentine Tango .That was toward the end, and I think I was finally learning to dance. He was such an incredible coach, but he is really tough. And had I had him as a coach five years before when I hadn't been through a considerable amount of therapy to work on the core of my identity, I think I would've crumbled. It's very hard on your ego to know that you are not good at something, but it was his way of coaching. There were times where I was like, “I get it. It's tough love.” Off the dance floor, he's the sweetest teddy bear. He's our best friend, our family still sees him, and we're buddies forever. On the dance floor, he's hardcore. Doing our Argentine Tango, I think he knew that this was going to be a fantastic dance. I never knew what was going to be good or not because I was still so new to it. We had a rehearsal where I didn't make the lift or something went wrong. He was so frustrated, and I was so mad at him for the way that he was. So, we both went away to our separate trailers.

“Even in those tough moments, sometimes that's what it takes to get to the place that feels so incredible.” When that dance came and it was our time to do it, the attitude of an Argentine Tango is much more strict, serene, and not like me. Val would tell you, I'm like a golden retriever. I'm very good for the jive because I'm like, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” And that one (Argentine Tango) needs to be more stunning. I was pissed, he was pissed, and that is a great face for the Argentine Tango. At the very beginning, we messed up, but nobody would've known. We messed up our little hands thing. And I can see both of our faces look at each other and like, “I'm gonna get you.” And that is apparently the best way to start an Argentine Tango, because it turned out to be our best dance ever. So, that's one of those memories that I'll remember. And it's also a great kind of lesson in life. Even in those tough moments, sometimes that's what it takes to get to the place that feels so incredible. When we were done, we were both laughing hysterically because we were like, “I cannot believe that just happened out of us being so frustrated with each other.”

ALLIÉ: From iconic dancers to legendary game show hosts, you’ve danced and spoken with a variety of notable people. When it comes to your appearance on Jeopardy with the great Alex Trebek, what impressed me most was your conversation in the post game chat, as you shared a story with Alex about how you prepared for using the buzzer by practicing with a tube from a toilet paper roll. The banter between you, Alex and the guests was raw, real and relatable. Alex had a way of being genuine with everything he said and did. You, Ginger, do this as well. Have you always been comfortable showing up as your authentic self both on and off stage?

GINGER: No, I haven’t. And I would say it's the highest honor to be at all in the same room, let alone related to Alex Trebek in some capacity. I have to say that because if someone asked me who I would want to emulate or who would I want to have a brand like, it's him.. because that wasn't branded. That was just him. He was incredibly charismatic. He walked in a room, and it was magnetism. It wasn't because he was wooing you or anything… he was just such a special man. So, to be able to have that genuine moment with him was very special. I think I was in a better place by then. If you would've caught me in the mid 2000’s or prior to that, I think I would not have been able to be my authentic self. 25 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

You don't know what tornado that person went through this morning. You have no idea. GINGER ZEE


Photo Location: Victoria Falls

GINGER: (continued) Most of us have a long journey to find our identity… mine has been a long one. I've been really lucky to have access to fantastic therapy and wonderful family support. It's really got me to this place where I have found the core of who I am. And I finally found the approval that most people are looking for. I found it in me. That is what has allowed me to finally release and shed any mask or any other thing that I was wearing like most people do. From our teen years on it's hard, unless you've been raised by people who are experts at psychology. It's hard for almost everyone to even know who you are, let alone to be able to authentically translate that and feel comfortable translating. I think it's a lifelong journey. I don't think I'm a hundred percent there, but I think that I've gotten so close. I'm really giving it my all because I've seen another layer of privilege… I've seen what it feels like for people to hate me and for people to love me. And then to realize it doesn't really matter because the only one I have to turn around and look at is me. And that's where I have to find the love and the adoration and all of those things that a lot of us try to look elsewhere for. So, I always say I'm so grateful for mean tweets because they gave me the first line of defense to figure out who I was.

ALLIÉ: In the introduction of your new book, A Little Closer To Home, in referencing your deep dark secrets shared in your previous book and bestseller, Natural Disaster, you say “these secrets are my secret weapons”. Just 2 minutes into your audiobook, which I love that you narrated, I found that statement so powerful. After all, secrets are used to conceal, where secret weapons are used to reveal strengths. What steps are required to convert our secrets to secret weapons? When it comes to our secrets, how do we stop hiding and start healing?

GINGER: The first part is grace. It is realizing that grace for ourselves and for others, because judgment is one of the most natural things in being a human. It is who we are. Being really ready to attack that part, it’s first being honest with yourself. And that's the part that I always go on and on about, but that was the hardest part for me – being honest with myself because most of those secrets were actually trauma. And I thought in my previous non-therapy life that you could delete trauma by running away from it, by blocking it. A lot of people do that. You can't delete trauma, and that needs to be accepted. It's the same thing as you hear, the first step is saying, “I have a problem.” Or I had a trauma. Now we've identified it and put a word to it, whatever that trauma is and everybody's different, how do we heal from it? How we go through the journey of healing is usually lifelong…

I think that's where I started… honesty with myself, not deleting it, but processing it. And once you process it, it reduces the amount of stress that it causes you. The goal is to get to a place not of happiness, joy, and rainbows every day, but of peace with accepting that no matter what. Trauma is inevitable. Bad is inevitable. Frustration is inevitable. I've been sad, happy, definitely frustrated, super excited, I've been all of those things and it's 10:43 AM. Now, knowing that that is what it's supposed to feel like and knowing that all of those feelings are supposed to be there, when those feelings come, because that's what they are, they’re emotions, I say, “Okay, well, that's very nice. Next.” You can revel in the good stuff. And if the bad stuff is gonna bother you a year from now or it's a big deal, of course, let it suck and let it be. But I've gotten really much better at processing even in the moment and being able to go through, rather than pushing to the side.

ALLIÉ: I don’t write books, but I do write poems. One I crafted was a version of the tongue twister, ‘Whether the Weather’. It made me think of you. It goes like this: “Whether the weather, whatever the weather. Yes, whatever the weather may be. It’s the only way you’ll be able to say that you gave it all that you’ve got, and that is saying a lot.” It’s a tongue twisting way to simply say that even when things seem too tough, doing your best is enough. This is hard for many of us to believe. With all the storms you’ve weathered in your life Ginger, from narcolepsy to depression, when is it that you believed you and your best were enough?

GINGER: I don't know that. I'll never be 100% there, but what I was fortunate enough to be privy to is the unique place in life where I have shown up after every natural disaster. I mean, from Katrina on, I have seen how humans


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Exclusive Interview with Ginger Zee


“If we could treat ourselves with the grace that we give mother nature, that'd be special.” GINGER: (continued) grieve after disaster. A tornado, a wildfire, a flood, they act the same, and I've been able to be there and watch how people process. What's interesting about a disaster is that you can't miss it, so you can't block it or hide it. Your home is gone, right? The tornado took your home. It also took your neighbors’ home. So, there's immediately community and the visual. People are able to pretty much drive through that. Not gonna block it, gotta process it now because every time you look over, the house is still gone, and you can't fake your brain into thinking that it's not. Actually, in the first couple hours people often do, though it's very odd. It's like a shock mechanism.

They'll be looking for the keys to their car. Their car is like in their neighbor's house. So once they get over that, they're usually pretty good about being able to do that. They immediately know that they're a part of a community and that starts the healing fast. Sometimes within the day or the next day, they go through the anger and the frustrations. How is the insurance gonna work? What are we gonna do? And usually within the week, they come to this place… How do we help each other? And that's unbelievable. What if we could do that with mental health traumas or crises, the ones that we can't see? The first step is telling someone, and that's what I realize. It’s what I'm really good at now. Immediately when something happens, they didn't know a tornado just happened to me. I have to tell somebody a tornado just happened to me…

You don't know what tornado that person went through this morning. You've no idea. So either ask or treat them with enough grace that you just anticipate that it's been a very stormy morning. Those are the steps that we can start to take and think about. You hear in a news story, the cliche of ‘then the community came together and they're helping each other’. It's so true. You know why they do that? Because they get to process it quickly. They get to move through it. It doesn't mean that the tornado never took their home. It did, and it will affect them forever, but they're able to accept it quicker. They're able to reach out and get help. We're really good when mother nature's the bad guy. When somebody else or ourselves is the ‘mistake maker’ or the ‘disaster maker’, we are not graceful. People let mother nature go so fast… If we could treat ourselves with the grace that we give mother nature, that'd be special. ∎

Follow Ginger Zee on Instagram: @ginger_zee


You can be the person that begins to break ground. HAESUE JO




AT THE INTERSECTION OF OTHERING AND MENTAL HEALTH Opposite of ‘belonging’, there is ‘othering’. As opposed to acceptance and inclusion, othering translates to intolerance and exclusion. This can result in marginalization and discrimination with an “us vs. them” mentality. Being othered can cause a number of mental health issues. For help understanding and navigating mental health and issues like othering, there are a number of resources. Today, we look to the world’s leading provider of online therapy, We have the pleasure of speaking with Haesue Jo, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Head of Clinical Operations at BetterHelp. ALLIÉ: Experienced in stress, anxiety, LGBTQIA, family conflicts, trauma and abuse, grief, parenting issues, anger management, self esteem, your specialties include relationship issues, career difficulties and coping with life changes. That’s a lot, Haesue. That said, a lot of people are dealing with a lot of issues. Today, let’s focus on the issue of ‘othering’. I wondered if you could begin by sharing the actual definition, followed by a personal recollection.

HAESUE: To “other” is to treat or view someone, or a group of people, as intrinsically different and alien to oneself. That’s the literal definition if you google it, and based on that - I’ve been othered my entire life, which I imagine many people can relate to. At some carnal, primitive level, we are tribal creatures and gravitate towards those that are like us - there’s familiarity for one thing, and a deep-rooted, long standing idea that “our people” are the ones we stick with. I was one of a few Koreans through high school, I was bullied for being tall (what?), for having hair on my arms,





Change starts with one fired up person at a time. HAESUE JO


“To constantly be made to feel like this country isn’t my home, like this body and this space isn’t where I’m supposed to be: that creates dysphoria.” HAESUE: (continued) for bringing “exotic” foods in my lunchbox, for having a name nobody recognized or cared to ask me how to pronounce. To be made to feel like you don’t belong, you don’t deserve, or don’t fit in is to be othered and to be frank, I still experience this as an adult in Silicon Valley. People do this without realizing or without intending, pretty regularly still.

ALLIÉ: In an interview I conducted a year ago with Jordan VanHemert, a Korean American saxophonist and composer, we spoke about othering. As it relates to Asian Americans, he referenced the ‘perpetual foreigner stereotype’. For those unfamiliar, it’s being seen as a foreigner even when you’re not. How does this affect a person’s mental health?

HAESUE: Not only does my outward appearance scream, “not from here” when I’m in most places in the US, people take one look at my name and meet me with a lot of assumptions about my life story - where I was born, where I grew up, the level of English I’ve probably attained. “Wow your English is really good. But where are you really from? Can you read these chopsticks instructions for me?” To constantly be made to feel like this country isn’t my home, like this body and this space isn’t where I’m supposed to be: that creates dysphoria. That creates dissonance. These things can make you cringe being in your own skin, uncertain of who you’re even looking at in the mirror, and challenge your sense of self, identity, esteem, value, and worth.

ALLIÉ: As it is with all things in life, there are two sides to everything. When it comes to othering, there’s the one affected by it and the one causing it. Often the act is caused by a subconscious bias. How can we prevent unintentional othering when people are unaware?

HAESUE: The literature and information is out there (you know, the stuff that helps counter bias); I’ve found myself in debate with others (and myself) around whose responsibility it is to educate. While I do deeply believe that the responsibility lies with the dominant people - the folks usually causing the othering, the folks who usually harbor a lot of subconscious and implicit biases, I also recognize that marginalized communities would not have made as much progress without the active voices and efforts of those of us willing to educate, willing to exercise patience, and willing to help others see something differently. At the same time, there’s a well-known study that shows that BIPOC employees that attempt to implement DE&I initiatives in the workplace receive lower marks on performance evaluations, while white employees are often rewarded and seen as valuable assets to the company when they do the same. There is power in allyship, and there is a need for improved awareness. If you’re part of the “main group,” you have a lot of influence on others that are like you. Prevention of othering starts within the “main group.”

ALLIÉ: Whether it’s othering or any other issue when it comes to mental health, representation for minority groups is very small among those providing services and those receiving them. How do we as a society change this disparity and close the gap?

HAESUE: This is a big question, with what I believe are many moving pieces to an answer. There isn’t one answer, there isn’t one solution. I think we as people, a collective, must all contribute to an answer for there to be a real solution. Providing and receiving these kinds of services is still stigmatized in so many parts of the community. Guess how many Asian Americans were in my first class during grad school less than 10 years ago? 1 (It was me). I do see that things continue to change, with more Asians/Asian Americans in this space - both going to school to become therapists of every kind and going to therapy to receive treatment. What will continue to change this disparity and close some gaps is continued open communication, education, awareness about it all. People making noise and bringing it up in every space - school, work, ads, social media, radio, tv, movie content, art - the more people talk about it and the more it all becomes normal to more people, fewer people will get left behind (hopefully). 33 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

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ALLIÉ: There’s an app for everything, including mental health. BetterHelp is the world’s largest therapy platform, making professional therapy accessible, affordable and convenient with an app. As a therapist, Haesue, what do you love most about this platform? And what have users shared with you that they like best?

HAESUE: BetterHelp is undeniably part of the many conversations that are helping to make therapy normal, to make therapy accessible, and to make therapy something that more people are talking about on a regular basis. Can you even listen to Podcasts without hearing about BetterHelp? Can you scroll social media without seeing an ad for this platform? Some might feel like it’s getting saturated or that it’s overkill; I see it as compensating for all the decades and centuries that people weren’t talking about, weren’t thinking about, weren’t prioritizing the importance of prevention, treatment, maintenance, relapse-care, in the world of mental health and trauma. One of the things I love most (hard to choose just one thing) is that before I started working at this company, nobody in my personal-life communities was talking about therapy or mental health, unless the conversation was accompanied by parent-blaming, shaming of upbringing/the family, stigma and hush hush vibes; fast-forward 5 short years, and my entire family of yellow faces are rocking BetterHelp t-shirts and telling everyone they know what I do. Y’all, my Asian immigrant parents are bragging to their families and friends that I am a therapist. I am shook by that. I am humbled by that. I am graced, honored, and energized by that. Users of the service have similar sentiments about what BetterHelp is part of: a movement - to make therapy accessible and NORMAL! Going to the doctor for checkups is normal, eating well, exercising, and sleeping well is normal, identifying ailments to treat them is normal. Therapy is normal.

ALLIÉ: In recognition of AAPI Heritage Month, where we celebrate over 30 diverse countries of origin, ethnic groups, languages and cultures, I would like to thank you Haesue for the work you do to support others in their mental health journeys, while inspiring others with personal representation in this industry. If people don’t see themselves in a space, they often feel the space is not for them. For anyone who feels that way, what words would you like to share?

HAESUE: I will forever be grateful to my immigrant parents for being the people that look like me that modeled carving your own path and making/taking space, if any hasn’t been left for you. My parents both entered industries 40 years ago where they were the “First Asian (let alone First Korean) (fill in the blank)” multiple times, double whammy for my mom’s frequent, “First Asian & Woman (fill in the blank).” I was blessed by the universe to have these role models, giving me permission to blaze my own path in a field where my passions exist. We clash and butt heads all the time, but they also embody following opportunities for a better life for themselves, and taught me how to butt heads with people when it really matters. The idea that you can live for yourself and make life decisions for yourself came from them - ironically (I think a lot of children of immigrants would understand why I say ironically). There was once a time that some spaces were never for women, never for Black people, never for the LGBTQ community, never for so many marginalized groups - if all of these people from the past succumbed to the notion that spaces weren’t for them - well where would we be? You can be the person that begins to break ground! Change starts with one fired up person at a time. ∎ Learn more about BetterHelp online:



You're a humanitarian more in the way that you participate in the world. JON ROSE




WHERE THERE’S A WILL (& A FILTER) THERE’S A WAY Just as a courier transports needed products, the Courier Program by Waves For Water transports needed solutions. Empowering the masses to help solve the world water crisis, the Courier Program provides a platform to crowdfund for filters. Couriers are invited to plug in purpose on their travels, bringing water filters to where they’re needed. ALLIÉ: The Courier Program is making everyday travelers and adventurers into everyday humanitarians with a crowdfunding platform to create clean water solutions. Jon, where did you come up with this idea to solve a large world problem with small individual campaigns?

JON: I guess it starts with me. I came up with the Courier Program based off my own life. I guess I'm patient zero. When I started Waves for Water, it was sort of on the back of the idea that I was already going and traversing through the world. And how could I plug purpose into that? It manifested into Waves for Water, but the Courier Program really is just an extension of that idea. It's our version of a volunteer program. It's not the same as signing up and filling out a bunch of applications and coming with us and wearing matching t-shirts and having lanyards and stuff like that… That's not this program. <Laugh> That is one way to do it, you know. It doesn't matter to me. They're all great. They're all ways for people to get engaged out there in the world. But for us, it was framing it a little bit more authentically to





These people are going out and doing the things that they love and just helping along the way. JON ROSE


“It’s almost like the veil gets pulled back, and you get an introduction and a view into the culture in a deeper way…” JON: (continued) who we are and really celebrating the people that are already made this dynamic choice to go out there and put themselves out of their comfort zone… to tackle the world. So we just felt there's already this network of adventurous travelers that are going out there. What if we just piggybacked with them? That was really the inception of it. It was just to say, “Okay, look, you're already going. What if we add this layer? What if we add this component to your trip where you don't have to even stray from your initial reason or purpose for going… but you can add this layer of purpose into it and enhance the whole experience. You can make an impact along the way.

ALLIÉ: People often believe that huge issues require huge solutions. But just as big oceans are made of small drops of water, big problems can be addressed with small actions. Can you share an example of this, Jon? Is there a story of a courier in your program that you can share where a small action has made a big difference?

JON: There are a couple stories that come to mind. I think one interesting one was this woman who was a flight attendant for a private charter, like a sort of more luxury airline… I think they were based in Europe. Their routes were always stopping in these places that had needs. She was on a pretty consistent schedule with that and then found out about our program. And she basically said that it changed her whole relationship with her work. Also, she had access to people that would probably support her. Now, the courier program itself isn't meant for any one courier to go that big… It doesn't need to be that way. It's sort of like ‘within your means’... There's no reason not to, because you don't have to provide a thousand filtration systems for somebody. You can provide one for one family and that's totally worth it. It's cost effective and all those things. Anyway, with the nature of her business and the people she was around, she raised a couple grand or something immediately. She took a number of filter systems with her on her next trip – to places she had been going to for a long time for many years now with this job. She had only got to a certain level of interaction on the ground in these places. It was limited; she would've liked more, but it was just limited to certain pleasantries… There's no real reason for people on the ground there to open up to somebody like that. She said as soon as she did this program, she went and made contact with a friend on the ground. I think it was in Ghana. Basically, she said she was participating in this program, had done some research, and knows they have a need. She said, “I can't help you with all of them, but I can definitely help you with this one.” And then she was invited into their home and then into their relatives homes and for dinner and had a very intimate experience…. It just wouldn't have happened otherwise. This was a real reason to engage in that local community and in that culture. It’s deeper. It’s a real need, and you're helping to fulfill that need. As a result, there's this interaction that happens. It's almost like the veil gets pulled back, and you get an introduction and a view into the culture in a deeper way….

ALLIÉ: All good and great deeds are accomplished one step at a time. Love for you to walk me through the steps of your program that allow people to do what they love while doing good along the way. Where do we start, and where do we go?

JON: It's really straightforward, right? I'll just use an example of a student who is taking a trip after their college graduation or something like that. There's like a year off or six months before they jump into ‘real adulting’ <laugh>... 39 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

JON: (continued) Or somebody on their honeymoon or somebody like that woman who was on a work trip. There are people that know they're already going somewhere. They would go to They would click on the courier program, become a courier, and set up their fundraising page. It's a crowdfunding page. They say, you know, ‘Timmy's Trip to Costa Rica’ or whatever. They title it, put a couple photos of trips past, and then write a little overview of their intention, which is really what they're doing. They're going on this trip. While they're there, they would like to make a positive impact. And they're doing that through the courier program and their fundraising. Their filter goal is five filters. So, then they would share that. They have a fundraising page to share that link with their network to raise the funds, to crowdfund for those filters. Once they reach their goal, or even if they don't, we will then get them the filter kits for the funds they’ve raised with all the necessary information, as well as follow up from us to really onboard them for the different scenarios that they're going to encounter.

We call it DIY humanitarianism or ‘gorilla humanitarianism’ for a reason. It's very much your own experience to craft, and it's intended to be, so it's not for everybody. Some people want a little bit more handholding and there's zero judgment for that. That's just not this program. It's really meant to take you outside of your comfort zone a little bit or really, as far as you want to take it. You can do it in a way where you're still almost a hundred percent within the cones of your comfort zone. But you can also really be bold with it too, and just go further and explore more.

In any case, we're going to arm you with the technology, the tools and the knowledge to be able to implement that technology along your travels…

Photo Provided by: Waves For Water 40 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with Jon Rose


ALLIÉ: With your Courier Program you don’t only provide product, you also give guidance. For those considering becoming a courier, please share a bit about both the support you provide via your advanced training guide and just your general recommendations.

