On my many trips to Los Angeles for big entertainment events, I’m always very lucky and honored to be part of Celebrity Connected’s award show events for Emmys, Oscars, and more. At these events, I meet some amazing vendors who have unique products, products that help others, and some truly wonderful things with Social Good connections.
At this past Oscars Celebrity Connected event, I met an author, Irma Goosen, who also has created a special movement for young people (and all people) who are dealing with the effects of bullying, the struggles of growing up and life, and who need to feel like they have a community to connect with. The unique way she started all of this was by writing a series of books but so much more came from it. Her perspective as a mom gives what she does a very nurturing tone. You can feel the passion she has for what she does and who she helps. I definitely suggest checking out her website and her books.
I’m going to let her explain more about it all in our interview:
Q: Talk to us about how you got started as an anti-bullying champion.
Irma Goosen: Did you know that 1 in 2 young people today, think about suicide? And that the highest demographic in North America with mental health is in the ages 15-24 years? My younger daughter has always been sensitive. She’s an artist, beautiful, quiet and not one to initiate confrontation.
The bullying started in first grade, by her teacher – an old-fashioned woman who didn’t understand that my daughter had been in Montessori the past 4 years, and that she got taught to ask questions and investigate objects. It continued through high school. I can’t count how many times I had to do her assignments, just so that she wouldn’t get into trouble with the teachers. Yet she maintained her honor roll status and participation in sports.
One beautiful summer’s day, 4 years ago, she had a post surgery follow-up at the children’s hospital. She had needed the surgery due to a sports injury. That day became the darkest day in a mother’s soul. That day I found out my decorative knives, which had been disappearing, found their way to her bedroom. She had been harming herself, a way to try to focus on the instant pain which for a short while overshadowed the mental anguish she was going through.
She had a suicide plan in place. She knew the why, the where, the how… but not the when. She knew I would be devastated. My mother’s love saved my daughter’s life.
That day became the best day in my life, because that is the day my daughter became my teacher. That day I learned that I had to raise awareness about what our young people are going through. I have spoken with hundreds of young people, and so many of them struggle.
It wasn’t easy. There were days when I wondered if I would get home and she would’ve done that horrible deed. One thing I made sure of, I always told her how much I loved her, and how it didn’t matter what she did, I would be there for her. She would not be able to chase me away. I kept on telling her the same thing, over and over.
Since then I have been actively involved at schools, and teen groups. I talk about bullying and kindness at events. I make sure parents and kids know where to go for help. I have added the help websites and phone numbers in my books. The young generation deserves protection – they are our future leaders.
Q: The Guardian series is based on reality but written as fiction. Did you do that to protect those you were writing about or to make it easier for them if they wanted to read it?
Irma Goosen: Both of the statements are true. The Guardian series takes the readers, whether children, young adults or adults, on a series of journeys where the young person struggling with reality gets shown how strong, and loved they really are. That no matter what, there is always hope. They get shown that they have free will, and can change their circumstances at any moment. They only need to trust.
Because I write about elves and fairies as guardians, the books come across as fantasy, but they are in fact dealing with current events.
Parents see the hidden lessons, while the younger generation sees the message of hope. What I feel strongly about is that the old adage of “it takes a village to raise a child” is very true.
Q: What should parents look out for if their children are having trouble but not being open about it?
Irma Goosen: There are many signs we as parents see, but don’t take notice of, because we feel they should be part of the troubled teenage years. Mood swings, temper tantrums, wearing long sleeves even in summer, sleeping all the time, no appetite, skipping classes are a few ways to notice something is wrong.
Kids don’t always talk about what’s happening. Make a point of talking to the young person in your life. Tell them you love them. Talk about what bullying was about when you grew up. Perhaps it happened to you. Perhaps a friend got bullied. Sometimes a child doesn’t realize they became the bully, or that they are in fact being bullied, and that’s the reason they are sad.
There are different kinds of bullying: physical, social and by using social media. Physical is easy to recognize. Social bullying is a bit more difficult. Example: when there is a group of friends, and one talks about the other with the rest of the group. Instead of finding out the truth, the group might side with the talker. Cyber bullying is tough. It’s easy not to use real names on instagram, twitter or snapchat – which in turn makes it very easy to send anonymous comments. It becomes addictive.
Kids don’t necessarily mention suicide. Talk to your kids. Listen to them, because they might mention something in passing when you’re busy with something else.
Q: What do you think schools can do to assist with the issue of bullying, depression, and anxiety in children?
Irma Goosen: I am involved in a program at a few schools at elementary level, where we take the kids through a series of talks and exercises. Those programs then continue to junior high or middle school. We seem to be getting positive results, but of course it takes a few years of being involved.
It’s up to the parents to insist the schools get a