JON: The advanced training guide sets people up to maximize the potential of what the filter can do. The filter at its maximum capacity or potential can provide a million gallons of clean water, if people are doing all of the things that need to be done and maintaining it. The advanced training guide goes through all of that, like in high detail,

If somebody is just wondering where to go, it's as simple as jumping on your computer and doing some research. The World Health Organizations is a good outlet to see where the biggest water issues are. People can also just email us and say, “Hey, I want to be a courier. What do you guys think?” And in some cases if it's a place like the Philippines or a place like Nepal or India or Mexico, or places where we have permanent offices, we can connect couriers with our local offices and they can get a lot of guidance that way. We've done that plenty of times. It's pretty easy to figure out where the biggest needs are. I would just suggest matching the need with your own desires… finding the intersection and choosing that way.

ALLIÉ: When people hear the word ‘humanitarian’ they often think of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. But the truth is Nick Nelson who I grew up with or Teresa Dietz who I went to school with could be a humanitarian. It’s not a profession, it’s a purpose that anyone anywhere can serve. With the service provided by your couriers since the beginning of this program, what have these everyday humanitarians been able to accomplish to date?

JON: Everyday couriers have amounted to thousands of water filtration systems deployed all around the world in over 60 countries. And you're right… People are familiar with hearing, “I am a computer programmer,” when somebody writes their bio on Instagram or something. “I am a computer programmer, bird watcher, environmentalist,” you know? A lot of people throw down ‘environmentalist’. That’s pretty common, and it’s no different than being a humanitarian. You're a humanitarian more in the way that you participate in the world. This program is really a platform to exercise that participation in a way that is going to yield tangible, measurable results. It's very clear cut the impact. Hundreds of thousands of people have gained access to clean water as a result of the courier program and in a very decentralized way. These people are going out and doing the things that they love and just helping along the way. ∎


Learn more about Jon Rose and his work with Waves For Water.



I try to pray as much as I can and as often as I can. I think of my child and then I get back on phone calls. LEGEND




THE MISSION, THE VISION, THE DAY & THE LIFE Babe Ruth said, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” It is the unwavering commitment and selfless sacrifice of the man known as ‘Legend’ that will surely never die. Born and raised in Afghanistan, educated and trained in the United States, Legend is an Afghan-American and former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant currently working tirelessly to evacuate at-risk Afghans from persecution by the Taliban. ALLIÉ: In serving the country, you’ve been on countless missions. Now, in serving humanity, in a mission of your own, what is your objective? What is the biggest difference between your work as a humanitarian now and you work as a soldier then?

LEGEND: Thank you for having me, Allié. The objective is the same and I see no difference between what I am doing now vs. what I did as an American soldier. With my background, obviously my duty was Afghanistan centric. As an American soldier my duty was not only to defend the homeland but to give hope and freedom to an ancient people in Afghanistan who are my countrymen as well. What I learned in the Army… helping the oppressed, I continue to follow in Afghanistan today.





I would like to be remembered as an Afghan-American who contributed to the building of a very long lasting friendship between Afghanistan and America. LEGEND


“The resistance to free the Afghan people is strong like never before and it is ongoing and it will never bow down to the Taliban and their terrorist allies.” ALLIÉ: Vision allows us to see beyond our sight. What is it that you would like to see happen in the country where you were born? What is your vision for Afghanistan?

LEGEND: Like millions of other Afghans, I too am a strong believer in the vision of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir and the National Hero of Afghanistan for a Swiss Model of Democracy for Afghanistan.

Decentralization, Federalism and Direct Democracy

Under such a system, the Capitol Kabul would be decentralized and would no longer dictate every little thing on the Provinces. Afghanistan is still very tribal and folks in one region are not connected to their country men in another region. Let's not forget Afghanistan is a fairly small country and despite that people are connected and that has alot to do with the topography and the lack of roads and easements for folks to travel freely. A lot of us in the Western world failed to realize that former president Ashraf Ghani had more authority than the leader of North Korea and Afghanistan was supposedly democratic. Decentralization and Federalism would sove this problem.The late Commander Massoud believed in elections and the public’s right to choose their leaders and back in the 90s, on many occasions, challenged the Taliban to drop their weapons and stand in elections. His son and the current leader of the Northern Resistance Front shares his beliefs and is actively working to bring about that vision for Afghanistan. Commander Ahmad Massoud of the NRF is leading the ongoing noble resistance against the terrorist Taliban and their allies in AlQaeda and Haqqani Network and ISIS and more. The Afghan people support his vision and they stand with him. We are strong supporters and advocates of Commander Massoud of the NRF and his objectives to bring Freedom back to Afghanistan and to give people their rights especially the Afghan women who have been subjected to atrocities and banned from workplace and schools. The resistance to free the Afghan people is strong like never before and it is ongoing and it will never bow down to the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

ALLIÉ: Because of your mission, vision and honor, you not only have babies named after you but an actual day on the calendar as well. A proclamation by the city of Newport Beach named March 21 as Legend Day, encouraging citizens to participate in caring for others, feeding the hungry, providing hope to those in need and to #BeLegend. That is a special day. Tell us about a regular day in the life of Legend. What does a typical day look like?

LEGEND: I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of the city of Newport Beach and its honorable Mayor Kevin Mouldoon who actively supports the Afghan refugees we evacuated. March 21 is not only Legend Day but its Afghanistan Day celebrated throughout the United States – a day proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan. March 21 is also the first day of the year in Afghanistan and it’s also the day after my first and only child’s birthday. I would like her to be proud of this Day and to celebrate it for all of those good reasons.

A typical day for me starts with phone calls to Afghanistan where we have American citizens, LPRs and at-risk Afghanistan in need of help. It’s either medical attention, food delivery and/or transport to another location. It quickly turns to phone calls stateside where other NGOs collaborating with the Legend Group either have questions and or need a second opinion on an Afghanistan matter. There are briefings, meetings, speeches and little sleep. I try to do my best. I try to pray as much as I can and as often as I can. I think of my child and then I get back on phone calls. 45 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

It starts in your heart. The goodness is already there. LEGEND


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Exclusive Interview with Legend


ALLIÉ: Beyond your days, let’s talk about your life. As Babe Ruth said, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” When your days come to an end, you legend will live on. How do you want to be remembered?

LEGEND: I would like to be remembered as an Afghan-American who contributed to the building of a very long lasting friendship between Afghanistan and America. These two people, although far apart, are very similar and they are both honorable, noble and family oriented people. They are patriots. I would like to be remembered as a good father, a good citizen, a good Afghan, a good American, a good person.

ALLIÉ: You are a man who has become a living legend. With your sacrifices you have served and saved others. For those who seek to serve others but don’t know where to start, what is your advice?

LEGEND: It starts in your heart. The goodness is already there. Be humble and kind and charitable. Remember even a smile is kindness. Even a smile is charity. ∎

‘Legend’ is an Afghan-American, former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant currently working tirelessly to evacuate at-risk humans from persecution by the terrorists. Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, Legend has assisted hundreds of at-risk Afghans, U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, vetted-allies, and persecuted religious minorities to safety. Most recently, he returned to Afghanistan to personally aid in the evacuations. He continues to work day and night with numerous stakeholder groups who call on Legend’ to assist those in desperate need. Prior to the 2021 evacuation efforts, he served in the U.S. military directly in Afghanistan and then focused on anti-terrorism efforts.

Days before 9/11, he came to the U.S. from Afghanistan as a teenage refugee with a bag of clothes and limited English. He joined the U.S. Army only a few years later. Legend has been fighting for American freedoms, liberty, and prosperity ever since.

Awareness Ties is proud to have Legend as an Official Ambassador:

Learn more about Legend and his work:


Only now I am learning to parent this inner child better. COCO DE BRUYCKER


Photo Credit: TheTornSeamless



I know it’s been a lot, Honey… not sure if it was OK to dump all this on you, given it’s only the fifth date we’re on, right? Now you know (from my previous stories in my AwareNow column) that… I’m good at feeling guilty, I get “authenticity hangovers” really often, and I make my visions my reality. You also know that I found my voice after being sexually assaulted. Thankfully. Yes, thankfully, I have found my voice. People sometimes ask me how I can be so happy all the time, so resilient. Truth is, I am not. What’s funny is that my first name is actually a double name. Coco-Laetitia. Laetitia means ‘joy’ in Latin. Truth is… I am not joyful all the time. I have just perfected the mask I have been painting with my pain. Only now I am learning to drop this mask and embrace myself——personally, spiritually, creatively—-fully. Light and shadow. Only now am I learning to listen to Little Coco. Only now I am learning to parent this inner child better.

The day Little Coco raised her voice, the day I was harassed, I picked up my phone and reached out to George, TheTornSeamless, a photographer in Berlin I was in loose contact with over Instagram. “Hey George,” I wrote. I told him I was just being touched at a photo shoot and I needed professional advice. He immediately confirmed my concerns. Yup. Counts as sexual harassment. Professionals don’t do that.

“I picked myself up, along with pen and paper and wrote a poem dedicated to Little Coco who had known all along.” I took a breath and felt incredibly stupid. Little Coco had known it all along. I had not trust myself though. Shortly after, I picked myself up, along with pen and paper and wrote a poem dedicated to Little Coco who had known all along. The words just poured right out of me on my way home.

The core of my resilience is that I paint with my pain so others can see themselves in my masterpiece. It’s never finished, this work of art. Coco, you messed up. Again.——OK, what do we learn from this? I looked at the verses beneath… If I am ready to listen to Little Coco now… Can I inspire others to listen to their inner children, too?


The core of my resilience is that I paint with my pain so others can see themselves in my masterpiece. COCO DE BRUYCKER


Photo Credit: TheTornSeamless

Stimme: Dein Körper

Voice: Your Body

Dein Körper

Your body

Ist Dein feinstes Instrument: der Tempel,

heilig und Dein,

Niemand darf einfach Hand anlegen:


Nur mit Erlaubnis von Dir oben,

Sollten sie ein Opfer bringen, geloben

Der Götter in Gerechtigkeit, Dein Körper

Ist Dein: Stark. Heilig. Verletzlich. Ich.

Is Your finest instrument: the temple,

holy and Yours,

Nobody mustn’t just put one’s hands on:


Only with permission from you above, your mind,

Sacrificing to attain the favour of the Gods In Justice, your Body Is Yours: Strong. Holy. Vulnerable. I.



Ihn in einer Welt, in der Dir

Nie gesagt wird, wie; liebe

Ihn wie Deine erste Haut, liebe

Ihn in Rampenlicht und Schatten, so

Wie den Geist, der ihn baut, liebe

Ihn ganz allgemein, denn er

Und Du, Ihr seid nie allein.

Him in a world nobody Ever tells you how; love

Him like your first skin, love

Him in spotlight and shadow, as The spirit that builds him Just in general, as You and him, You are never alone.

Stark. Heilig. Verletzlich. Ich.

Strong. Holy. Vulnerable. I.

Dein Körper

Ist alles, was Du hast: alle Welt,

Grenzen, Dein Körper ist das,

Was Dein Innerstes zusammenhält.

Your body Is everything You have: the whole world, Boundaries, Your body is what Ties your inside together.

Und er und Du, Ihr seid ein, nie allein.

Dein Körper. Gottes Gestalt

Und die ewige Stimme, ich,

———In Stille und Aufschrei———

Die widerhallt: immer da.


Dein Körper

And he and You, You are one, never alone, Your body. God’s copy And the everlasting voice, I, ———In silence and a cry———

Echoing: forever. I.

Your body.





“When was the last time you comforted your inner child?” I hit up my artist friend and cinematographer Hugo Arvizu in L.A. We studied together and if there is someone who’d get my mission and vision, it’s him, I thought. The trust in myself and him paid off. He was in, his mind racing. The idea started to marinate in us. Him in L.A., me in Berlin. I love connecting humans through my art and already the fact this production might tie the U.S. and Germany a little tighter together brought tears (of joy) to my eyes. I brainstormed audio engineers of my present (Berlin) and past (my home town, Mainz). The text and intention excited both Alienmusik and David Schultes for the project. Our production grew from being a Berlin-L.A.-project to being a Berlin-L.A.-Mainz one. Knowing this filled my heart with tears (of joy, of course).

I sent the text out to actors and actresses, colleagues and creatives who, I know of, had a personal connection to this issue. To my surprise, the majority was with me and moved “to goosebumps” by the text. Again, tears of joy and gratitude shot into my eyes. Mixed with the photographs George added as I told him about the idea. I knew it was a tough text and a tough occasion: The actors asked me for direction. I loved them for their dedication and assured them: There is nothing they can do wrong. Because there is nothing wrong with them. I wanted to see what they would be doing with the text. I know it’s vague, free, but that’s exactly what Stimme: Dein Körper (Voice: Your Body) inspires: Be ready to listen to you, yourself. Your all.

When was the last time you actually, actively listened to you? When was the last time you purely loved you? When was the last time you comforted your inner child? Today, especially in the age of social media, self love and body positivity is being promoted everywhere… without any tools, any instruction on how to do it.

This piece was created in honour of you. It’s a reminder. The tools to listen and love you are right here, inside, the voice chatting to you 24/7. I mean, I listen to mine all the time but when do I actually act upon her, you know what I mean? Only now I am learning to trust her. Only now I let myself be guided by my intuition, my inner voice. It belongs to Little Coco and it’s such fun parenting her now.

I know it’s too early to talk about children just yet. Let’s start with healing our own inner ones first.

Are you with me, Honey? ∎


Actress, Voiceover Artist & Awareness Ties Ambassador for Disability COCO DE BRUYCKER is a German-born, US-trained actress and voiceover artist with the desire to express what we all feel but no one dares to say. As a thespian at heart, took on stage at just seven years old, where she discovered her “eagerness to play” (German: spiel wut) as director Philip Barth put it.


Don’t ask me why my eyes are dilated. You know why. KING ELLE NOIR




GETTING RAW & REAL WITH KING ELLE NOIR “You can drown yourself or crown yourself...” Not many artists have truly stared down death. Alt-pop chanteuse King Elle Noir has been there, done it twice, and so much more. In a turbulent year she has emerged as one of LA’s most intriguing new acts, crafting an impressively original sound and making an incredibly powerful statement. No matter what, we can all anoint ourselves Kings of our own destiny. ALLIÉ: When I see your style and hear your songs, my first guess about your training and upbringing is not ‘classically trained pianist from Utah’, but that’s the case. Let’s start in Utah where you were raised and then Nashville where you ran away to. What was it like growing up as a kid and an artist in Utah? What called you to Tennessee?

ELLE: So… I’ve always been a lone wolf, and doing things like running away to a different state or country has always been an obvious choice. No second guessing, no fear about it. My fear was being stuck in Utah. Growing up in Utah was…okay. To be honest, I don’t really remember feeling happy during my entire childhood except for when I was making music, so I literally had tunnel vision. I chose Nashville because I had visited there to do a writing session for Marie Osmond, and it ended up charting on Top 10 country billboard charts. I have the plaque on my wall now. That was my first glimpse of success as a songwriter/musician, so I chased that feeling. But I actually ended up getting super sick & depressed there so I didn’t live there long, but I still love it and visit often.





ALLIÉ: From Utah to Nashville, you were just getting started. LA was next. Tell us about your songwriting wins there. Please also share the story of the second battle for your life you had to fight.

ELLE: After the Nashville depression, I actually ran away to Italy for over a year. I went to clear my head and take a break from music, but ended up singing all around there as well. After Italy, I moved to LA. I lived in my car for 6 months, I’d sleep in Walmart parking lots, or on the lifeguard towers in Huntington Beach. I got a job singing and playing piano at Ocean Prime in Beverly Hills during this time, so I saved up that money and was able to get a tiny room in a loft in DTLA. From there, I worked 17 different part time jobs over the span of 2 years, until one day I was able to find my place in the music industry and do it full time. I realized that I was really good at writing several different genres, so I was able to get cuts with R&B Artist IV Jay, Rock icon Tommy Lee, Hip Hop legend Wale, plus my stint in country music. Being so diverse really skyrocketed things for me, and it also helped me find my sound as an artist. I think I’m kind of a melting pot of all of those genres. Besides rock, maybe. Not yet, anyway. But one day, my life changed forever. It was my 24th birthday when I passed out in the middle of downtown LA, got taken to the hospital, and woke up with a tube in my chest to start dialysis the very next day. I was going to get myself an acai bowl for my birthday breakfast. I had no warning, no time to process, just BOOM, nothing was the same. I had felt really sick for a very long time, but I figured it was just because I was in remission from my previous kidney cancer. I always ignored it though, I pushed through. I never thought that I would ever have to go through something so difficult. After working my entire life toward something and finally catching a glimpse of success, my entire world fell apart. Even now I still don’t think I’ve had time to process it, so writing it out is making me tear up a little. It’s not something I think about often, I don’t have time to. It’s wake up, dialysis, eat, make music if I have the energy, sleep, wake up, dialysis, etc.. It’s a daily adjustment, but like I said, I push through. But the plus side is that this all created King Elle Noir.

After working my entire life toward something and finally catching a glimpse of success, my entire world fell apart. KING ELLE NOIR


Photo Credit: Joe Lyman

“I have a perspective on life that nobody could ever have unless they are literally staring death in the face every single day, and I am blessed for that.” ALLIÉ: They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Did fighting for your life prepare you for battling to be seen and heard as an artist?

ELLE: Yes and no. I always say that I have a perspective on life that nobody could ever have unless they are literally staring death in the face every single day, and I am blessed for that… I don’t take it for granted. It takes a LOT to phase me which has turned me into somewhat of a disassociated robot, which comes in handy for such a brutal industry. But that being said, this industry is nearly impossible for people in perfect health. So, having basically no health makes it extra impossible and I have learned to accept that. I lived in denial for so long and pushed through as though I wasn’t sick, like I wasn’t hurting, like I wasn’t different and that would end me in the hospital and set me back farther than where I started… But I accept it now, or at least I try to every day. I have to do things differently than all of my peers, but that’s ok, I still get things done. Health has to come first even though I don’t want it to, but it’s the only way to slowly but surely get to where I want to be. I do believe that my situation gives me very, very real things to write about and to speak about, which is so important to me. A lot of music has no substance these days, so it feels good to know that I will never fall into that category as long as I stay true to myself. 57 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

I got hooked, I overdosed intentionally, I almost died, but didn’t… then I got judged for that too. KING ELLE NOIR


“Even my doctors don’t have answers, I’d go to them for help and all I would get is some prescription I’ve never heard of with hella side effects…” ALLIÉ: Let’s talk about your latest track, ‘Dilated’. Rated ‘E’ for explicit lyrics, but sometimes when you are raw and real enough, that’s the only way it can be. And you do get real calling out different meds you’ve been on for depression and in that verse singing “Tried it all & I’m gettin irritated. So please don’t ask why my eyes dilated.” In speaking to the blessing and curse of meds, I’m sure so many feel seen and heard with this track. Was that your goal? What inspired you to write this piece?

ELLE: People love to give me advice on how to feel better and I’m always like, “Dude shut up, I’ve tried everything. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” While they have good intentions, there comes a time where people just start sounding ignorant & need to shut their mouths. Even my doctors don’t have answers, I’d go to them for help and all I would get is some prescription I’ve never heard of with hella side effects, and I never wanted to take them because that scares me. But then I got a lot of judgment for always being tired, sick, in pain, so I took the pills. I got hooked, I overdosed intentionally, I almost died, but didn’t… then I got judged for that too. Then came all of the “WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? WHY ARE YOU HIGH? WHY ARE YOUR EYES DILATED?!” questions, and I was just like “Dude, why wouldn’t I? Don’t ask me why my eyes are dilated, you know why.”

So the song has kind of a double meaning. One being more cynical, how my only answer is to disassociate from my life with drugs, but the other being me telling people that drugs are not the answer by telling the story of my life in a brutally honest way & showing them that it’s not a pretty life to live. Drugs aren’t cool or glamorous, they’re a very real problem. Sharing that experience in an intimate way is the only way that I know how to help people because I still don’t have the real answers, and I think all of my songs make that pretty clear. I don’t know what I’m doing. So I guess I’m just here to let people know that I understand what they’re going through and that it’s ok if we don’t have the answers right now, and that we can hopefully figure it out together. If not, I’m here fighting with them.

ALLIÉ: Music allows you to make a personal statement. So does ink. Let’s talk tats. What was your first tattoo? Which one is your favorite and why?

ELLE: My first tattoo is a cliche “wanderlust” on my rib. I got it there cause I had to hide it from my family. I grew up in a super religious family and I don’t think anyone knew I had tattoos until I moved to Italy, and I had about 10 of them at that point.

I have a few favorites. One is my “neck tattoo”, just because I think it explains my personality perfectly. The other is Guy Fieri on my forearm, I’m obsessed with it, I look at it all the time. I love food, I love cooking, and Guy is such a good human that I really admire, plus the ink just looks so good. Third fav is the little balloon guy on my left shoulder, it was graffiti on my apartment in Italy so I got it before I moved out. My heart still lives in Italy, so it’s special to me. 59 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

I have to wake up every morning and choose the crown. KING ELLE NOIR


AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with King Elle Noir


“It’s not about ruling others or controlling others, it’s about having control of your own life…” ALLIÉ: “You can drown yourself or crown yourself.” Your quote, King Elle Noir. Self appointed with a title more than earned from all you’ve overcome and accomplished, Elle you chose to crown yourself as opposed to drown. For those who feel they are drowning, what advice would you give?

ELLE: Crowning yourself is a choice you have to make constantly. It’s not just one life-changing decision. I have to wake up every morning and choose the crown, and I have to keep choosing it hour by hour, minute by minute. & I fail a LOT, but that’s part of the journey. Getting up each time, putting that crown right back on your head and moving forward unfazed is what matters. It’s not about ruling others or controlling others, it’s about having control of your own life and realizing that you are in charge of your destiny. I promise that people are always watching you, and when you get back up after falling, you’re inspiring someone else to do the same. I just think that’s so beautiful. I love the idea of us all being leaders by example. We’re all here figuring things out. So, if we all become our own kings, we can hopefully guide each other through a lot of difficult stuff, hold our heads high, and fix each other’s crowns when needed, creating one big Kingdom. ∎

Follow King Elle Noir on Instagram: @kingellenoir

Tune in on Spotify:


You’re not throwing away a marriage, you are saving yourself. SUNNY MCFADDEN-CURTIS AWARD WINNING FILMMAKER




SEPARATION & DIVORCE WITH BROKEN VOWS DIRECTOR UNSUGARCOATED with Aalia, Season 10 launches with a powerful conversation surrounding separation, divorce, and rebuilding with guest, award-winning director and filmmaker, Sunnie McFadden-Curtis. Unfortunately, around half of all marriages end in divorce. What if someone were to tell them that it was just the beginning and not the end? McFadden-Curtis reveals to Aalia the process behind creating an award-winning film and the different stories that impacted her throughout the process. Each story portrays the message that although ending a marriage is traumatic, there is hope to rebuild a better life for yourself when you trust the process and know your value. ∎




Like, comment, and subscribe! Stay connected with your host on IG: @aalia_unsugarcoated AALIA LANIUS

Producer, Award-Winning Writer & Host AALIA LANIUS is an International Multiple-Award Winning Novelist, Executive Producer, Publisher and host of the award-nominated globally top-rated social good show, UNSUGARCOATED with Aalia. As founder of UNSUGARCOATED Media, a 501(c)(3) media enterprise, Lanius is creating social impact through storytelling while building community, providing education, and ending isolation for trauma survivors. Aalia's role extends to leadership as a creative, and she is considered a thought-leader in approaches to media, believing that artists are pioneers of the human mind with great potential and responsibility to positively influence society through proper representation and accountability.


I want to change the norm. LAURA WESTCOTT




Laura Westcott is the founder of Music for Mental Wealth and Music with Meaning campaign in support of mental health. She trained as a classical singer and suffered with anxiety as a soloist so instead joined the London Philharmonic Choir. She worked as a reviewer and PR manager for The Times in London & NYC before overcoming her anxiety through mental health coaching and is now on a mission to help musicians before they have preventable mental health issues. TANITH: Laura, you are so passionate about music, where did your passion stem from?

LAURA: When I was a young girl my music teacher noticed that I was a good singer and he nurtured that in me. I was very blessed to have a musical household but when I grew up I had stage fright and anxiety. When I hit my teens there was this mindset that you had to look cool so I felt when I was on stage I was being judged. That freaked me out, but later on when I had coaching I realised that it was my ego in the way and that I’m a vessel for creative flow. That's really what musicians and creatives are, a vessel for universal flow. I didn't realise that in my teens; and felt like people were judging me - not the performance. Coaching massively helped and now, hand in hand, goes my passion for music and helping people before they have anxiety, stage fright and other mental health issues.





I’m not going to stop anytime soon. LAURA WESTCOTT


TANITH: Music for Mental Wealth is such an amazing charity, what would you say separates it from anything else?

LAURA: We’re not waiting for problems to deal with it. What I'm really passionate about is preventing the problem from occurring, helping young people at the start of their careers, giving them coaching and somebody to guide them through their career. That way when they have a record label drop them or they're on tour and they miss their family or they have no money, they actually have somebody to talk to, they have resilience, which is what I didn't have. I was given medication when I was younger because that was what we were offered back then. Now we have seriously progressed it's actually very exciting as to the level of awareness that we have now for mental health issues. I remember my former boss at The Times, who's now the vice president of Sony Music, said to me “Laura, you were ahead of the game with Music for Mental Wealth coaching”. Now people have cottoned on to it I'm actually making waves with the Music with Meaning series, which highlights the problem as people perform they share their stories and the coaching is the solution. So it's twofold really.

TANITH: You recently held a Music with Meaning gig at The Bedford Pub with amazing artists playing such as yourself and Newton Faulkner among others, tell us about that and share a song with us that means something to you?

LAURA: I had the privilege of meeting Newton at a songwriting retreat in January, up in Whitby. He's such a beautiful, kind man and we talked openly about mental health. When I was planning this event, I tried my luck and asked him to perform and it was a “yes”. ‘Dream Catch Me’ is a song that I absolutely adore and for him to perform to such an intimate crowd at the Bedford where you can hear a pin drop was absolutely stunning. It's about dreaming, where you can go and being who you want to be. What I want to do is allow that in real life, to encourage people to be authentic with who they are and not be afraid to shine their light. So for me the concert was just stunning. We had Newton and we had some amazing up and coming artists like Minna and George Alfie, artists that you have to look out for as they're going to be huge. We had T.I.G.Y and her mother Judy Tzuke who performed her hit Stay With Me Till Dawn. She was our surprise guest artist that performed with two of her daughters. It's just like a family unit. I want to expand this family vibe so that people can just join in and share stories with music and feel what they belong somewhere. That's really important to me.





TANITH: You are currently a Mental Health Ambassador for Awareness Ties, how did you get involved and why do you think it’s important?

LAURA: It was you that introduced me to Awareness Ties. You know, it's just a wonderful initiative. Allié and Jack are a beautiful family and I absolutely adore doing everything I can to support them. I love reading the magazine every month and all the fantastic stories raising awareness for these different causes. It was a natural fit for me because I love solving problems. If there's a problem I want to help. I performed at the gig the other day, and I have overcome my anxiety to some extent, but I still get nervous and I know that if I watched it back I would see my nerves, but practice makes perfect and that's why I'm practising hosting gigs at The Bedford. I want to grow what I'm doing here in London to other cities around the world and, after the last gig, I've had a few people come forward to help me with that. We're going to be launching in further cities here in the UK to start with.

TANITH: I know you always have a heap of things in the pipeline, what’s next for you?

LAURA: I’m gonna focus on Music for Mental Wealth. I am on the right track and I know with my core being that if I just continue, it will be amazing. I've been doing this for seven years now and it's been hard as lots of people haven't understood it, but that's because people aren't suffering yet. Why wait until there's a problem? That's what I'm saying. I've done quite a lot of these concerts in London, we partnered with the Royal Marines just before lockdown in The Royal Albert Hall. A huge iconic venue. I'm not going to stop anytime soon. I'm going to continue to grow Music with Meaning and I'm also doing more music personally. I'm creating and collaborating with different producers to create beautiful soundscapes to help people with their mental health and as I said to you at the beginning, I'm really passionate about helping young people, which is why I want to be really hands on with The Global Youth Awards, because young people have the power to change the landscape. That's really what I'm passionate about. I want to change the norm.

TANITH: How can artists and others get involved and support both Music For Mental Wealth and Music with meaning?

LAURA: The bursary fund that we've set up is basically the reason I do the concerts, to raise enough money to pay the artists and for coaching. I'm really aiming for the music labels to be involved and for it to be protocol when a new artist signs with them, to provide a mental health coach.

For people that want to get involved at the moment, we do have some coaching resources available on the website or they can email us ( We’re also on Facebook & Instagram (_MusicforMentalWealth_) so it's very easy to find us and just drop us a line and tell us what you need. We'll do our best to help, and if we can't help because it’s beyond coaching, such as something clinical, we can signpost them to somebody that's professional in that capacity to help them. If I can't help them, I'll make sure I can find someone that can. ∎

Learn more about Music For Mental Wealth online:

Follow on Instagram: @_musicformentalwealth_


Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.


I knew the version of myself I was sharing on social platforms was not my only truth. RACHEL HELLER




Self-care is often the last thing we give ourselves, but it’s the first thing we need. To take care of those we love, we must first take care of and love ourselves. If we can’t be strong for ourselves, we can’t be strong for others. Rachel Heller, is the CEO of The Self Care Mask. The purpose of her product is to support self-confidence through self-care. ALLIÉ: After boarding a plane before taking off, we are given instructions that include these lines: “Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.” There’s a reason we’re told this. It’s because most of us wouldn’t do this. We would help those we love before ourselves. Rachel, why do you think it’s so hard for us to put ourselves first?

RACHEL: Perhaps, we may not realize it, but subconsciously we live in a codependent world where we rely on putting others first at the expense of ourselves, which in turn leaves self-care out of the equation.





The myth that ‘pretty’ people don’t struggle with sadness or insecurities leading to depression is a fallacy. RACHEL HELLER


“I really wanted to create a way to incorporate self-care into our daily lives.” ALLIÉ: People will reference what a difference a day makes, but a full day of your life is not required for self-care. Even just 15 minutes a day is what you recommend, Rachel. Explain The SelfCare Mask method that provides benefits for both your skin and your state of mind.

RACHEL: When we think about self-care, we often think it requires a full day at the spa, which requires planning and in our busy lives and hectic schedules sometimes getting the day off isn’t always possible.

I really wanted to create a way to incorporate self-care into our daily lives. The Avec Prestige Pro offers an adjustable time on its digital screen for each skin care function, really allowing you to mentally set aside 15 minutes total just for you, your skin and your state of mind.

ALLIÉ: You are so pretty. Truly, you are beautiful, Rachel. Surely a person as pretty as you are never had to deal with suicidal ideation. This is an incorrect assumption many have made. The fact of the matter is, while you are stunning, there were times you were struggling and had thoughts of taking your life. ‘Pretty’ doesn’t protect you with perfect mental health. Rachel, please share the story of your struggle and how you found strength to overcome it.

RACHEL: Thank you, Allie! You’re truly so sweet. Depression is not associated with people who fit society's norm of beauty. But in fact, it's quite the opposite. The myth that “pretty” people don’t struggle with sadness or insecurities leading to depression is a fallacy.

The truth is, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts for over a decade, and I’ve gone through very dark stages where I didn’t want to live anymore. I decided in 2020, to open up and share my struggles on social media because I knew the version of myself I was sharing on social platforms was not my only truth. Although I was truly happy at times in the moment, I also didn’t want to get out of bed some mornings and found myself unmotivated and often contemplated the worth of my life.

I knew at that point my purpose in life was to share my story in hopes of letting other people know they’re not alone. There are so many resources to help us and I personally took advantage of all of them to get where I’m at today. I used self-care, self-love and mental health professionals to get me to the place where I am now. You’re not alone.

ALLIÉ: In your life, you’ve had internal wars but external battles as well. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence at some point in their life – physical, sexual or emotional. Rachel, you’ve said, “If you feel like you look good, you’ll feel good.” For those in an abusive relationship, how important is that ‘feel good’ feeling? Is self-care required for self-confidence?

RACHEL: In the same way that conditioning our bodies gives us strength to persevere. Self-care and self-love are the exercises that give us the mental strength to know who we are, what we are, what we deserve and how to get it.

The combination of emotional, mental and physical wellbeing are equally important to building self confidence. When we feel our best, we portray the best version of ourselves

ALLIÉ: In addition to your personal story, you have a product and brand to provide care inside and out. Tell us about what AVEC Pro Prestige does. Please also share what you will do with proceeds. 73 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with Rachel Heller


“…in truth the best version of you, strengthens everyone around you.” RACHEL: The Avec Prestige Pro is a smart anti-aging skincare device that offers 5 functions tailoring to all skin care needs. Using heat and vibration, it cleanses 5x deeper than manual cleansing alone. With no refrigeration needed, the sonic plate quickly cools and soothes inflammation and closes pores, while the heated plate increases penetration to deepen the saturation of skincare products. The EMS function (electric muscle stimulation) lifts and tones while stimulating blood flow. In addition, plumping skin with the collagen synthesis mode, while offering red and blue LED light therapy through all modes to help kill acne causing bacteria and help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The SelfCare Mask company really believes that self-love and self-care are the basis of a healthy lifestyle. With promo code, MENTALHEALTH10, we will give you $10 off your purchase and match that with a donation of $10 to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention organization.

ALLIÉ: Let’s end on a personal and powerful note. To be strong for others, we must first be strong for ourselves. For those seeking to find strength within, what advice do you have?

RACHEL: My advice is remember the times in your life you succeeded past your expectations and proved to yourself that you’re capable. Take care of yourself by implementing self-care into your daily routine. Putting the time into selfcare on a daily basis may seem optional, but in truth the best version of you, strengthens everyone around you. ∎

The Self-Care Mask company really believes that self-love and self-care are the basis of a healthy lifestyle. With promo code, MENTALHEALTH10, we will give you $10 off your purchase and match that with a donation of $10 to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention organization:


Time is a stamp forged in forgotten moments… JACK MCGUIRE



ON OUR OWN There is a defiance in me

Makes my blood move in different ways

My soul will never be reachable

As my light swings and sways from the balcony

Time is a stamp forged in forgotten moments

To know your ghosts and hold them close

Will serve you better than a warm bed

At least that what I’ve always said

To know me is a mystery

The insides of out, twisted in clout

Waves have always had their say

That was the last weight I carried away

The bitter cold truth

Can wake you from the world

There is no map after that

We are all on our own.


It’s about understanding our shared humanity. JORDAN VANHEMERT



NOMAD AN INSPIRING INTERSECTION WHERE KOREAN MUSIC & JAZZ MEET This album is the result of spending the last two years studying and arranging Korean folk and children’s songs. After workshopping and performing this music with several different groups and seeing a lack of representation for Korean music in jazz, Jordan VanHemert set out to produce an album entitled NOMAD. ALLIÉ: Before we talk music, let’s talk title… The term ‘nomad’ is defined by some as ‘a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer’. Jordan, how do you define this term? And why was NOMAD the perfect title for your newest album?

JORDAN: It really comes from two places. First, I define a nomad as someone who doesn’t really have a defined home. I saw this theme without specifically calling it this, in a lot of my friends who identify as more than one thing. In a lot of ways, I think that our intersectionality lends itself to people not really feeling like they belong to any of the groups to which they identify, but I maintain through Nomad that we are 100% of the identities that comprise who we are. The other part of the title is the wandering element. The album is set forth in a narrative structure that is a journey through musical tonalities. I think that one does hear this.





I hope that those who are familiar with the repertoire feel seen and heard. JORDAN VANHEMERT


ALLIÉ: I want to jump right into these tracks. You had me at ‘Bird, Bird, Bluebird’. With the very first track I was hooked. Instantly drawn in by the nuanced notes then transitioned to jazzy over and undertones, I quickly fell in love with what I learned is perhaps the most representative melody among all the tunes of Korean traditional music. For those unfamiliar with this song, allow me to fill them in, Jordan. The first, third and fifth lines reference ‘green-bean’:

The Korean general Bong-Joon Juhn led an unsuccessful uprising against corrupt rulers and invading Japanese troops in the late 19th century. His nickname was the Green Bean General. Legend says that he was a Korean version of Robin Hood; after attacking corrupt officials and seizing their treasures, he then distributed them to the poor commoners. He was very popular and many commoners joined his army. His army swept through large parts of the Korean peninsula before Korean rulers requested the Japanese army to intervene. Juhn’s army, equipped with spears and arrows, was no match against the westernized gun-wielding Japanese army, and in 1895 Juhn was captured and hanged. Korean commoners sang this song to lament General Juhn’s death and the failed coup d’état, and it is said the widows of Juhn’s army sang this song to their babies as a lullaby.

What does this song mean to you, Jordan? Why did you choose this track to lead off your album?

JORDAN: I think that this track was a natural fit to bring in the elements of the folk music and the jazz tradition because it makes hyper-specific references to both. The jazz reference is to John Coltrane’s classic quartet (Impulse Era) and the folk element is the natural statement of the melody at the beginning, unencumbered by anything else. I think that the vibe of this track is strong such that it begins in the folk tradition and transports you into a hard bop context.

ALLIÉ: So, you know my favorite track. What was your favorite track and why?

JORDAN: My favorite track is the vocal version of Holo Arirang/Arirang Alone. I think that Sharon brings something so special to both tracks, but in this one in particular, I have some great memories of the recording session and how the whole band contributed to the performance.





AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with Jordan VanHemert


ALLIÉ: Representation is important. If you don’t see (or hear) versions of yourself, your music or your culture in society, you feel there isn’t a place for you. You decided to make a place and a space for Korean music in jazz. With what you’ve given in this album, Jordan, what is it that you hope people take from for it?

JORDAN: I hope that those who are familiar with the repertoire feel seen and heard, and that they can feel joyful that there is someone out there creating music for them. For those who are unfamiliar with the repertoire, I hope that they do exactly as you have done and use it as both a window and a door–a gateway–into the traditions of this music and where it came from.

ALLIÉ: As we pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history, what is it that you want people to be mindful of, not only this month - but every month?

JORDAN: This month, it is important to understand the many ways in which the API community has been oppressed in this country and to remember how we still fight every day. I hope that we grow into a place where every month, we acknowledge the ways in which the API community has contributed to this country – not just our own community, but this country as a whole.

Get to know people whose lives are not like your own. Understand that their perspective is a valid way of experiencing the world. Understand that just because you didn’t experience something in the same way as someone else, it doesn’t invalidate their experience. The more we can learn about each other’s stories, the better off we are. The more we can do that, the more our perspectives only stand to benefit. It’s about truly listening - not just hearing each other. It’s about understanding our shared humanity. ∎



Apple Music:

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Instagram: @jvanhemusic YouTube:


I think this curled & unfurled piece perfectly matches her energy or ‘aura’. LAURA ZABO




SUSTAINABLE STYLE WITH LAURA WESTCOTT Does empowerment have a particular look or feel? When it comes to what you wear, if you're Laura Westcott, it looks like this. Untamed and untethered, this original neckpiece and earrings by Laura Zabo in her 'Tireless' collection is crafted from up-cycled bicycle tires. With a sustainable style all of its own, it begs its wearer to go and be whatever the hell you want. THE ARTIST’S ARTICULATION:

“I love to create pieces for people who have a strong personality and style. Laura is a unique and powerful soul. I think this curled & unfurled piece perfectly matches her energy or “aura”. Laura has a mission and story to tell and so do my pieces. Made with so much love and passion to and caring and empowering.” - Laura Zabo THE WEARER’S WORDS:

“Laura’s deeply thoughtful and unique design makes me feel sexy and empowered like a wild stallion galloping through a forest. Tireless and unstoppable.” - Laura Westcott See and shop for Laura Zabo’s sustainable style:


Upcycling Designer & Eco Entrepreneur LAURA ZABO strives to create a cleaner world by collecting and upcycling scrap tires into chic statement accessories. Laura creates striking belts, jewellery and even sandals for urban and ethically conscious men and women who believe in a brighter future for our planet. Her work has been spotlighted in various magazines promoting design and sustainable fashion and continues to gain exposure through social media platforms. Laura’s upcycling journey began in 2015 whilst exploring the beautiful landscapes of Tanzania. The inspiration for a sustainable fashion brand came when she stumbled across a brightly painted pair of sandals made from scrap car tire at a local maasai market. This moment planted the seed for her company, highlighting that beautiful clothing and accessories don’t have to be made by mass produced material but can be crafted by recycled objects instead. Now, six years later, Laura collects and repurposes thousands of bicycle and car tires, making not just fashion statements but promoting progression towards a healthier planet.


It makes me feel sexy and empowered, like a wild stallion running through the forest. LAURA WESTCOTT



I’m a Falcons fan. I’m a Georgia boy. I’m a certified relationship coach. ZEKE BOLDEN II




Zeke Bolden II was born in Albany, Georgia in 1968. He has 5 children and 10 grandchildren. Zeke has been married to the love of his life, Pamela Watson-Bolden for over 34 years and is still honeymooning. He spent the majority of his life in Albany until joining the military in 1988. Zeke served 11 years in the military with 2 tours in Europe and has been stationed in various places throughout the United States. He is now a proud Desert Storm Army War Veteran, having 2 daughters and a son to have served in the military as well. Zeke is also a preacher and evangelist with over 25 years of Pastoral and Leadership experience, providing valuable insights and wisdom every time he is on a stage, at a podium or in the pulpit. He became a Certified Life Coach in August 2014 because of his passion to save Marriages and Empower singles to find their life mate with the goal of getting married. MEAGAN: Zeke, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about men’s mental health and your growing relationship coaching business, where you help singles find their true mate. Let’s start out with you sharing a bit about yourself… who you are, what you do, and then we can go from there.

ZEKE: My name is Ezekiel Bolden. Everybody calls me “Zeke”. I‘m a Falcons fan. I’m a Georgia boy. I’m a certified relationship coach.

I love LOVE. I am in love with the notion of love. Everything about love, I love it. I love marriages. I love to see people connect and grow. I love to see females learn how to date and get into the dating field and WIN. I've taken it as a personal mission to level the playing field. When I say level, there's a double standard when it comes to dating and what men do and what women can do. I think for dating to be normalized, it has to be leveled, it has to be equal, and on an equal playing field so both people have a chance. I don't know about a lot of other fathers, but when I raised my daughters, there was a saying around our house that, “You're not going to date until you are grown and out of the house.” I kind of kept my girls on lock for a long, long time until it dawned on me, “DAD, if you don't teach them, the streets will. So, it's time to start teaching and educating them about relationships”. And I did.

My wife and I have a great relationship. This month, on April 27, 2022, we will have been married 34 years. I just feel like this is what GOD has called me to do, and that is what I'm doing – RELATIONSHIPS. I love it with a passion. So, that's what I do.

MEAGAN: Yes, thank you. Zeke, you are my coach, and you are truly awesome. Sometimes I don't listen, and I need to learn how to listen. I'm still learning, but we'll get there.

ZEKE: You said it, I didn’t.

MEAGAN: I know that we are talking in general, about your relationship coaching business, but I wanted to pick your brain around mental health, especially because you have a huge presence on social media. Social media is big, especially places like Tik Tok, Instagram, and other social sites. Can you talk about dating in this world, being a single person, and how social media may affect a person's mental health and probably finding the love of their life? 89 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

I am in love with my wife. ZEKE BOLDEN II


“Date like you’re dating. Don’t date like you’re married, because you’re not.” ZEKE: Absolutely, I would love to. First, dating in real life, one-on-one is difficult. Then when you add the element of social media, it compounds that a hundred times over because there's really no accountability to the person when they're on social media, on a dating site, when you meet somebody and they live three states over, or whatever the case may be. While you are trying to date on social media or meeting people on social, you don't have that accountability. You try to reach out to them and they don't answer, it gets crazy. I am glad you mentioned that because one of my biggest pet peeves is when you date on any platform, whether in person or social media, you need to know how. I think that's what causes the most stress for people. You get mentally and emotionally exhausted when you don't know how to do it. That's very, very important.

MEAGAN: I am exhausted. I've been single for three years and it affects me mentally because I'm trying to figure out what is going on with myself. I think I did the work, but did I really do the work? I know you've been married for over 30 years, so congratulations because a lot of people don't even hold on for five years or five months. I guess you could talk about once you get into a relationship, it's like a different dynamic. Maybe because you have that title of husband and wife, whereas before you were boyfriend and girlfriend.

ZEKE: It takes on a different dynamic once you decide to get married. It's almost like making a transition from adolescence to adulthood. When you're an adolescent, there are some things that you are responsible for, but NO BIG DEAL. You're responsible for getting up, cleaning your room. You're responsible for making good grades in school. You're responsible for doing the dishes or your chores or what have you. Then you transition from adolescence to adulthood, now there's a different set of rules that you must go by. Now, your responsibility is not just getting up and going to school. It is getting up, taking your kids to school, paying your bills to survive. You have to go to work every day. People are depending on you. So, just as it is with a girlfriend and boyfriend, you aren’t responsible for that person. You both are the journey of dating, and you're responsible for your own self and not necessarily the other person.

Even though you decide to make it a union, it’s not a union that's a lifetime commitment like it is with a marriage. So, you let a lot of things slide when you are boyfriend and girlfriend. Once you say, “HEY, I want you to be my wife; I want you to be my husband”, you move in together. People tend to forget that they're still just dating, and they start dating like they're married. When they get married, it turns into a mindset of, you know I could just walk… Nah, this is supposed to be for life. You can't just walk away now. So that's why I tell people all the time, date like you’re dating. Don't date like you're married, because you're not. Is it going to be different once you get married? I promise you it will be; it was for me and my wife.

MEAGAN: I keep hearing a lot of men say that when you are dating, as a woman you should be operating as a wife. They say that it is important that a woman operate in her wifely duties to a boyfriend. Do you believe that's the case?

ZEKE: Emphatically, NO. The superpower that every woman has is her femininity and her ability to nurture her ability to be a mother innately. You don't have to teach her how to be a mother. She can have a baby and nurture that baby. And no one would have ever taught her how to be. That's built into a woman. That's automatic. However, you cannot be a wife to everybody. You have to be a wife, to the man who marries you because that individual is an individual person, which means that he has to be dealt with from his individual stance – what he requires, what he wants. My wife can't be everybody's wife. She can be my wife… You don't have to prove you can be a wife. Ladies can adapt and adjust easily to the man that decides to be her husband. She could adapt to him. The problem is demand. A lot of men want that ‘wife privilege’ at a ‘girlfriend cost’. And that's not fair to the woman. Not at all.

MEAGAN: Why do you feel people set all these different expectations on their mate, but they refuse to make minor adjustments themselves?


It's not about me. It's not about her. It's about US. ZEKE BOLDEN II


ZEKE: Sometimes we get mentally engulfed in what we see on television. We look at people on television and assume that just because this is how their relationship is portrayed, this should be how our relationship should be. That's not the case. Every relationship is different. My son is such a sweetheart; he's such a gentleman. Unfortunately, when he dates, he dates like he's married, and I'm trying to tell him, you can't date like that. The reason why he dates like that is because all he saw in relationships, GOOD relationships, was his DAD. He sees how I treat his mom, and he treats every woman the same way. He still must get to know a girl when dating. It's just the opposite in some other situations. There are guys who take advantage of that. They want you to provide the wifely duties. However, they want to maintain their independence because you're trying to ‘get them’, so to speak. I teach just the opposite; I teach that both people should put forth the effort to prove their worthiness to the person who you're trying to capture as a husband or wife. When you see that and you know this is the person you want to be with, that's when you pop the question. You grow from there.

MEAGAN: I agree. For me, I keep referencing the fact that I've been single for three years for a reason. I can operate being single but there are times where I do get lonely, like around holidays. I want to build memories and traditions with that man. I know you reference your wife a lot because she’s beautiful. How do you guys make it work? There may be times where you may be drained mentally. How do you both after 30 years make your marriage work so well?

ZEKE: I was mad with my wife once. I was burning mad, just to be honest with you. I was so mad I hung the phone up in her face. After you have been together for so long, sometimes you let a lot of things go and you become familiar and comfortable with each other. So, it is common, and we do it all the time. BUT, here's what we teach and here is what we believe in.

My wife and I believe that in a marriage, it's one 100/100 percent. Both parties have to give 100/100 percent. There are times when one person is not going to give their 100 percent. There are times when that person is only going to give 30 percent. Well, how much do you think that if my wife is only able to give 30 percent, how much do you think I should give?

MEAGAN: 100 percent

ZEKE: Absolutely not. A marriage will fail if you do that. No, you have to give an extra 70 percent. If she's giving 30 percent, I have to give 170 percent. It has to stay 100/100 at all times.

MEAGAN: Got it. You give the 100 percent that you provide and compensate for her additional 70 percent, since she is only able to give 30 percent at that moment. That equates to 100/100.

ZEKE: Absolutely. We all have bad days and I've suffered with PTSD, because I've been to war and because I deal with outside circumstances as a Black man. I am not always 100 percent, and there are days when I'm at 10 percent and I don't want to hear it; I don’t want to talk. I don't feel like dealing with other issues right now. My wife has to give that 190 percent. She reminds me that she loves me and that whatever we have to discuss, we can do it later. It makes up what I'm lacking at that moment. That has been the key for us. We're able to be self-less. It's not about me. It's not about her. It's about US. We seek each other's best interests to ensure that we both survive. So that is what it is about for us.

MEAGAN: Awesome. I never thought of it that way, because I hear a lot of people say, they are only bringing 50 percent to a relationship. Why would you bring half of yourself to a relationship?

ZEKE: In dating, you never give 100 percent, because you're dating. In the dating, it is not a permanent process. Marriage is considered to be a permanent process. When dating you are gathering data, like you're interviewing me right now. You take that data, and you analyze it and put it where it needs to go. You’ll decide whether or not you want to keep something or take something out or even ask me to come back for another interview. Dating is the same way. You take data, you analyze it. You see if you want to keep that person and if that person passes your qualifications and then you can give a little bit more. But you never go into it giving all that you have, because there's no room to grow. That's one of the mistakes that a lot of people make. They date like they are married. You give 100 percent when you're married, so you can't date at 100 percent, or you’ll get your heart broken. 93 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

Did I have PTSD? Absolutely. ZEKE BOLDEN II


MEAGAN: Trust me, I have a broken heart right now, but I will pick myself back up. So, thank you for that. Zeke. I know that you mentioned you are a veteran, and I thank you for your service. If you're comfortable with it, can you speak about your military experience? I heard you mention PTSD earlier, so my question is, did you experience PTSD before or after leaving the military?

ZEKE: That's a great question. BOTH. I experienced PTSD before and during the military. My past is a shaky and rocky one. I grew up in the ghetto. I grew up watching my brothers do drugs and sell drugs. My older brother was a pimp, so I saw how he hung around in the streets. Looking at that and loving my brother and seeing the ‘glam’ of it all, I wanted to be like him when I grew up. I was trying to follow in his footsteps. It wasn’t only that. Being a male and having to deal with molestation from a male and a female… That set me off on a spiral of proving my masculinity. So there I was, trying to sleep with everything that moves, female wise. Was I scared, absolutely. Did I have PTSD? Absolutely. I had enough control though, to still maintain myself and join the military. With the military it just compounded because I got deployed to go to war. Here I am in my 20s and I'm thinking, I might not come back. We received these long speeches about what's going to happen and what could happen.

Everybody might not come back after war. Your senses are at an extreme height and everywhere you go, everywhere you look you're on edge. I was getting 20-minute naps, so I was not sleeping well. I had to learn to adapt. My eyes started to adjust to the night, and I was able to see well at night. With all of these factors, I'm shooting at people. I am seeing people get shot. I’m seeing people burning. I'm seeing lots of traumatic things. When you go back to where you came from, you can't unsee that. You can't unlearn that. Take it a step further, you can't even turn that off.

Once I returned back home, for the first six months, I couldn't sleep in a bed. I had to sleep on the floor. Even if I got in a bed some time during the night, I would get up and sleep on the floor. The nightmares, the night sweats, all of that stuff had me heightened.

I distinctly remember my daughters asking me if they could go to the store? My response was, “The store is only 10 minutes away, there are three lights from here to there, so if you catch a light, you end up being out for about 12 minutes”. I advised them to go in and get what they needed within 5 minutes, and it should take them about 17 minutes to go to the store and come back home. I didn’t want them to be a minute late. My wife reminded me that it was okay and to relax. I would snap at any little thing and was ready for any kind of action whatsoever. That affected my marriage for a little while because my wife was trying to figure out if I was her same husband. I said I was still the same, but she said I wasn't. When I finally humbled myself and accepted the fact that something's wrong, that's when I had to go and get some help. That’s when I found out it was PTSD.

MEAGAN: The situation was sad and great at the same time because you have a very supportive wife. Even in your relationship coaching, you talk to a lot of women and there needs to be trust involved. Your wife is a very confident woman as well. Can you talk or give advice to these newer military spouses? How can they support their husbands, especially those going into combat?

ZEKE: Well, the first part is, I can't really speak for every man, and I definitely can't speak for every Black man. For most Black men that I know who have PTSD, through our group sessions the conclusion is that it is a pride issue. No one wants to be labeled as crazy or that you have mental issues.We denied it until it became almost detrimental to our relationships. In the African American culture, because of our pride and because of police brutality and watching it every day on television, all of that adds to the PTSD, and we try to maintain the best we know how. For a woman who has a husband in this situation, the best thing to do is provide support. My wife was able to provide me with LOVE, PATIENCE and UNDERSTANDING, in addition to helping me feel like I won't be looked at funny or differently if I got help. She told me that she's going to stay with me and be there right beside me. I was also reminded that I served this country, and it’s time for this country to serve me. And she will be right there with me. For a long time, I refused to see a psychiatrist, and it wasn't until she started journaling different things that I was doing and different things that were happening. She was with me for life, and we were in this together. She encouraged me to see a therapist, and I got the help that I need. I take medication right now to keep me balanced and stable and keep me where I need to be. There's no shame in that. I thank God for that. As a Christian, it bothered me for a long time because I pastored as well for 25 years. As a Christian, we think sometimes that nothing but the blood of God can heal us from everything. We have doctors because not every issue is going to be healed. I broke down and humbled myself, and it was a double blessing for me. It was a double blessing because I got the help that I needed, and the military compensated me for it financially. 95 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

When I leave and get in my car, I check everything. I don’t want police trauma or drama. ZEKE BOLDEN II


MEAGAN: When you are working directly with women, how can you assure your spouse that you are only conducting business and your intentions are to help women find great relationships like she has with you?

ZEKE: Unlike a lot of men, I don't need anything else. I got my wife; she's all that I need. She brings me healing. She brings me restoration. She brings me comfort. I AM IN LOVE WITH MY WIFE. If it's not Pamela Watson Bolden, my wife, then I don't need anybody else. I'm constantly reassuring my wife how much I love her and how much I care for. Just before our interview today, I went to her job and took her lunch. I make sure she has flowers every other week at her job. I am constantly reassuring my wife. There are times when I cross the line because I get so passionate about relationships that I put myself in a lot of these scenarios because I've done a whole lot, and so my wife is typically listening in. She advises me to take myself out of the situation and not to use myself in this scenario because women will start seeing you in those scenarios and they'll be thinking about you versus somebody else.

MEAGAN: I agree with your wife. Everybody wants to find love. I want to find love. As you were talking, I had to hold back some tears because of the way that you talk about your wife is very admirable. You've mentioned her often, and you make it known that you are married and VERY happy. You can just feel the love through the phone. I just hope that everybody finds their true love one day because it's beautiful to witness.

ZEKE: Just to throw this out there, that's the mission that I'm on. There is no way I can keep this to myself. There's no way as God has blessed me and my wife's marriage for us just to keep it to ourselves. I am trying to get at least five people married this year and 100 folks hooked up together. But it is work. There are steps that you must take, and I believe God has anointed me and gifted me to do that and it's happening. I'm going to give it to folks who are listening and will be obedient.

MEAGAN: Recently, we all witnessed a Black woman confirmed to the US Supreme Court. Witnessing Ketanji Brown Jackson face discrimination and backlash because of the color of her skin was heartbreaking. As a Black man living in this world, how do situations such as police brutality affect you? How do you feel daily when you get in the car and leave your home?

ZEKE: Let me just be transparent and tell the truth. When I saw a lot of this stuff happening, it made me angry. I mean, really angry to the point where I was crying angry. To see things happen to Black people and the perpetrators get away with it…It’s heartbreaking. We see that as Black men, on a daily basis. It’s traumatizing and it affects us. I used to work in a prison. I’ve seen firsthand how the prisons are. I tell everybody all the time, I'm going to do the right thing, because I am not built for prison. I try to tell my friends, don't take chances and to do the right thing. When I leave, and get in my car, I am check everything. I do not want police trauma or drama. ∎

Connect with Zeke Bolden online:


Instagram: @zekebolden.relationshipcoach

Twitter: @zekebolden2

TikTok: @the_relationship_coach2 MEAGAN COPELIN

Founder of Mental Rich MEAGAN COPELIN is an international speaker, author, empowerment coach, blogger, contributing writer and podcaster. She is the founder of Mental Rich, a mental health company & brand, dedicated to helping young girls and women who suffer from mental illnesses, steaming from abuse, abandonment, and rejection. Meagan’s passion is to become a trailblazing voice for young girls and women worldwide. Drawing on her own experiences of mental illness due to abuse, rejection, and abandonment, Meagan uses her words to encourage others to build a home within themselves; to love, live, and create fearlessly. Her tremendous projects and efforts have helped her to be featured on several platforms for the purpose of empowering women to tell their story from struggle to success and live up to their full potential.


Leadership today is about taking care of the people responsible for the work, not just the work itself. IAN ADAIR




CREATING A WORK CULTURE THAT IS STRONGER THAN STIGMA What was initially thought to be a temporary separation from office life became a radical transition in our work culture today. The aftermath of this dramatic shift has moved mental health from being an occasionally discussed issue to a trending topic in the news – and one business leaders cannot ignore any longer. The aftermath of this dramatic shift has moved mental health to a new level of importance in the workplace and one for corporate leaders to address. The landscape of our workforce has drastically changed, and this has not happened without consequences to the workers themselves. Social distancing and remote work have separated us from our colleagues, service partners, and customers or people we serve — that separation has caused a great deal of emotional disconnectedness and loneliness. Because of this, it has never been more critical for leaders to develop and implement, employee mental health and wellness programs.

Leaders today have the responsibility to look after their people and that requires two very important elements: continuing education and the willingness to leave their comfort zones. The goal for leaders should be to promote the acceptance and inclusion of those managing a mental health challenge or suffering from profound grief and loss. Normalizing conversations about mental health is still one of the best ways to reduce stigma within the workplace.

Promoting mental health and wellness can positively impact employee retention and the recruitment of top talent. These investments can also show a significant improvement in employee engagement, morale, and job satisfaction. Nevertheless, where so many organizations fall short is how to act and when to start. Both the research and employees say that the time is now.

According to a study published in 2016 by The Lancet Psychiatry, for every $1 spent on mental health treatment such as counseling and medication, governments could receive a $4 return on their investment.

Leadership today is about taking care of the people responsible for the work, not just the work itself. Cultivating a culture of empathy, psychological safety, and wellness requires consistency and effort. Company leaders have the power to support their employees with dignity and compassion. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to instill the importance of nurturing an environment of openness to better support their employees.

Leaders need to openly show support in order for change to take place. When leaders are vulnerable about mental health and share their experiences or the experiences of those closest to them, it helps create transparency—and acceptance—in the workplace. Sharing stories makes it easier for employees to ask for help when they need it. These stories can also help take the fear out of their own disclosure.

According to the CDC, the workplace is an optimal setting to create a culture of health because of the following:

• • • • •

Communication structures are already in place.

Programs and policies come from one central team.

Social support networks are available.

Employers can offer incentives to reinforce healthy behaviors.

Employers can use data to track progress and measure the effects.


It’s important for business leaders to not only take this issue seriously, but to take action. IAN ADAIR


It’s important for business leaders to not only take this issue seriously—but to take action. However, many executives and managers still believe an employee’s mental health is none of their concern or responsibility. As mental health becomes more of a focus in corporate culture, studies continue to hone in on the impact mental illness has on the business sector and why companies should be concerned.

A 2019 Harvard study surveyed 1,500 people from each generational group and it showed that half of the Millennials and 75% of the Gen Zers said they had left jobs in the past for mental health reasons. With Millennials or Gen Z making up 75% of the current total workforce in the U.S., this study confirms a shift in focusing on mental health awareness. These two generational groups are also now prioritizing workplace culture, mental health and wellness programs, and benefits when choosing a company to work for.

Here are five strategies that any size company can incorporate, with little to no financial investment, in order to help cultivate a culture of empathy and support around mental health.

Create a Safe Environment:

• Make sure employees know it’s safe for them to discuss and address mental health related issues.

• This precedent should be set by executives, managers, and supported by all company leaders.

• Provide safe environments, both in person and online, to discuss and educate the staff on mental health-related topics, psychological safety, and wellness.

• Create and include a written mental health non-discrimination statement in the employee handbook.

Allow for Accommodations:

• It’s essential to support an employee’s effort to seek treatment by giving them the flexibility needed to work through mental health challenges.

• More flexibility in their work schedule for anyone suffering from grief and loss or a diagnosed mental illness. These flexibility options can include; working nontraditional hours, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, and time off to attend appointments.

• Supporting an employee’s need to take on fewer projects while adjusting to new medication.

• A move to a quieter work space or environment.

Share Stories:

• Sharing stories across all levels of recovery or of lived experience (living with a diagnosed mental illness or time as a care giver).

• Works best when executives and managers start this process, because when leaders are vulnerable and share their experiences, or the experiences of those closest to them, it helps create transparency and acceptance in the workplace.

• Sharing stories makes it easier for employees to ask for help when they need it; these stories can help take the fear out of their own disclosure.


• Educating employees and managers about mental illness can help leaders better connect with their teams to help build a mental health friendly atmosphere and culture at work.

• Promote mental health through in-service trainings, panel discussions, and workshops on mental health awareness and how to recognize signs of stress and poor mental health.

• Train managers and supervisors to be aware of the signs of mental health issues and how to respond to them appropriately.

• Strive for a supportive work culture and a stigma-free workplace by regularly addressing mental health, as well as utilizing national recognition days and months on the calendar.

Make Wellness a Priority:

• Wellness is defined as a state of good mental, physical and emotional health.

• Establish and promote an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

• Encourage work/life balance and promote exercise, healthy eating, and participation in leisure activities to improve mental health.

• Wellness programs can bring employees together and foster a friendly competitiveness in the office. 101 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION


“It’s critical that companies and business recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health.” Managers and executive teams have the capability to support their employees with understanding, care, and empathy. By providing safe environments to discuss, educate, and promote mental health and wellness, managers can cultivate the kind of work culture that can have a positive impact on a number of important organizational issues, including employee retention and engagement, staff morale, and the recruitment of top talent.

We are entering a very interesting period of this pandemic, where the adrenaline and fear have worn off and the crisis is subsiding. However, a number of challenges remain. As professionals begin to work out new flexible work options and return to the office, leaders have an opportunity to be more proactive moving forward when it comes to mental health and wellness. There are several ways organizations can help with this transition that also support employee mental health. Here are just a few helpful strategies:

• • • • • • •

Check-in and listen (regularly)

Practice gratitude

Create no-meeting days

Encourage self-care breaks

Celebrate small wins together

Make it OK to talk about feelings and uncertainty

Recognize and reward good work

It's critical that companies and business recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health. Those who invest and prioritize mental health, wellness and self-care can create a healthier work culture for their employees.

There is a clear business case to be made for the corporate sector to promote and invest in mental health awareness and self-care with their employees. Many Fortune 500 companies have started to implement efforts to attract top talent and improve the overall employee experience. By shining a light on the alarming economic cost of mental illness, research groups have encouraged those in the corporate sector to be more proactive and implement policies that can better support their employees' overall mental health and wellbeing.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Please take the time to share mental health resources, observe mental health specific calendar days, and share your story when you are ready. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the mental health professionals, care givers, and advocates out there who support and champion the millions of people suffering from mental illness and addiction every day. ∎

This article is dedicated to all my behavioral health colleagues - your efforts, work ethic, and kindness are seldom recognized but - to so many who suffer or in recovery - you are heroes!

Ian Adair has spent a career building successful nonprofits. A three time nonprofit CEO and TEDx Speaker, he is a recognized as an expert in leadership, fundraising, and nonprofit management. Ian is a speaker, author, and advocate concerning mental health awareness and addressing mental health in the workplace. He is author of the book, Stronger Than Stigma, A Call To Action: Stories of Grief, Loss, and Inspiration! Ian is the Executive Director of the Gracepoint Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Gracepoint one of the largest behavioral health organizations in the state of Florida. Gracepoint impacts the lives of more than 30,000 individuals each year, seeking mental health, medical, and addiction services in the greater Tampa Bay area. To learn more, visit:


…we felt inspired to create more than ever, because we were told that we weren’t allowed to. ADAM MORSE

ACTOR, WRITER & DIRECTOR Photo Credit: Hollyfield Productions 104 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION



THE CINEMATIC ARTISTRY OF RAISING AWARENESS A passion project conceived as a way to raise awareness for mental health and to champion diversity in the arts, the film SUPPRESSION is a story that follows troubled psychoanalyst John (Gary Beadle) who is assigned to evaluate the mental condition of detained killer Max (Adam Morse), the tables turn when the doctor is forced to look inside himself and face his own demons after being pushed to the edge by his patient. ALLIÉ: It’s interesting how dealing with someone else’s trauma often forces us to deal with our own trauma. SUPPRESSION is a powerful portrayal of this reality. Adam, you often sit in the director’s chair. However, this time you took center stage as one of the main actors. You also were involved in the writing for this film, while Julia Varvara (your partner) directed.

ADAM: It was definitely a moment where we felt inspired to create more than ever, because we were told that we weren't allowed to, and the restrictions in place at that time with the start of the pandemic meant that everybody was isolated from one another. There was no work and no play, because work is play for artists. And it was having a really negative mental effect on myself, Julia and everybody that we knew in the industry, to be honest. So we felt compelled to try and rally people together to create something. And the subjects for this film felt more relevant than ever because we were trying to promote a message about how important communication and the human connection is, which is why we set out to make suppression.

ALLIÉ: The artistry of short form films amazes me. The depth and details condensed in just 15 minutes, SUPPRESSION is a film that tells a story so relatable to so many on a number of levels. Start to finish, how long did it take to make these 15 minutes?

ADAM: It's so funny because I talk about this a lot, especially with features, but even with shorts. Two hours for a feature movie and then it's over. For the audience, it’s easy to forget that it took two years or sometimes five years to make these two hours. With suppression, we were making a short film, but still it was a year. Almost a year it took to create those 15 minutes. Because we weren't on a strict delivery timeline, as all our deadlines were self composed with all of our crew and team trying to work in between other jobs to get this film finished. We were very lucky that everybody believed in the message and pulled their talents together to make the film.

ALLIÉ: Adam, you often sit in the director’s chair. This time it was your partner, Julia Varvara, who was the director. In addition to being the writer for this film, you also took center stage as one of the main actors. What was it like playing the role of Max, a detained killer?

ADAM: It was a huge rush. It was so much fun to immerse myself into a character that's so far removed from myself. I think as an artist, you are always thriving when you are being challenged. For myself as an actor, I find when I'm trying to do things that are really out there… that really does push me to go to places that are deep and sometimes scary. And in this case, I had to occupy quite a strange head space. Whilst living with the character, I chose to stay in character on set. This was quite amazing to Julia because she saw some of the crew freaked out. Adam, just wasn't really there… When you get to do something like that, it's the most rewarding thing as an actor.


Almost a year it took to create those 15 minutes. ADAM MORSE

ACTOR, WRITER & DIRECTOR Photo Credit: Hollyfield Productions 106 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“Sometimes a person with a problem is the last one to see it.” ALLIÉ: Mental health conditions don’t discriminate. However, due to societal norms and the stigma surrounding mental health, men (especially black men) are much less likely than women to seek help. I feel your film offers yet another layer of awareness with your character selection, as the primary mental health issue belongs to a man - a black man. Was that level of representation by design from the start?

ADAM: To a degree, yes. We definitely felt that there was something to be said about a ‘strong man’ suffering silently. That made the message more poignant because we see it around us all the time with these strong, masculine characters around us in our own everyday lives, who try to put on a brave face and live up to a stereotype or an archetype. We felt that we needed to hold up a mirror with the film and show audiences that actually it's very unhealthy to live in this way, to not be in touch with your feelings, and to not be open with your thoughts. Typically, women generally do find it easier or more natural to share what's going on emotionally. It was absolutely the intention to reflect the harsh truth about gender archetypes.

ALLIÉ: As a filmmaker, in this day and age, how important is it to use artistic mediums to raise awareness?

ADAM: I think it's more important than ever because certainly we're living in a time that is very uncertain and filled with anxiety. There's a mental health epidemic pandemic happening right now that we seem to neglect the importance of at least in the media. The narrative has been so skewed… People are scared. People are either turning on each other or away from each other. Either way, it's just making for really disturbing scenes. I can see it all around me, but I believe that there is light through this moment and we will transition as a global society, as a global community. I think we can help each other so much through art. We can tell stories to show people what they can't see even though it's right there in front of us. It's so easy to be blind to what's happening around you. Sometimes a person with a problem is the last one to see it. And I feel like art, music, film… it has this really beautiful and unique way of cutting through and tapping into the consciousness of somebody, and there's power in that… it has power to change the world. ∎

Follow Adam Morse on Instagram: @themorseforce

Learn more about SUPPRESSION:



Illustration by: Cal Howard 108 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION



AUTHORING AWARENESS ONE TALE AT A TIME Born in Brooklyn, New York, Burt Kempner moved to Philadelphia when he was four years old. He was not consulted in the matter. He knew from childhood that he wanted to be a writer. He loved playing with words and coming up with new combinations and puzzles. As an adult, his work as a scriptwriter and producer won major awards in the television and film industry. It was in 2015 that he started writing children’s books. Over the course of this interview, you’ll see why I refer to him as the ‘Word Wizard’. ALLIÉ: You’ve worked with words in a number of capacities, Burt. As a news reporter, scriptwriter, and author, your work has been crafted by words. In 2015 you dedicated your work with words to children. What was it that called you to focus your time and talent on writing children’s books?

BURT: I was mostly writing documentaries before that, but with the rise of reality television, there was less and less need for the scripted word and much of my business fell away. During the first Gulf War, I remembered a story I’d written for my son when he was small about a narcoleptic blue whale who falls asleep while swimming to his feeding grounds. The ships ram him on either side and the captains, thinking they’ve discovered an uncharted island, claim it for their respective countries. They are about to fire on one another when the whale awakens and dives below. Will





“…Not tomorrow or when you think you’re ready. Write today.” BURT: (continued) the two navies still fight? They decide they’d rather sail to Jamaica and have a picnic. I decided to send it to some publishers and was clobbered, with them saying a war isn’t the best time to put out an anti-war book. What better time is there?? I finally found a publisher over 10 years later and the books started pouring out of me.

ALLIÉ: You are the author of 8 children’s books, ranging from ‘Larry The Lazy Blue Whale’ to ‘Monty The Movie Star Moose’ to a five-book series entitled ‘A School Of Animal Magic Adventure’. Is there a common thread that binds these books together? Is there a common theme that weaves them together?

BURT: Each features animals, of course. And, like Aesop, they contain very human foibles. One was about the futility of war, another about the shallowness of celebrity worship and the importance of being yourself, a third is a story about visualizing your way to health and well being, and the School of Animal Magic books touch on the issue of endangered species and what children can do to help them.

ALLIÉ: I recently read a book that instantly became very near and dear to me. It was your book entitled ‘The Five Fierce Tigers of Rosa Martinez’, please share the story behind this story.

BURT: Some years back I was put on some medicine by my then-cardiologist that I never should have taken. I almost bled out and found myself in the hospital, totally weak and, frankly feeling betrayed by my doctors. The second night there the door to my room opened and in walked five tigers. I wondered if I was hallucinating or dreaming but I was wide awake. I knew everything about them – their names, their personalities, their special abilities – and I knew they were there to help me. From then on I recovered quickly and completely. When I was discharged I decided not to let the story go to waste but adapted it for children, making the hero a young girl. I’ve heard of one mother whose son credited his tigers for helping him go into remission from leukemia. That touches me to my soul.

ALLIÉ: Let’s talk about another book of yours, Burt. Your most recent is ‘One Of Our Gorillas Is Missing’. Please give us a preview about what this story is about.

BURT: The headmaster of The School of Animal Magic is a wise silverback gorilla named Professor Quinn. When he gets a report that his impetuous young nephew has gone missing, he attempts to track him down in mountain gorilla country. When the good Professor vanishes himself It’s up to the school’s ace action team – a female elephant, a wisecracking cattle egret and a mysterious white lion – to find the missing apes.

ALLIÉ: Let’s switch gears for a moment from your works to your words. Because you are a writer, I have to ask you… Do you have a favorite word? In all the words of the English language, is there one that’s your favorite?

BURT: As a writer I suppose I should reply “royalties,” but my nod goes to “grace.” I’ve seen it in others and have sometimes been touched by it myself, and it never ceases to fill me with awe and humility.

ALLIÉ: For those who want to pursue a career in the service of others with writing, what advice do you have?

BURT: Start writing. Not tomorrow or when you think you’re ready. Write today. Then redouble your reading. And never, for any reason, give up or allow other people to tell you what to think about yourself. ∎

Learn more about Burt Kempner and his books:


A lot of times people need just one common connection to start building a relationship. MELENA STREHLOW




A COUPLE’S COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY COMFORT WITH FOOD Melena Strehlow and Noah Kohler met in Grand Rapids, MI in 2020. In addition to having a relationship together, they also have a business together. Noah and Melena are the founders of Cooking for Comfort. Each experienced their own traumas along their paths in life which have made them stronger. With this strength and life experiences, the foundation of their relationship is built on vulnerability, emotional maturity and open communication. This same base serves their business well, as they pair food with mental health. ALLIÉ: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” The opposite was true for Jack and myself. While he had my heart before he cooked anything, he’s an amazing cook! Me… not so much. Not at all, actually. Of the two of you, Noah and Melena, who’s the cook? And is that how you two connected – over food?

MELENA: Noah is definitely the cook, but I like to dabble in it sometimes. While it wasn’t necessarily how we initially connected (unless you count drunken bar food), it's definitely something we enjoy doing together now. Whether it’s Noah cooking us a meal while I’m sitting at the dining room table talking about our days or us trying a new meal together, we always have fun in the kitchen.





For us, it's all about creating a supportive community environment for our city through food. MELENA STREHLOW


“My uncle (I think) said if you ever have someone mad at you, take them out to eat over a good steak - no one could be mad while eating a good steak.” ALLIÉ: Before you two began your journey together of cooking and creating, you were on paths of your own dealing with issues of your own. I wonder if each would share a story of a personal trauma you overcame that made you committed to mental health awareness.

MELENA: Mental health became a large pillar in my life around the end of 2019 and through 2020. I experienced a significant amount of unexpected loss during that time that threw me for a loop. On top of those losses and continued processing of childhood trauma, sexual trauma and other losses, I sprung into a depressive state I had never experienced. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me and that’s when I realized it can really happen to anyone.

NOAH: After a few bouts of suicidal ideation, I realized that the stressors, worries and experiences I had weren’t all that uncommon (not to minimize what I experienced) and a lot of people could be feeling how I was. The issue was I never talked about it and continued to sit in it without doing anything to help myself. After this, I recognized that people do need to put in the work to talk about it and get the help they need.

ALLIÉ: There is comfort in knowing you aren’t alone on your journey. There is also comfort in food. The term ‘comfort food’ exists for a reason. What is that reason? Why do you think ‘food’ is so comforting?

NOAH: Food always reminds me of something - the taste, smells, environment, etc. Specifically, my mom’s cooking. I love our taco rice bowl because it reminds me so much of something my mom made when we were growing up. My uncle (I think) said if you ever have someone mad at you, take them out to eat over a good steak - no one could be mad while eating a good steak.

ALLIÉ: The kitchen is referred to as ‘the heart’ of a home. Perhaps that’s why everyone ends up in the kitchen. No matter how extravagant the party or fancy the occasion, the best conversations are always had with food. What do you think it is about eating together that makes talking together so much easier?

MELENA: Like Noah said before, food makes people happy. They are in a state of enjoyment when eating it which might make them more at ease and vulnerable. It's also something people can bond over. A lot of times people need one common connection to start building a relationship.

ALLIÉ: Recognizing the opportunity that eating together presents, you two founded ‘Cooking for Comfort’ where you elevate awareness for mental health through events with food, of course. Love to hear details about your events and your food. 115 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with Melena Strehlow and Noah Kohler


MELENA: We will do traditional food truck events like public festivals, food truck rallies, etc. along with private events like weddings, corporate events, and graduation parties. At our food events we will have local organization’s resources like brochures, pamphlets and business cards available for people to grab.

We hope to start partnered events in the future with local organizations to provide them a platform to share about the resources they offer - we’ll bring food and the people and they bring the content.

We also want to facilitate comfort events that highlight different comfort activities like yoga, painting, sports, etc. to help people find their comfort like we did with cooking. For us, it's all about creating a supportive community environment for our city through food.

ALLIÉ: Favorite comfort food? Love to hear your personal favorites.

NOAH: Ah man, that’s hard. Like a creamy pasta of any kind and any amount.

MELENA: That’s funny - I would agree with pasta. Specifically, mac and cheese. You can never go wrong with mac and cheese. ∎

Learn more about Cooking for Comfort:


To empower has been The Shift’s mission from the start… NADIA SARMOVA




When it comes to mental health, The Shift is on a mission to start the conversation and stop the stigma. The Shift Wellness Rally Los Angeles was recently recognized as a silver winner in the inaugural Anthem Awards, by the Webbys, for Health Community Engagement. A dedicated effort and deep commitment from The Shift team in partnership with KNEKT TV resulted in award winning advocacy for mental health. Today, we hear from Maureen Isern, Nadia Sarmova and Adrienne Finch from The Shift, along with Kent Speakman, Founder of KNEKT TV. ALLIÉ: Similar to the topic of ‘mental health’, when it comes to producing an event there are far more variables than constants. Yet in the middle of a pandemic, with more unknowns than knowns, The Shift produced an event series that elevated mental health awareness on a national level. Please share what shifts you and your team needed to make as you pulled together and produced an event series to start and support a conversation on mental health.

MAUREEN: It was all about improvisation. And deep, inexplicable trust in the vision by our creative leadership, with a special shout out to Kitty Overton who was driving our partnerships and impact strategy, and our entire post production team. It quickly became evident that just like mental health, live production is a moving target. It’s never just one thing at one time and it’s not a destination. It’s a journey and it’s a process and just like everyone else dealing





Our commitment was to reach people where they were… MAUREEN ISERN


MAUREEN: (continued) with Covid, we were grappling with fear, stress, anxiety and pressure in a totally new and much more publicly exposed way. Our commitment was to reach people where they were and provide something that could somehow be uniting and uplifting. We were really intentional about certain things, but we also had footage coming in up until days before the shows that we were editing into the vignettes. We had a rundown that was changing while editors were editing. We didn’t know exactly how the show was going to stitch together until the show was becoming what the show was becoming. We didn’t know if we’d even get enough footage to work with. So we were shifting down to the last second, down to live during the show. We were inherently learning so much about livestream and the tech integrations between what KNEKT TV and Virtualis Studios were building, and all of the nuances and risks that come with remote post-production and user generated content, and frankly our mental health in the process. Throughout all the work, the team was definitely stressed but also pretty strongly bonded by it. After the live show ended, I got back onto the team Zoom and seeing our production team, two dozen faces so committed, so driven to seeing this through, it was just evident how personally moved everybody was to be part of something like this. I think everybody on the team was involved on behalf of their own mental health, past, present or future, and on behalf of others they were thinking about – it felt like we were really in it to win it, to impact people by providing something that might make a difference to them now, tomorrow, or maybe down the road. The experience shifted us. And then after the Los Angeles launch, we did it again 15 days later for Chicago. 121 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

We wanted to speak with, not at young people about their mental health… NADIA SARMOVA


ALLIÉ: To create sustainable change, the conversation can’t be ‘preaching to the choir’. It has to be ‘speaking with the congregation’. That is, audience engagement is essential. Empowering those who are listening in to become those who start speaking up was necessary for your work. How did you accomplish this with your format and content?

NADIA: To empower has been The Shift’s mission from the start and The Shift Wellness Rally took that commitment to new heights. We wanted to speak with, not at young people about their mental health so we started by surveying 200 teens and young adults with questions like, “What would you like to experience at a virtual event about mental health? What topics would you like addressed? Would you want an opportunity to speak or ask questions at the event?” We even asked, “What event title sounds like an event you’d be most willing to attend?” Their answers laid the foundation for what would become The Shift Wellness Rally and then Mo Isern put her digital content expertise to work. In just a few days, with Mo at the helm, we birthed The Shift Wellness Rally format - a 60 - minute digital show that consisted almost entirely of user generated content. After that we rallied (pun intended) our respective skill sets to fulfill the vision. We invited young people and mental health advocates from The Shift’s network and our partners networks to record themselves answering prompts, sharing their mental health stories and to participate in group Zoom conversations which we recorded. The number of submissions we received was phenomenal and we got that young people really wanted to let it out and contribute to this conversation - so did their teachers, parents, coaches, counselors.

To engage audiences further, we also opted to incorporate interactive surveys during the live rally broadcast, an idea from The Shift Wellness Rally Co-Creator Kitty Overton, which added enormous production value to the show and established an open channel of communication with the people we most wanted to impact. Our partner, Virtualis Studios, helped us execute that interactive component seamlessly. To think that we rallied so many people when the world was in complete isolation due to covid - I still marvel at the team’s talent and commitment. It’s extraordinary!


I think one thing that’s so rewarding about breaking down barriers and opening up conversations around mental health, is the butterfly effect it creates. ADRIENNE FINCH


ALLIÉ: As the Lead Ambassador for The Shift, you were leading conversations while learning simultaneously. Because of the pandemic, plans were constantly evolving. When we spoke the other day, you mentioned that it’s not about being ‘perfect’. It’s about being ‘present’. How did the participants you worked with benefit from this series? What benefits did you and your team receive?

ADRIENNE: I think one thing that’s so rewarding about breaking down barriers and opening up conversations around mental health, is the butterfly effect it creates. Everyone, somehow, in some way, is affected by mental health struggles and it becomes this unifying experience when that common ground is found. Whether someone is interviewing, being interviewed, running the cameras, or watching a final piece, being present to others’ raw human experiences creates a palpable and powerful energy and you are reminded constantly how NOT alone you are in this world. And our goal, which we’ve seen happen again and again, is for participants, viewers, colleagues, to feel inspired to continue the conversations in their own lives. That’s what was so incredible for me about this whole experience, is exactly what you said Allié, that although we all led this conversation and this series, we also got to absorb so many amazing tidbits from it that we can bring with us through life and pull out in times of need. People benefited from this series in many ways - participants finding therapy in sharing their personal stories, and comfort in knowing their openness made a genuine impact on viewers, producers and viewers alike learning truly how many unique tools and exercises exist out there and how to use them.

This series not only told a narrative, but provided actionable, practical applications to bettering one’s mental health which I believe is so important when creating around this topic. This rally took time to curate and produce, and we would do it 100 times over. But what it also empowered us to do is find ways to continue providing value to the community in between larger initiatives. On May 2nd, we launched the “ABC’s of Mental Strength” instagram series (@abcsofmentalstrength) with our goal being to help make it easier to shift your mental health by providing small building blocks of mental strength through self care exercises.


…as I dipped into that moment I realized how special what we were doing was. KENT SPEAKMAN


ALLIÉ: As the official production partner for The Shift Wellness Rally Series, KNEKT TV was tasked with managing so many moving parts. Kent, as the founder of KNEKT, you and your platform are dedicated to creating, capturing and broadcasting conscious content to raise awareness. I’d love for you to share a particular moment in the event coverage you provided that personally resonated with you.

KENT: Well the whole process resonated with me, there were multiple teams in multiple locations and we actually had the broadcast headquarters set up in my living room with 6 locations total running interactive polls, the hosts, monitoring and then the logistics of a covid environment. While managing technical and workflow aspects of the project we had a lot going on and so the moment where Dr. Broderick Sawyer was teaching the breathing meditation was actually the only moment our brains had a minute to slow down and take in what was going on, so as I dipped into that moment I realized how special what we were doing was.

ALLIÉ: This production seemed to be a series of special moments that touched so many people in so many ways. To you and to the entire team at The Shift, we want to say thank you for helping us all become a bit more aware now. ∎


I wanted my kids to be able to navigate race in a really thoughtful way. JELANI MEMORY




A CONVERSATION ABOUT ‘A KIDS COMPANY ABOUT’ A book series, a newspaper, a podcast and an app designed to empower kids, A Kids Company About is creating content to spark important conversations. Built to tell stories that feature diverse voices on topics that matter to kids, A Kids Company About was founded in 2018 by Jelani Memory. His idea that started with a single book for his kids has become an entire media company for all kids (and adults). ALLIÉ: It began with a book. Jelani, please share the story behind the story you wrote back in 2018 entitled ‘A Kids Book About Racism’.

JELANI: I like to say it was sort of an accident. I've been writing for a really long time. I've always thought about publishing a book, but this was not one of those projects. This was a thing that I wanted to do for my kids. I wanted to make a story for them so they could know me better and also know themselves better and navigate the world in a more empathetic way. So, in the summer of 2018, which sounds like a million years ago, I wrote a kid's book about racism for my six kids. I had five (four step kids and one biological) and one new one on the way was going to be born in about a month at that time. I wanted my kids to be able to navigate race in a really thoughtful way.

So, I spent all of one week writing the book and another week designing it. I didn't bother to print more than one copy or even really go through the process of spell checking it. It was just a really fun project that I was really excited about





If it's mentionable, it’s manageable. JELANI MEMORY


“Kudos to my kids for their insight, intuition, and courage in being able to go there.” JELANI: (continued) doing for my kids. I don't think I understood the possibilities, but I packed all of myself into it. It was my kids who gave me the inspiration, the idea to turn it into more. It was their very first response. They were like, “This is amazing. You could make other books on other hard to talk about topics like divorce or anxiety or shame or death…” And I was like, “You know what? I never considered any of that”. Kudos to my kids for their insight, intuition, and courage in being able to go there. What I’ve found with all kids is that they have an appetite to go there. And what they're usually told by an adult is, “No, we don't talk about that.” Or “Not yet.” Or “I'll tell you when you're older.” I really credit my kids for not just the birth of my own book, but the expansion into this broad reaching collection now we have.

ALLIÉ: With regard to form and function, A Kids Company About functions through storytelling presented in multiple forms. Please share the many ways your content can be consumed.

JELANI: So, we publish in two different form factors right now. In the ‘A Kid's Book About’ series, which is sort of standard children's book, these are a bit longer, 64 pages instead of 32, and designed for five to nine-year-olds. They all tackle challenging, empowering, and important subjects. And then there's our board book series, ‘A Little Book About’ that tackles some really interesting subjects like activism, justice, sharing, and bravery. It's designed for that zero to four crowd; they are beautiful 24 page board books.

We've got a podcast network. There are 10 original shows all produced by us, ranging from topics like activism or interviews with our authors or climate justice hosted by a diverse group of different hosts available just about everywhere you can get your podcasts. And then last, but not least, is the video work that we do that's available on our app. Everything from guided meditations to master classes for kids who are 12+. We have live events and a lot of other really great content that we just hope empowers this next generation. We hope it encourages them and gives them the tools to navigate life.

ALLIÉ: It’s one thing to understand something, it’s another thing to talk about it. When it comes to our kids, in your opinion, Jelani, why is the latter so important?

JELANI: Well, at a very basic level, because our kids ask it of us, right? When kids ask that ever present question, ‘why’, they're asking us to speak, to talk, to use words. Grownups will talk a big game about the power of words, but when our kids lean in and respect that power and go, “Well, where do babies come from?” Or “What's happening in Ukraine?” Or “Why did this thing happen this last weekend?” Or “Where do we go when we die?” All of a sudden we don't know what to say, or what to do, or know if we should even be talking about it. We ask ourselves if it’s appropriate to talk about it. Yeah. I think it's really important that we, as grownups, use our words. We explain, we teach, we guide and we use what we have to offer. Even if that thing that we have to offer is, “I don't know, but let's go find out together.”

ALLIÉ: You have 6 kids. Jack and I do as well. That said, we understand that when you have children, each child is very different. How do you craft your content to apply to all kids and connect with each child?

JELANI: That's a really great question. I think it really comes down to two things. I think it comes down to authenticity. The storytellers that we bring on, whether that's video, audio, or our books, they have authentic stories to tell. I think that authenticity really connects with kids from anywhere and any walk of life. And then the second is that they all tell 131 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

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Exclusive Interview with Jelani Memory


“…authenticity really connects with kids from anywhere and any walk of life.” JELANI: (continued) those stories from a first person perspective. They are telling their own stories. There's something remarkably universal about the ‘personal’. We all walk around with our own stories to tell, our own experiences, and our own things that we navigate. I think as kids read it, instead of trying to go, “This is a morality tale for all people,” they think “This is someone's specific experience.” And they can take from it and pull from it things that are like them, but also learn about experiences that are not their own at all that are totally different and totally new for them. Being able to anchor it in that ‘personal’ creates that universal appeal.

ALLIÉ: I love your tagline: “Made to Empower.” Can you share a personal example, perhaps about one of your own kids, where they’ve been empowered by one of your stories?

JELANI: I can think of a handful of them. Two books come to mind; they're actually sitting on my shelf over here. One is our kid's book about ‘belonging’, which is the second book we ever made in our collection. And the other is a kid's book about ‘body image’. I think you'd be hard pressed to find any kid, especially a young girl, who's not walking through navigating both of those topics. Very acutely, especially as you talk about late grade school, early middle school. I know for a couple of my kiddos, those books have been really seminal and important for them to just understand themselves, their own emotions, their own thoughts, their own feelings and what they're navigating. We like to talk about the thing that Mr. Rogers talked about a lot, which is if it's mentionable, it's manageable. For my kiddos, the ability to mention to go, “I don't feel like I belong,” or “I do have issues with my body, and I'm trying to make sense of all that,” to just mention it makes this a thing that you can actually manage. ∎

Learn more about A Kids Company About:


False conceptions on mental illness has led to discrimination and negative attitudes toward people with a mental health condition. In my novel ‘Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind’ and film ‘Of Mind and Music’, I aimed to contribute to remove the stigma of Alzheimer’s. DR. NICOLAS BAZAN




According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. By the year 2030, 75 to 82 million people worldwide are projected to be affected by dementia. Interventions to delay or prevent cognitive decline and the onset of dementia are needed. However, despite research efforts clinical trials have failed and we have no effective therapies. As widespread neurodegeneration increases, more and more people are becoming interested in learning how to be proactive about brain health, disease prevention, and to foster successful aging. Translation of evolving knowledge about brain function and disease from the laboratory to patients is becoming possible due to the acceleration of new knowledge and a wealth of information about cellular and molecular details. At the same time, the evolving, urgent need to translate effective novel therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS, and more is a reality requiring acceleration of research and of translation of findings.

Dr. Nicolas G. Bazan at the LSU Health New Orleans Neuroscience Center of Excellence is rising to the occasion, highlighting the need for new approaches to the early detection of cognitive decline. He is bringing innovation and new ways to think about these critical healthcare unmet needs.

Dr. Bazan, who has published over 500 peer-reviewed publications and is currently serving as the Founding Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine , has devoted his life to deciphering fundamental cellular and molecular signaling in the early stages of neurodegenerations and other brain and retinal dysfunctions, including stroke. He aimed to understand how from within the body responses could counteract damage and induce resiliency. This line of thoughts brought him to explore and discover novel mediators that counteract early events in Alzheimer’s disease, experimental stroke, experimental epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and age-related macular degeneration.His ideas is that these chemicals are made regularly in our body to adjust functions and sustain well being.

To find new treatments for neurodegenerative conditions, he is reaching outside of his own research, breaking silos in order to build multidisciplinary approaches by actively working with others and with clinicians.

INTRANASAL DELIVERY OF LIPID MEDIATORS For many years, Dr. Bazan has been exploring routes of delivery of potentially “protective” mediators initially prompted by his study in 2003 when he and his colleagues discovered a new brain- made mediator that subsequently was named Neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1). This was a seminal study in experimental stroke aiming to decode neuroprotection (Marcheselli at al, 2003) . The proof of principle was that adding back the mediator after stroke brain protection ensue. A key early finding was also the demonstration that the memory brain region ( CA1 hippocampus) from post-mortem early-stage Alzheimer’s patients displays a 25-fold loss of NPD1 (Lukiw et al,2005). Most recently he collaborated with Prof. Marianne Schultzberg of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden to unravel the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease onset and early progression. A recent discovery made by this collaboration was that intranasally applying lipid mediators arrested memory loss and brain degeneration in an experimental model of Alzheimer’s disease (Emre et al. 2022). Lipid mediators are bioactive compounds derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 (DHA and EPA) . NPD1 is one of these mediators.. They are also signaling molecules that regulate a wide range of cellular responses, including cell growth and death, as well as infection and inflammation. Lipid mediators have unique properties and roles in inflammation: pro-inflammatory lipid mediators promote inflammation, and proresolving lipid mediators resolve inflammation. Response includes cell communications that order the activation of protective, pro-survival mechanisms and silence pro-inflammatory signaling pathways. Lipid mediators, such as NPD1, are the key signaling molecules in the process. 135 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

One of the major challenges of civilization is to understand how the brain functions and the onset of dysfunctions arise. DR. NICOLAS BAZAN


“…the greater the degree of cognition impairment, the higher the levels of the lipid mediators that promote inflammation.” INTRANASAL DELIVERY OF LIPID MEDIATORS (CONTINUED) This study revealed that lipid mediators rescue memory and other pathologies in experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease. The authors concluded that the noninvasive administration route, intranasal delivery, of biologically active lipid messengers opens avenues for therapeutic exploration for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

CEREBROSPINAL FLUID PROFILE OF LIPID MEDIATORS IN PATIENTS Another collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet identified a potential biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis that may also be a therapeutic target (Do et al. 2022). Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from three groups of patients— subjective cognitive impairment (SCI), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and patients with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease—revealed a shift in the profile of lipid mediators from pro-resolving to pro-inflammatory.

According to Dr. Bazan, neuroinflammation is a key early contributor and hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, which takes several years to develop into dementia. During that time, SCI and MCI can be used as intermediary diagnoses of increasing severity. The research team found that levels of pro-resolving lipid mediators were correlated with the severity of cognition impairment—the greater the severity, the lower the levels of the lipid mediators that resolve inflammation. They also found a relationship between cognitive impairment severity and proinflammatory lipid mediators—the greater the degree of cognition impairment, the higher the levels of the lipid mediators that promote inflammation.

This highlights the need for new approaches for the early detection of cognitive decline based on biomarkers of agerelated biological degeneration, including molecular aging markers in the blood, as well as the degeneration captured by structural brain imaging directly in the brain. As both of these markers have a high potential to inform and predict future cognitive status at the individual level, identifying biological blood-based, CSF-based and imaging-based aging markers associated with cognitive function in mid-life, decades before symptoms of age-related dementia present, may aid in the early detection of possible disease in people with mild symptoms and facilitate the identification of vulnerable individuals before the onset of irreversible neuronal damage and extend opportunities for intervention.

LIPID MEDIATORS IN STROKE One of the lipid mediators discovered in Dr. Bazan’s lab (Marcheselli et al,2003) also offers important clues in patients with hemorrhagic stroke. Their paper published by Biochimie this year (Iwuchukwu et al. 2022) is the first study to report the detection of NPD1 in plasma of patients with spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). Human studies on neuroinflammation associated with ICH have largely focused on protein-mediated inflammatory pathways with limited literature on other mediators. NPD1 is made in the brain and other peripheral immune cells on demand and counteracts inflammation and cell death. The finding of NPD1 abundance increases and the observation of higher levels in favorable outcome raises the hypothesis that lipid-mediated anti-inflammatory pathways may be an important biological mechanism in repair and neuro-recovery following ICH. Further experiments will explore further the therapeutic potential of NPD1 and related lipid mediators in patients with ICH. 137 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“Learning about the onset we are getting a glimpse of events that are engaged in causations.” OUTCOME In conclusion, lipid mediators rescue memory and other pathologies in experimental Alzheimer’s disease models, offer targets/compounds to slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and provide insight into neuro-recovery in stroke.

Dr. Bazan has implemented translational approaches for his discoveries on signals that allow understanding the rules of the life of brain and retina cells. He and his colleagues have uncovered that these signals made up inflammatory responses that evolve during aging and after injury. He began to dissect these molecular responses in stroke, TBI, pain, and other neurological and ophthalmological conditions, particularly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related macular degeneration.

He postulates that the rules of life are driven by low-abundance but very high-potency mediators that protect the integrity and survival of the brain and retina at the onset of diseases. Applying these discoveries, he is the founder of 3 new startup companies (,, and ). ∎ References Marcheselli VL, Hong S, Lukiw WJ, Tian XH, Gronert K, Musto A, Hardy M, Gimenez JM, Chiang N, Serhan CN, Bazan NG. Novel docosanoids inhibit brain ischemia-reperfusion-mediated leukocyte infiltration and pro-inflammatory gene expression. J Biol Chem 278:43807-43817, 2003. PMID: 12923200 Lukiw WJ, Cui JG, Marcheselli VL, Bodker M, Botkjaer A, Gotlinger K, Serhan CN, Bazan NG. A role for docosahexaenoic acid-derived neuroprotectin D1 in neural cell survival and Alzheimer disease. J Clin Invest. 115:2774-2783, 2005. PMCID: PMC1199531

Emre C, Arroyo-García LE, Do KV, Jun B, Ohshima M, Alcalde SG, Cothern ML, Maioli S, Nilsson P, Hjorth E, Fisahn A, Bazan NG, Schultzberg M. Intranasal delivery of pro-resolving lipid mediators rescues memory and gamma oscillation impairment in AppNL-G-F/NL-G-F mice. Commun Biol. 2022 Mar 21;5(1):245. doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-03169-3. PMID: 35314851; PMCID: PMC8938447

Do KV, Hjorth E, Wang Y, Jun B, Kautzmann MI, Ohshima M, Eriksdotter M, Schultzberg M, Bazan NG. Cerebrospinal Fluid Profile of Lipid Mediators in Alzheimer’s Disease. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Apr 1. doi: 10.1007/s10571-022-01216-5. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35362880

Iwuchukwu I, Nguyen D, Shirazian A, Asatryan A, Jun B, Bazan NG. Neuroprotectin D1, a lipid anti-inflammatory mediator, in patients with intracerebral hemorrhage. Biochimie. 2022 Apr;195:16-18. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2021.12.017. Epub 2022 Jan 4. PMID: 34990771

Support Dr. Bazan’s work with a donation to the LSU Health Foundation.

While LSU Health New Orleans strives to discover, teach, heal, and serve, LSU Health Foundation New Orleans strives to connect the needs for critical funding to those capable of providing critical funds.

Donations to support Dr. Nicolas Bazan’s work can be made here:

Please designate: ‘Medicine – Neuroscience Dr. Bazan Research’

Born in Argentina, MD, at the University of Tucuman in Argentina, trained at Columbia University P&S, NYC, and Harvard Medical School. He was appointed faculty at age 26 at Univ. of Toronto/Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. He is Founding Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence, School of Medicine, LSU Health New Orleans, inaugural founder of The Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair for Research in Retinal Degeneration (1984-), and appointed to the highest academic rank in the LSU System, a Boyd Professor (1994-). He is also a Foreign Adjunct Professor of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Learn more about Dr. Bazan:


Full of faith but a foulmouthed & repentant sinner in the same skin. LORI BUTIERRIES





Full of passion.

Detached from everyone.

Life of the party.

A wet blanket.



Talking a mile a minute.

Saying nothing.

One day proclaiming, “Make love to me,” and the next growling, “Don’t fucking touch me.”




Having a squirrel moment, jumping from task to task, or topic to topic.

Loving freely & fully but hate getting compliments or being comforted- receiving affection is hard for me.

Confident & bold.

Hyper-vigilant & on guard 24/7.

A leader.


Full of faith but a foul-mouthed & repentant sinner in the same skin.

Basically, I’m all over the place.

Being bipolar feels like a chaotic but choreographed battle between two equally skilled opponents.

It is a constant contradiction that makes sense at the moment—creating a person of cycling extremes.

I dislike the rapid mood swings but am content to teeter on the emotional brink for all eternity.

Well, until I'm not, that is. It is exhausting living like this.

The depressive episodes scare me, while my manic episodes scare everyone else.

I need balance- I think, but I'm not sure if that's in my best interest or not?

What if I don't like feeling “normal”?

What if leveling out the chemical imbalance in my head takes away my sense of self or creative edge?

What if I stop caring about anyone and everything, including my kids? 141 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION



I'm scared of trying meds again because, in the past, they have made me sick, turned me into a zombie, escalated my suicidal tendencies, and stolen my ability to orgasm during sex, to list a few side effects.

Sometimes it feels like the treatment is worse than the disorder itself, but if I don't toe the line, I get labeled a “noncompliant” patient, and I can’t risk getting my services revoked because I’m hesitant or have questions.

Why isn't there room for conversation between doctors and patients?

< big sigh >

Hear me out.

“Bipolar Me” is a person I know and am familiar with, and it took a long time to accept and not be ashamed of the diagnosis.

Progress is frustratingly slow, but I don't understand the rush to push pills down my throat when for 30 + years I’ve been managing the condition on my own, granted unknowingly, but still!

Regardless of how I feel, I am doing as instructed. Even if only after one 15-minute appointment, my new doctor already gave me a trial medication from her stash at the clinic without speaking to my previous physician first or creating goals or a plan of action.

I have trust issues, and the physician's assistant’s nonchalant attitude regarding my mental health is making it worse.

I guess we will all have to wait and see what happens next or how this plays out.

Wish me luck. ∎


Author, Navy Veteran & Mother of 2 with Special Needs LORI BUTIERRIES is a full-time caregiver to two children with special needs, one child being terminally ill and physically disabled. Lori uses her life experiences and the medical knowledge she gained while serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy to help others facing similar hardships. Lori focuses primarily on advocating for and educating others about the special needs, mental health, and veterans communities. Her long-term goal is to reduce the stigma associated with disability by talking about it with people of all ages, thus minimizing the fear and the mystery attributed to the unknown in this regard.


Education doesn't have to be all books and paper… MIRAN BHIMA




Miran Bhima is the President and Founder of an international nonprofit organisation. He has instituted numerous support programs to help people in need in over 30 different developing countries in alignment with over 8 UN Sustainable Development Goals. He has also brought awareness and helped countless refugees, orphans, and other underserved demographics in developing countries to gain access to quality education. In 2021, he won a Global Youth Award for Educational Change for his efforts and he joins me now. TANITH: Miran you are President and Founder of nonprofit organisation Strive2Thrive - what inspired you to create the platform at such an early age?

MIRAN: I feel it really has to do with my experiences witnessing inequalities not only within the states where I live but also abroad. Coming from an immigrant family, traveling back home and seeing those disparities on a global level, really was an eye-opening experience. And also knowing myself that education has been a big part of my life and has been really transformative for me as a citizen and as a person. I wanted to be able to help others grow in that same way.

TANITH: You have raised thousands of dollars helping build infrastructure in underserved communities. Please share.

MIRAN: So with our organisation not only do we support other organisations, local municipalities, and communities through conferences and academic support, but we also try our best to provide infrastructure because we understand that in the communities where we work, the infrastructure is really nonexistent or really low. Even providing something as small as a book shipment or a few tablets really does go a long way in supporting the youth in the community to have access to greater and more quality education.





TANITH: In addition to this you have built several alternatives to academic STEM programmes within the nonprofit arena - what are these programmes tackling and why do you think they are important?

MIRAN: A lot of the time organisations focus on STEM academics as you've already pointed out, but what we realised early on was something called the ripple effect. We've really tried to act on this. We raise awareness about civic engagement or volunteerism. We just held our conference in Togo a few months ago on civic engagement. We were trying to empower youth to understand the power of volunteerism and how they can make a difference in their own community. Building that sort of independence within the community and helping them understand what the benefits are of giving back.

TANITH: You have talked about growing up in the U.S as a person of colour and experiencing and observing many acts of social injustice. How did this impact you and drive you to inspire others?

MIRAN: The USA has its own set of problems, especially as you mentioned, people of colour in that community. I guess the number one thing has been placing myself in different shoes, understanding that I have my own experiences, but then other people have their own experiences too, and realising that people have their own values that they can bring to the table. Something that I've done within my own organisation is made sure that when I'm working with others, I'm bringing a diverse group of people together. My team in our organisation really focuses on this, since we work with so many different cultures and ethnic groups, we want to make sure that we are receptive to everybody’s needs, but also to their cultural values and, and social norms. We feel that once we're able to have a good balance of mutual understanding, that's when the real change happens when both parties are understanding of each other and willing to work together.

TANITH: Miran, you are tackling so many different issues, all of which are massively important, but if you had to pick one thing that you think would change humanity, what would it be and why?

MIRAN: That’s a great question. I’d have to go back to what the core is of our organisation and I think that's education. Education comes in so many shapes and forms that I feel that it's so powerful in terms of supporting communities and making transformations. Education doesn't have to be all books and paper, it can be outside of the classroom learning. It can be diving deep into a community or a culture and learning that way. I feel like when we're all more aware and educated on topics, such as global educational disparities, we're more willing to help out and I feel like that’s really powerful.

TANITH: What are your hopes, goals and aspirations for the future and how can people get involved or support the work that you are doing?

MIRAN: In the fall of 2022, I’ll be attending Duke University and I will be engaging in the natural science programme. I'm not sure what my major will be yet but I'm hoping to do something with global health and continuing that theme in my life. Experiencing education and diving into cultures around the world is really important to me. I'm interested in pursuing a career as a doctor, but then also continuing my work in the nonprofit sector. People who want to get involved can do so in many ways. We have field volunteers that are outside the US that are working in various countries on the ground, but then we also have opportunities for people wanting to stay more in their homes or in the community as remote volunteers and online volunteers. Of course, there's always the donation option, which we greatly appreciate. Lastly, even as small as spreading the word about our organization goes a long way. ∎

Follow Strive2Thrive on Instagram: @strive2thriveedu

Connect on Facebook: TANITH HARDING

Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.



It’s not saying,“You should,” it’s saying, “You could.” JILL BAUMAN




IMAGINE LA: MENTORING WITH SUSTAINABLE SUPPORT How do we end the cycle of family poverty and homelessness? Together… as one. Imagine LA prevents first-time and repeat homelessness and equips families to maintain housing stability and thrive longterm. Together with families they transform lives through a unique combination of clinical case management, economic mobility pathways, and whole-family mentorship. Jill Govan Bauman is the President & CEO of Imagine LA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing the community to ending the generational cycle of homelessness and poverty. JILL: People don't want be homeless. They get there and go, “Huh?! How did these stepping stones end me up here?” What's interesting from a statistical viewpoint is family homelessness. Imagine LA is 1000% dedicated to families — ending homelessness and poverty. With family homelessness, over 90% of it is either driven by economics or domestic violence. People get into this mindset of homelessness and say it's drugs, it's mental health, it's this, and it's that… But for families, it's economics, that may be because of a health issue, that may be because of a job loss, that may be because of five other things happening at the same time that you didn’t have no control over. It's economics. You can't pay the rent or you’re fleeing for your safety and your mental health. And that may also be economic because you were in a relationship where you were stranded. The money dominance was the power… You stayed is because you didn't have any money.

ALLIÉ: In addressing homelessness, it’s a matter of looking at the ‘why' of it, right? You have said that you want to do the research. You referenced an iceberg. We have to understand what’s below the surface before addressing what’s above the surface. If we’re only fixing what we see, we're not fixing the right thing, right?

JILL: Yes. And I like to think of it as not necessarily ‘fixing’ but ‘embracing’. Once you know what's going on with the family, where they are and where they want to go, you can come alongside and help… but you're not ‘fixing’. They're doing the work ultimately. They're saying ‘yes’. They’re showing up. They’re doing the work. They’re saying yes to mentorship, yes to a new job, yes to getting regular checkups, and saying yes to getting help too. That's one of the things I've really learned over the years, is coming alongside in a human way and providing choices. It’s not saying “You should.”, it's saying “You could.”

ALLIÉ: It doesn’t seem that complicated when you put it like that.

JILL: It's as basic as that. I think we, especially people with privilege, do the ‘down the nose’ thing and it is just not productive on any level. The dynamic is terrible. One of the things Imagine LA is dedicated to is bringing people along. We say, “Imagine LA together.” You've seen that on our logo, we're about bringing every possible resource and every kind of relationship to the family and doing it together. Our training for our mentors and for anybody that comes into contact with our families is called ‘embodying equity’. It's about coming alongside and really trying to see the world from their lens and then going forward. 149 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“With family homelessness, over 90% of it is either driven by economics or domestic violence.” JILL: (continued) I’ve had a lot of friends or just people that have come through Imagine LA and be mentors. One of my favorite things about what happens is this… inevitably there is a point in this relationship where the mentor's mindset goes from “I'm the hero” to “This mom is the hero… The fact that she has kept her family together and navigated all this and is ready, willing, engaged and moving forward is mind boggling to me. I don't know that I could have done it.” That's the moment I call ‘The Hero Switch’. It’s the switch over. The moment that happens, we’re all really together. It's a really wonderful moment. It's a great moment. So, Imagine LA, as I said, we are all about trying to bring all of whatever we can to the family, to melt that iceberg, to literally embrace it and melt it together.

We started with trying to do the mentorship and case management. The mentorship has gotten much more sophisticated. Our case management has gotten much more sophisticated as well. Ultimately, we've got funding for it, to do it the way we want to do it from the Department of Housing for Health. They're incredibly openminded and innovative. They love our outcomes so they let us do what we do, which is great. It’s allowed us to grow from three families to over 200. We’ll do almost 300 this year.

We came alongside the family. We were helping them root in their new neighborhoods — whether it's school, whether it's healthcare, whether it's the grocery store, whether it’s transportation because a lot don't have cars, some do… whatever it was. We help them root in their new neighborhoods and get jobs in terms of the parents and the childcare and all that's needed. But then we observed that they really weren't, with few exceptions, getting out of poverty. And so we decided to lean into this. It's really hard if it's a single mom; it's really hard. Do the math.

You work 40 hour a week at minimum wage. Ccan you pay the rent on that? Can you do the groceries with that? I don't think so. When we're talking about $600 a week, maybe not when rent is $1,800 or maybe $2,400. Your take for the entire month is $2,400, and that's before taxes. It's really hard to look at how can you get financially independent, which is ultimately what getting out poverty means. So, we decided to lean in and lean in a big way into four things because our goal is to create economic mobility for our families, to again give them choices where if they decided to lean in, they were going to watch their financial independence grow, and their confidence and their kids' confidence.

So, we leaned into finding living wage job pathways that were viable for them, that could be taught or apprenticed in 3 to 12 months. They needed to, because we have a two year program and we wanted to make sure they had all the supports during that time. Then we were also looking at childcare. What is going on with the system? How can we navigate it? How can we make sure we can get them viable, safe economic childcare? And we've cracked that code and really have figured out how to navigate to help them get what they need. The third bucket is how do they gain financial fitness? How do they build financial fitness? Whether it's workshops, one-on-one coaching, or a savings matching fund, what is it?

We've pulled that all together, and we have a savings matching fund, we also have a family investment, an emergency fund, so the families can get through the bumps or take advantage of opportunities where they have to put up a little money for a uniform or books. The last piece was navigating the social benefit system. For many, they finally get some benefits and they earn a little bit more money and then some benefits get taken away. Does that mean they 150 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

JILL: (continued) shouldn't be earning more money? What is going on here? Some are really afraid of losing benefits. So, we really dove into all of that. We have now nine different pathways. We've got our childcare, we've got our financial fitness curriculum, and we partnered with USC to look at the 30 different benefits that are out there. There are about 14 that are long term benefits. We actually mapped out what happens to each of the 14 benefits as you make money, how they intersect, where does something fall down, or which other benefits can prop you up. There are situations where once you get to a certain income level, which is around $15,000 a year (not a lot), where every dollar you make, you get a dollar gone and benefits. So you have this plateau. You have absolutely no reason to make more money. I mean, unless you could make way more money.

ALLIÉ: It's like feast or famine, right?

JILL: Yeah. So we're now with this data, we're actually making a calculator for not just Imagine LA families, but for all families and for all case managers to help them actually see what's going on and what will happen so you can project it out. This gives, again, power to make choices. We're eventually going to be linking that into the living wage pathways… So I’m super excited about this and then not only are we doing that, we formed a policy group around social benefits and their impact. With this work and with the being able to look at it so transparently, what benefits if we change the structure with recommended policy change will actually help the benefits act like a springboard out of poverty as opposed to what I call ‘a sticky spider web’. The other thing that our research found that we didn't know because we've worked with families once they've hit bottom, is that the benefits safety net is not catching people before they fall. You basically have to hit rock bottom first. I didn't know this. And the researchers from USC didn’t either. So, there are some policy changes that could potentially help prevent homelessness. So, we're looking at that too. We’re looking at not only making the social benefit system a springboard out of poverty, but also actually potentially more of a net to catch you before you get to the devastation of homelessness. ∎

Learn more about Jill’s work and Imagine LA:


I’m being called to hate. I will not answer that call. BURT KEMPNER



I AM BEING CALLED I am being called to hate.

I will not answer that call.

I am being called to fear.

I will not answer that call.

I am being called to renounce my humanity.

I will not answer that call.

But call me to love and respect each living thing,

From the largest to the smallest,

And my voice will come back to you

Circling, circling, eternally circling.

Let love and sanity prevail.


Writer & Producer BURT KEMPNER is a writer-producer who has worked professionally in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. His work has won numerous major awards, and has been seen by groups ranging in size from a national television audience in the United States to a half-dozen Maori chieftains in New Zealand. Spurred by his love for inspiring young people, he started writing children's books in 2015. Learn more about Burt and his books at his website:


…I felt called to more deeply explore the world of the mind. DR. JENNY MARTIN




A CALLING TO SERVICE, A CALLING TO HEALTH In July 2005, one of my favorite humans died by suicide. One of the most brilliant musicians, kindest souls, and best of friends had succumbed to mental illness at the tender age of 20. I was lost. I was reeling in confusion and pain, and I found myself grappling with questions that seemed to have no answers. “How could he do this?” “Why didn’t he get help?” “How could a mental illness lead to such a drastic, permanent decision?” I was an undergrad studying music at Berklee in Boston, and my understanding of mental health and illness was rudimentary at best; I was left in utter shock that someone I loved so dearly could be gone from a choice that seemed avoidable. Over the next three years, I pursued a career path in songwriting and music and simultaneously was working to grieve my dear friend’s untimely death. In my spare time I found myself writing songs about life, grief, and the wonder of the human experience. I found myself processing the loss of my friend through the experience of music, yet I did not feel myself healing. I stayed awake many nights haunted by the idea that he “chose” this ending. As time progressed I felt called to more deeply explore the world of the mind. Likely in an attempt to understand Kevin, I made the decision to apply to doctoral programs in clinical psychology.

The next six years were defined by study and experiences aimed at learning the nuances of humankind. What I had not realized before beginning, though, was that the core of a doctorate in clinical psychology revolves around better understanding yourself. The program forced my confrontation of past traumas, fears, insecurities and unresolved loss. I was pushed to look at myself in new ways that allowed me to understand the limitless layers I possess. In doing so, I came to also understand the multitude of layers in others. Nothing is as simple as it seems.

As my comprehension of mental illness became more sophisticated and I came to understand the battles my friend was fighting, my compassion and heartache grew tenfold. As I came to understand the limitations of our mental health systems and ways in which so many are failed, my passion for reaching those in need ignited. Kevin had received significant support. He had a loving family and resources and access to care. And yet, still, the beast of mental illness overtook him. I knew by this point my life’s mission would involve connecting with those who are suffering in service of offering hope, guidance and support. I also realized that my own health and wellness depended upon engaging in such meaningful work.

In 2016 I opened my private practice, Gemstone Wellness. I sought clients working through existential worries, fears and challenges, and I found myself continuing to heal along the way. By connecting in authentic, deep and meaningful ways with others, I found and forged my personal path towards contentment and value. 155 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“…my path has crafted me into the strongest tool I can be to hold space for those in the throes of pain.” I know nothing I do now has the power to save Kevin or those we’ve lost along the way. I also know I have very limited power to protect anyone from the demons of mental illness. What I do know, though, is that my path has crafted me into the strongest tool I can be to hold space for those in the throes of pain. And, in doing so, I am able to access the most powerful, important parts of myself. I cherish this gift, and I promise to never forget the path, and people, who brought me here. I’m looking at you, Kevin. ∎

Jenny’s practice, Gemstone Wellness, is located in Chicago, IL and focuses on providing trauma-informed, culturally sensitive care. Her book, co-created with her sister, Kristen, targets anxiety management and self understanding and is available at To learn more please follow @gemstonewellness and @yourtherapistisanxioustoo on Instagram.


Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Author & Awareness Ties Official Ambassador DR. JENNY MARTIN is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Chicago, IL. Her private practice, Gemstone Wellness, specializes in working with adolescents and adults touched by depression, anxiety, trauma, loss, purposelessness, and issues related to race, sexuality and gender expression. Jenny possesses an extensive background in the arts, specifically in music, and she enjoys incorporating creative mediums to facilitate emotional expression. Jenny received both her Masters Degree and her Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She completed her Bachelor's Degree in Music and Songwriting at Berklee College of Music.



I asked God to reveal if he was real because I didn’t know if I would make it to the morning. WALTER MENDENHALL




FEATURING WALTER MENDENHALL FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MALE MOGUL INITIATIVE In the silence of the night while Walter was in college, he laid in his room contemplating to commit suicide. Balancing the demands as a collegiate football player and suffering from deep depression, in that moment, Walter needed to desperately ask one question... My cofounder of The DH Effect, Hilary Bilbrey, and I, interviewed Walter Mendenhall for a podcast episode last February 2022. We were excited to have him share the story behind Male Mogul Initiative, being familiar with his history playing for the National Football League (NFL) and finding a new purpose that led to an educational movement for young men throughout the city of Chicago. What we didn’t know was the story before that. When Walter shared his darkest moment struggling with mental health, we knew his story needed to be shared.

Walter said, “Growing up in a single-parent household raised by my mom, I was seeking male affirmation as a child, which I wasn’t able to get. My affirmation and self-worth came from sports, and for a while, sports kept me on the right path.” However, when Walter was playing college football, he began to struggle as he was being mistreated and verbally abused daily by his coaches, using an old-school strategy to break him down mentally. He mentioned that to this day, many coaches believe that this strategy of coaching makes athletes stronger; however, you never know how that negativity sits with people. For Walter who was craving male affirmation, it didn’t sit at all. Instead, it tackled his mental health.

Walter shared, “When sports were over, I didn’t know who I was outside of football. As I laid there on my bed that night, I had to ask one question. I asked God to reveal if he was real because I didn’t know if I would make it to the morning.”

Once Walter asked this question to God, he felt a presence enter the room, feeling held like a newborn baby and fell into the most peaceful sleep he had ever had in his life. When he woke up, his circumstances didn’t change, but his attitude did. He decided that he was here for a much larger purpose. He knew there was more to his life than his achievements or what he did. He had work to do… to be, to become.

Walter relied on the football team’s chaplain and therapy, and committed to a long-term process of getting better to love and affirm just one person, himself. Aligned with the mission of The DH Effect, we understand Walter’s need to find who he is. With Walter, we believe living a purposeful life that utilizes our gifts and talents are anchored to truly seeing ourselves as we are, not what we do.

Rooting to the values of humility, service and discipline, Walter eventually became a youth program director for a local nonprofit agency on the westside of Chicago. It was a Career Day event when he met an amazing young man. He had all the things - great grades, honor roll, basketball player, and was well-respected by his school community. He was also selling drugs in order to get the things he wanted. Walter couldn’t stop raising the questions: How many young men in this city, this state, this nation need to learn the skills to be successful business leaders and entrepreneurs? How can these young men get access to change their mindset, hearts and personal narratives?

Walter responded to his own questions by starting a small group at a local church with just five teens. He showed them different ways to earn money with integrity. That group developed into running their own store, designing and selling our own merchandise, connecting teens to paid internships, and providing work and leadership programs in schools throughout Chicago. 159 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

If you don’t know who you are, then you don’t know why you matter. WALTER MENDENHALL


What started as solving one problem led into a movement called Male Mogul Initiative. Walter clearly defines his purpose to “positively transform the way people live and lead in their communities. I help a generation realize their potential, and make the impossible possible in their lives.”

Male Mogul Initiative starts with what they call “three foundational questions of manhood”:

Who are you?

Why do you matter?

What’s your purpose?

Walters states, “If you don’t know who you are, then you don’t know why you matter. If you don’t know why you matter, you won’t know your purpose.” Walter believes that if you don’t know the answers to these foundational questions, people will let their environments determine those answers. If you live in a low-income environment, then those environmental factors are often negative.

When it comes to the education system these young men are at, Walter quickly observed that these teens forgot how to imagine and innovate. He created a program that gives time and space for these students to return to their authentic creative selves so that they can release the habit of memorization and regurgitating information and transform to being collaborators, critical-thinkers and creative problem-solvers.

The Male Mogul Initiative has four phases in its program:

Phase One: They are in schools teaching young men on how to change their hearts and mindsets. For 16 weeks, they answer the foundational questions while building trust to one another and creating the bonds that will help them remain in the program for the long term.

Phase Two: They provide after school programs where young men explore and utilize their gifts and talents to create their first product or service.

Phase Three: They assign a summer paid internship working with an entrepreneur or running the Male Mogul Initiative store.

Phase Four: They offer a workforce development program, called the Gap Year, partnering with business leaders, companies and organizations who will work with 18-24-year-olds who are not in school or working. More specifically, they identified many students graduating high school through the pandemic who felt unprepared for higher education and the workforce. This phase helps with social emotional learning in a work environment by having a thought partner to help overcome obstacles they have, and also provides paid-for education with the local community colleges.

The goal for Walter and the Male Mogul Initiative is to have teens stay and build the communities they live in. If they are not in control of their economic circumstances, they will be forced to respond to their environment. Walter warns his young men “You must take control of your destiny. You don’t want your destiny controlled by someone else or an economic situation.”

Currently, the Male Mogul Initiative is based in Bronzeville on the south side of Chicago, historically deemed as the first African-American community in Chicago. They are also moving into a space in downtown Chicago where they will be running their Phase Four program. Walter’s focus is to get his students moving forward mentally and financially from a place of survival to a place of sustainability.

How can you help?

Walter is looking to build momentum in partnering with companies and workforce development programs supporting 21st century careers related to STEM. If any individual, organization or company is interested in sponsoring a student or has resources to support the Male Mogul Initiative, Walter would love to have a conversation with you. 161 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“If you don’t know why you matter, you won’t know your purpose.” Jarice’s Story:

Jarice was a freshman going into his sophomore year of high school, living in the most dangerous parts of Chicago. He stayed with the Male Mogul Initiative program throughout his high school and college years until he earned his Associate Degree. He now works for Male Mogul Initiative as an assistant facilitator, making an impact in the classroom who is able to connect to his younger peers in unique ways. Once a participant, Jarice is making an impact as a community leader and role model. ∎

To get another view of Walter’s impact, check out this video:

For more information about Walter Mendenhall and to partner with Male Mogul Initiative:


Co-Founder of The Decided Heart Effect SONJA MONTIEL has served more than twenty-one years in the college admissions profession, having extensive experience in the areas of freshman, transfer, and international admissions. During her time working with thousands of teens and young adults worldwide, she began to witness many societies creating an unhealthy college-bound culture that misguides our young people in their pursuit of living a life of fulfillment. In 2021, Sonja met Hilary Bilbrey to begin something amazing. They created The DH Effect – The Decided Heart Effect with a mission to guide individuals, schools, and organizations to build high-trust relationships and belonging through self-discovery and personal accountability.


What would become of us? THI NGUYEN




PART 4: MORE QUESTIONS, LESS ANSWERS To our surprise, there were many other Vietnamese refugees on this island. It was a mini bustling city of hustlers sizing us up upon our arrival. Makeshift shelters sprawled across the sandy beach as far as the eye could see. How long had these people been here? We were approached by a gentleman who seemed to know his way around. He quickly realized our dire situation and decided to make us an offer. "Help me get off this island and I'll help you fix your boat." He claimed to have access to parts that were needed and had experience in fixing them. We asked why he hadn't been able to leave and his response was that no one could add him to their family list and he didn't have paperwork to leave the island. What paperwork? What was he referring to? Who decides if one can go or not? Who was in charge of this island?

There was another boat that arrived shortly after us. They have been drifting for months and upon arrival didn't say much. The passengers looked famished, quietly deboarding with one crying uncontrollably. He must have been 15 years old, maybe younger. We later learned in order to survive, the passengers on this boat ended up participating in cannibalism with one of the passengers who had passed away due to starvation.

It turns out 2 brothers set out together alone on this journey and the younger brother became weak, without food, water, or land in sight. As hours went on for days, days went on for weeks, and eventually, the passengers found themselves without food and water and no strength to steer in any direction. With a lack of nutrition, drinking water, and no food, unfortunately, the younger brother passed away while at sea. The older brother mourned his death for days, if not weeks. Although skin and bones, his brother’s body provided salvation for the other passengers to survive in order to make landfall. It was shared that after this incident the mental state of these passengers was not the same, especially for the older brother who had to choose between surviving or parishing in the open water.

Stories as such seemed to be the norm amongst some of the other survivors on the island. We continued to hear tales of pirate attacks, rapes, murders, deaths, and the will to live amongst these weary travelers left. Looking around, you realized that these individuals are the lucky few who actually survived the journey. It seems we were considered very lucky to have gotten this far.

We discovered this island was not part of the refugee camp. It was a midway point and although we had no way of reaching our loved ones here, at least we had a place to rest and wait while our boat got fixed. 165 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

I urge you to be kind to those you meet because you truly don’t know what they had to overcome to be here. THI NGUYEN


“Arriving here we found more questions than answers.” What next? What would become of us?

Would we also be stuck like the family who had been here for over eight years? Would we be able to make our way to the refugee camp and processing center like others who have left before us? Which direction were we supposed to travel and where were we supposed to go? How long would it take us to get there?

Arriving here we found more questions than answers. At least we made it safely and now we had to figure out how to fix our boat to continue on the next leg of the journey… ∎

These stories like the ones before are a compilation of my personal experiences as well as the experiences of those refugees who survived the journey that I’ve been fortunate enough to hear firsthand. Their strength and resilience through such ordeals as rape, cannibalism, war, murder, and pirated attacks are nothing short of amazing. Each time I come across someone who is a refugee, I want to hear their stories and understand all the obstacles they had to endure to make it here, wherever that may be.

For this month of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I like to remember those we have lost along the way, celebrate the milestones we’ve made as a community, and congratulate all who thrive despite the many hardships and obstacles. I urge you to be kind to those you meet because you truly don’t know what they had to overcome to be here. You don’t know the stories written in the fabric of their existence. Don't forget to follow along @GoGreenDress on Instagram for more inspirational messages and images. I hope you will join me for the next chapter of this multipart series as I continue to share stories of the Vietnamese refugee journey.


Nonprofit Consultant, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist THI NGUYEN brings with her over 2 decades of non profit experience as a participant, advisor, board member, consultant, volunteer and research and development specialist. Her expertise combining technology to further advance the vision and mission for philanthropic causes has allowed her to serve as a trusted partner with many notable organizations large and small. Thi has experience working with organizations focusing on combating various global issues such as: human sex trafficking, homelessness, poverty, fair wages, global warming, malnutrition, gender equality, humanitarian assistance and human rights. She's currently developing an app to connect individuals and corporations to assist nonprofits in furthering their vision and mission.


Asking for help is wrongly associated with giving up control. PAUL S. ROGERS




Release The Genie Fact: A Genie Does Talk About Bruno. I thought, for this month's article, we would have a game, you, the reader, and myself, to see how many of the phrases below sound familiar or you have heard someone else say before. No judgment, I am guilty of them all!

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it”.

- Marc Amend.

Wow! A fantastic quote! And if you are like me, each part of that phrase is as important as the other. I admit I have to get a lot smarter and braver. If you are one of the smart and brave ones, you are my hero.

One of my all-time favourite and fun questions to ask people who I am interviewing or have coached is “Who is your hero? And why?” The reason I love this question is that with the qualities they love and admire most about their hero, they are actually unknowingly describing the best qualities of themselves. Try it out, you will be pleasantly surprised.

“We define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and in turn our ideals define us.”

- Scott Labarge

It seems that we can, with great ease, talk about other people's qualities that we admire. However, it is a different story when it comes to talking about and recognizing these same qualities in ourselves.

It is the same when we are preparing resumes or introducing ourselves. Everyone at some time has thought “Why don't I just ask my friend to introduce or write this for me?” How much easier that would be! Instead, there is this uncomfortable sentiment holding us back from blowing our own trumpets; bragging or showing off is generally frowned upon.

Is it any wonder then that we find it so difficult when it comes to asking for help for ourselves? We would rather struggle in silence than make a fuss. One of the reasons I love this magazine is that, every month, we witness stories of people bursting these disempowered illusions. I believe that these stories of overcoming the odds gives the rest of us hope to do the same.

Personally, I have come to realize that asking for help is wrongly associated with giving up control. In a situation when you feel out of control, any scrap of self-reliance becomes an island.

I live in French-speaking Quebec and my medical team has great fun teasing me about my British stiff upper lip approach and masterful understatements. For example, when my surgeon asked how I was doing before my brain surgery, I replied “It could have been worse.” He later told me he wanted to say “Yes, you could be dead”. In my defense, you only need to think of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s ‘The Search For The Holy Grail’: “Nasty injury you have there.” The Black Knight actually had all of his limbs chopped off in a sword fight. His very British reply, “It's fine, it's just a flesh wound”.

One of my mental health traits is my ability to minimise my chronic pain symptoms when I am talking to people. I have managed to get really good at it. To the point where I can fool myself that, maybe, my pain tolerance has got greater. I have seen that I subconsciously make others around me feel more comfortable. The reality is that I am excluding myself from being made to feel more comfortable. 169 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“It is harder to fake being well than to pretend not to be.” Another reason why someone may find it difficult to ask for help is that, throughout their life, they may have always been the helper. They have witnessed firsthand how imbalanced the give-and-take process can be. They pride themselves on being part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Their instinct is to try and figure it out on their own.

This element of self-reliance is admirable in certain situations, but it can also be a double edged sword as it can create a self-imposed barrier to getting the right help at the right times. This thinking goes hand in hand with the “not wanting to be a burden to others.” The reality is that by refusing help and assistance, they become twice the burden.

Another barrier in asking for help is also a fear of incurring further trauma, if when reaching out your story is disbelieved or misinterpreted. It is important to find a source of help that will respect both your vulnerability and resilience.

Given all the statements and thoughts above, it is easy to see that asking for help takes a huge amount of courage in doing so. It is harder to fake being well than to pretend not to be. Reach out. Be brave and smart. ∎


Transformation Expert, Awareness Hellraiser & Public Speaker PAUL S. ROGERS is a keynote public speaking coach, “Adversity to hope, opportunity and prosperity. “ Transformation expert, awareness Hellraiser, life coach, Trauma TBI, CPTSD mentor, train crash and cancer survivor, public speaking coach, Podcast host “Release the Genie” & Best-selling author. His journey has taken him from from corporate leader to kitesurfer to teacher on first nations reserve to today. Paul’s goal is to inspire others to find their true purpose and passion.


SIP OF HOPE IS THE WORLD'S FIRST COFFEE SHOP WHERE 100% OF THE PROCEEDS SUPPORT PROACTIVE SUICIDE PREVENTION AND MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION. Prevention starts with a conversation, and the conversation starts here. To learn how you can break the silence, visit SIPOFHOPE.COM


Know that emotions are a normal part of being human. This means the emotions we like and the ones we don’t like. AMY BYERLEY, PHD




MENTAL HEALTH AND THE PICTURE OF HEALTH What does ‘the picture of health’ really look like? The truth is most of our ‘health’ can’t be seen, and a lot of it can’t be touched, because it’s in our mind. While we tend to think of our mind and body as separate, they aren’t. Our mental health and physical health are interconnected. Both are equally important. Today we explore the full picture with Amy Byerley, PhD, Pediatric Psychologist at Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. ALLIÉ: Let’s take personal opinion out of the equation and focus on science. What does science tell us about the impact our mental health has on our physical health and vice versa?

AMY: We are only at the beginning of scientifically observing and understanding the complexity of interactions and connections between our mental and physical well-being. As humans, when we experience emotions, stressful events, and trauma, our physical body reacts immediately in order to protect and keep us alive. Our brain and body hold on to traumatic experiences and emotions, recalling and connecting them long after the stressful or traumatic event is over. This can cause serious long-term health issues. Over time, we tend to disconnect from emotions and physical sensations connected to the stress response.

Research has indicated that childhood trauma in particular is highly correlated with mental, emotional, and physical problems later in life. Additionally, daily life stressors and stressful events and changes negatively impact our overall emotional and physical health. To deal with the related emotions, we often resort to a number of unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to avoid associated distress, such as by avoiding issues and experience of emotions, using or abusing substances, withdrawing from social connection, over eating, overspending, over working, or getting lost in the world of social media.

Simply removing unhealthy coping strategies is not sufficient for addressing mental health concerns; we must instead address root causes for these symptoms. The process of healing involves gradually reconnecting and integrating our emotions with our body and physical sensations. Over time, we can fully reconnect with our physical body, to become a more integrated, whole being. When our bodies and minds can work together to resolve emotions and trauma, we are able to heal and enjoy the fullness of our lives.

ALLIÉ: As opposed to physical health conditions that can be more easily diagnosed with measurements and vitals, mental health conditions can be much more difficult to diagnose. Is that why so many mental health issues go undiagnosed?

AMY: Lack of diagnosis, under diagnosis, and inaccurate diagnoses of mental health concerns are common, and limitations of directly observable or measurable symptoms are likely part of the difficulty with identification of mental health concerns. Clinical providers do have a set of shared criteria used to assist with reliably identifying mental health conditions. However, it can be challenging to arrive upon the most accurate diagnosis for a variety of reasons.


“It is estimated that approximately two-thirds of individuals with diagnosable mental health conditions do not receive mental health care.” AMY: (continued) There are a number of significant barriers to accessing appropriate mental health evaluation and treatment. Despite an increase in awareness and normalization of mental health concerns, stigma (stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes) and discrimination remain strong barriers to seeking mental health care. Even greater disparities exist with minority populations, including groups with racial/ethnic, sexuality, or gender diversity.

It is estimated that approximately two-thirds of individuals with diagnosable mental health conditions do not receive mental health care. Financial, and insurance limitations are significant factors that prevent many from accessing necessary care for mental health concerns. Additionally, disorganization and fragmentation of the mental health systems create significant barriers to individuals in need of treatment. It is easy for people to become overwhelmed in the process of seeking appropriate support, particularly with shortages of necessary mental health services, including therapists, psychiatrists, intensive outpatient, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, and residential services. Specialized treatment for a number of significant concerns is strongly needed but challenging to access, including substance abuse, disordered eating, mental health symptoms unresponsive to treatments, and chronic pain and medical issues. Furthermore, the fragmentation of the overall medical system creates a barrier to integrating physical health care with any necessary mental health services.

ALLIÉ: Before a mental health condition can be diagnosed and then treated, it must first be addressed. Let’s talk about depression for a moment. How does one know if they should address their state or not? How does one know if they are just having a bad day and need to ride it out or if they are depressed and need help?

AMY: It can be challenging to know when emotional symptoms are severe enough to seek additional help. As human beings, it is normal and healthy for all of us to experience normal emotional reactions, including sadness and stress. We experience these emotions, and they directly impact our body in the short term and the long-term. In fact, many of the criteria for and symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression are physical in nature, including changes in physical and mental energy, changes in sleep, changes in appetite, slowing of movements, physical restlessness or agitation, and difficulty concentrating.

The most important factor to keep in mind is how these symptoms impact functioning. It is a normal human experience to feel sad, but if the symptoms get in the way of daily life, such as impairing the person's relationships, work, school, or ability to care for themselves, it is time to seek appropriate evaluation and treatment for those symptoms.

ALLIÉ: To support our physical health, we all know what to do and what not to do. Do exercise, and do eat right. Don’t smoke, and don’t drink (a lot). When it comes to our mental health, what are the simple do’s and don’ts? 174 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

AMY: Here are four things you can do…

Know that emotions are a normal part of being human. This means the emotions we like and the ones we do not like.

Practice allowing yourself to notice and allow emotions to be present, ideally with a sense of curiosity and compassion. We may not be able to control which feelings arise, but we can gradually allow normal feelings to be present, freeing our emotional, mental, and physical energy for other things. This can feel overwhelming, particularly as you begin to practice. Many of us are used to attempting to avoid or get rid of normal human emotions, which can contribute to increased mental health concerns as well as negatively impact the body and physical health. By “feeling the feels”, our bodies are able to complete the stress cycle and restore the natural, healthy state of being.

Name your feelings. The practice of labeling our emotions is empowering and helps to connect sensations in the body with emotions and language so we can better detect and process them. “I am feeling sad, and that’s OK”.

Be gentle and loving with yourself. Treat yourself with warmth and a sense of compassion. This can be a challenging skill to practice, and some people find it easier to gradually treat themselves with the same love, acceptance, and compassion they feel for others.

ALLIÉ: For those who are wrestling with their mental health and feel like they are losing the match, there are a number of steps they could take. What step should be their first?

AMY: Reach out. We do not have to struggle with mental health concerns on our own. Once we are aware that we are struggling with mental health, it is essential to reach out to others who can offer support and appropriate intervention. Please know that there is help and hope, even when things feel overwhelming or hopeless. There are a number of options available for help, including reaching out to your primary care provider, seeking counseling or therapy, requesting medical or medication based treatment, and connecting with supportive individuals in your daily life, including family, friends, and community. In mental health crises, reach out for immediate help from local 1st response teams, call 911, seek care at urgent care or emergency departments, or contact 24/7 mental health services, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Always remember that you are not alone, and there is hope for healing, especially as we work on reconnecting with our bodies, ourselves, and others. ∎

Learn more about Dr. Amy Byerley:


Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true. NICK BOTTINI




AN EXPLORATION OF OVERTHINKING There was a viral video that was doing the rounds on social media a few years ago that you may have seen. A young boy of perhaps five or six years of age is pictured almost completely submerged in the sea – paralysed with fear as he apparently screams for his life. The viewer sees his head poking out of the water, his arms clinging tightly to a flimsy rope as his legs float and kick around. The look on his face is one of abject terror. He is crying. From our concern for the child, the plot now thickens. We hear a mothers’ calm voice and we see her walking casually towards him through what we now realise is shallow water – a fact that was previously disguised by the camera frame. There she now stands, in no more than a foot or two of water at most, revealing to us that the boy has completely misjudged the danger he is in. Within ten seconds the woman has grabbed her son’s legs, calmly plonked his feet back on the ground and the boy is left standing in the shallow water. With a child-like natural resilience he quickly regains his composure, albeit looking a little puzzled by what just happened. Everything is OK again. Only seconds earlier his mind had convinced him he was drowning far out to sea, but there he now stands in complete safety. The caption on the video reads ‘When you start over thinking life…’.

The very reason this video raises a smile is because it is such a beautiful analogy for the way that we can too easily be tricked by our own psychology. We take our stories on face value, without even stopping to question them. Our thinking, judging and imagination creates our whole experience of reality, but we forget the very fact that it is through our own psychology that we are the experiencer of life. Why does this happen? Because our own thinking appears very realistic to us. It’s very compelling. Just like the boy in the shallow water, we are completely persuaded by it. Whatever the meaning we create for ourselves we tend to believe. So much so that we can completely forget that we are a thinking entity altogether, assuming we are experiencing the world, rather than our own mind. If we perceive a situation as a crisis, like the boy, it is because we are effectively creating it as such within our own psychology, independently of the neutral facts of the matter (i.e. the shallow water). We believe we are feeling a world out there, but we are instead feeling an internally-generated, thought-created drama. When we believe we are in mortal danger, like the boy, we respond as if it is a life-or-death emergency, even though that may not actually be the case. When we perceive a work situation as stressful, we live that situation as a stressful experience, unaware of our own role in creating our felt experience of it. When we think anxious thinking, independent of circumstance, we create an anxious experience. And so on and so forth. One of the various names given to this misinterpreting of our own thinking is a ‘cognitive bias’. It’s the same reason we are more prone to trusting good-looking people more than we probably should, assuming the future is going to be just like the past or overestimating our competency in a new skill. Cognitive biases like these are nothing more than a trick of the mind. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true.

This isn’t necessarily front-page news to many of us, though. We already have some awareness that our own thinking can colour our experience of reality, but in my 1:1 coaching sessions with instrumentalists, artists, managers and entrepreneurs in the music industry I’ve seen time and time again just how easily even the most high-achieving, intelligent, creative people get tricked by their own psychological system. Why? Because it’s part of our make-up as humans. At one level we may tell ourselves ‘I get it’, but we don’t live as if we get it, and this ‘trick of the mind’ is the actually the root of the matter. Even though we know, at least at some level, that our thinking plays a part in our wellbeing, most people don’t really stop to investigate how deep that rabbit hole actually goes. Every time I have a client who takes the time to thoroughly investigate the workings of their own mind, they are always surprised by just much more well-grounded and clear-headed they can become. They experience deeper and deeper levels of wellbeing, because, just like the boy in the shallow water, the overthinking stops as soon as they realise what’s actually going on. 177 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“By branding certain feelings as taboo, we judge and start to scare ourselves when we fall short of our own fabricated expectations.” As this is such a common issue, even with the most high-achieving clients, I thought it may be worth giving you a flavour of what we usually end up discussing about it.

Imagine a time early in your life – a time when you were newly born – a time before you had any ideas of beliefs about the world. At this point in your life you were a psychologically blank canvas. You were made of pure noticing. Things would happen and as they happened you made sense of them as best you could. Thoughts and feelings would arise. As the natural ‘thought weather’ happens we start to notice patterns in what we think or feeling. And we draw conclusions, often in error. We form an opinion in the moment. We judge our experience. And this is how we learn – it’s a way of making sense of what’s going on by experimentation. A = good, B = bad. I like this feeling. I don’t like this feeling. I want more of this and less of that. In this very moment we have just created a meaning. From this thought onward, we then get the idea that there are certain states of mind that are ‘target’ states and others that are avoid states. An either-or frame is born. We tell ourselves ‘being motivated is good’. Or ‘confidence feels better’. ‘Anxiety is bad’. ‘I can’t handle this feeling’. From these collections of judgements we start to piece together a map of the world. This is our map of how life ‘should’ be and how we ‘should’ feel. To compound matters we also absorb, model and are actively taught such beliefs from teachers, parents and society. So now what we have is two layers. We still have the organic, pure noticing we were born with, but over the top of this is a modified, manipulated filtering of experience. A fake layer of opinions and an emotional rule book we believe we are meant to follow.

Typically, this is the point at which a musician will come to me and tell me they are struggling with performance anxiety, or that they are ‘getting in their own way’ somehow. When they say this, what they are actually describing are not merely the physical sensations of a single anxious moment, but rather their conditioned physiological responses to their own thinking about those sensations. They not only feel anxious but they also feel wrong to be feeling that way. Or they feel scared that they won’t be able to handle feeling that feeling. Or they believe that the manifestation of a particular feeling means they are somehow not ‘cut out’ for a career in music. So they try to fight or supress the taboo feeling by trying in vain to control their emotions. They subconsciously start holding their breath, bracing themselves physically or trying to ‘think positive’. They frantically look for tools and techniques to try and contain it all. And yet what they are feeling fights back. When they discover that it can’t reliably be micromanaged in quite the way their rule book tells them it should, they then get anxious about this too.

Maybe ‘anxiety’ isn’t your problem, but nevertheless I encourage you to stop and re-read the last couple of paragraphs and investigate how this ‘resistance to what is’, manifests in your life. We’re all doing this somewhere, in some way, in our lives. If it helps, change the word anxiety for one that’s your taboo emotion. Shame. Guilt. Stress. Anger. Impostor syndrome. Or whatever yours is. The list of emotions that we resist is long.

Do you see what’s been created here? What we used to experience at birth as simply the innocent, neutral, psychological ‘weather system’, has been somehow evolved into a pass-fail frame for our emotional weather. By branding certain feelings as taboo, we judge and start to scare ourselves when we fall short of our own fabricated expectations. 178 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“Overthinking lessens as the truth of the matter is insightfully seen for what it is.” So what’s the answer? To cure this short-circuit we have two options:

1) We can continue to seek techniques and tools to somehow manage our thinking or feeling. Relaxation audios, breathing techniques, booking holidays, avoiding situational triggers. This is akin to treating stress, anger, anxiety or other emotions we call ‘negative’ like mental fires that need putting out. This is like running around, mentally fire-fighting.

2) The other option is to insightfully realise how our own overthinking is causing our mind to see these as mental fires in the first place, noticing how unnecessary this is, and so as we see what’s at play we simply learn to stop starting fires in the first place.

The first path can sometimes take the edge off the feeling in the short term, but it’s only ever the second that brings lasting peace. Overthinking lessens as the truth of the matter is insightfully seen for what it is. When the boy in the water realised that he was safe, he stopped crying. When performers realise that a moment of anxiety doesn’t define them and that they can actually breathe through their own scary overthinking, they quickly start to find new ways to be comfortable no matter how they are feeling. And, as we learn to welcome all emotions into this experience of being human, the desire to control or supress feelings makes less and less sense. This is wellbeing, but not as we know it. It’s not the kind of wellbeing that’s about feeling better, because ‘better’ is now seen as a judgement. It’s about knowing that deep down, you’re spiritually safe, whole and complete, no matter what the feeling you’re in. ∎ NICK BOTTINI

Author, Speaker & Coach NICK BOTTINI is the author of the number one bestseller Just Play: The Simple Truth Behind Musical Excellence which was endorsed by Grammy winners, music industry professionals and mental health experts. Nick is also a speaker and transformational coach to the music industry and for over ten years has worked with musicians at all levels from competition winners, child prodigies, entrepreneurs, conservatoire students, sports people, to aspiring professional musicians and international rock stars. For more info about Music For Mental Wealth visit:


His hunger inspires me to go the extra mile for him, and my experience with him has reminded me how fortunate I am in life. LOGAN HERR




Kaleab is on his third surfing lesson. He hasn’t got it quite yet and this is around the time most people quit. Wipeout after wipeout doesn’t inspire hope. But Logan knows better than to doubt his mentee. Kaleab doesn’t give up, and sure enough he manages to catch a few waves and the look on his face? Priceless. Logan Herr is from a small town in rural Pennsylvania, where there isn’t much diversity. When he moved to Los Angeles two years ago, where diversity is the heart and soul of the city, he knew he had to engage with these new populations if he really wanted to be a part of his community and give back. A supply chain consultant, Logan knows he comes from a privileged background, which is exactly why he knew he “had to lean in and learn,” as he said. “What’s that person’s story? Where do they come from?”

Ever since he can remember, Logan has had mentors in his life to look up to. Whether they were academic, personal, career, or faith-based – the guidance and fellowship he received made him a better person and exposed him to new opportunities. The next logical step was to become a mentor himself. When Logan met Kaleab through Imagine LA, he was instantly impressed with his strong will and drive. “No matter the obstacles he’s always managed to persevere.”

Kaleab is from Ethiopia and lives with his mom, grandmother, and two younger brothers. They were housed last year, and Kaleab is currently a sophomore at Cal State LA, where he’s studying computer science. He gets good grades and is already thinking about jobs, and Logan is inspired by Kaleab’s tenacity, “particularly considering the issues and challenges Kaleab has faced personally and throughout the pandemic.”

Kaleab recently got involved with STEM Advantage, a nonprofit providing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career opportunities to California State University students, which is opening even more doors for him. He also recently started working as an orientation leader at Cal State LA where he will be welcoming, guiding, and mentoring new students to the university. Logan’s expertise as a systems engineer and business consultant has allowed Kaleab to come to him for homework help and to talk about his career options.

“I’m honored that he trusts me and comes to me with questions large and small. His hunger inspires me to go the extra mile for him, and my experience with him has reminded me how fortunate I am in life.”

All this is even more impressive when you learn that Kaleab is also tied up in the US immigration system’s complicated web of bureaucracy. They were not responding to him, no matter how many times he called or emailed. Turns out they had the wrong address, and you can’t update it online. Without reliable transportation, Kaleab took multiple buses, walked several miles, and waited for hours to get his address corrected in person. Logan has also helped him with several different immigration forms, which were so confusing, Logan had to tap into his network to find someone who could help. 181 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION

“Logan has learned that no matter how different people are there’s always common things that connect us all.” Diving into this world he didn’t know, putting himself into Kaleab’s shoes – a teen emerging from homelessness, English not his first language, not properly documented – Logan realized how much he took for granted.

All of this has led Logan to talk about his relationship with Kaleab with words like deeper, transformative, and revolutionary. He and Kaleab are extraordinarily honest with each other, and no subject is too taboo to talk about. They talk about their shared faith during their many hikes, where they forego technology and live in the moment. Kaleab has even joined Logan on a church retreat. Through this shared experience, Logan has learned that no matter how different people are there's always common things that connect us all.

Asked what advice he has for future mentors, he responds, “When you truly invest time, energy, and transparency into your relationships, you find these amazing commonalities. Never give up, be persistent, be humble, and you will help others grow and be changed yourself.”

Thank you, Logan, for your mentorship. May your friendship continue to grow! ∎

IMAGINE LA IMAGINE LA prevents first-time and repeat homelessness and equips families to maintain housing stability and thrive long-term. Every day, families across Los Angeles embody resilience and tenacity as they navigate their way out of poverty. Imagine LA provides the relationships and resources to help the entire family thrive for the long-term. Everything Imagine LA does is built on a foundation of trust and relationships. Whole-family, caring case management works to prevent first-time or repeat homelessness, and clear barriers to family goals, which sets the stage for economic mobility programming, financial independence, and success for the whole family.







R E A D , L I S T E N & WAT C H T h e M a g a z i n e , T h e P o d c a s t & T h e Ta l k S h o w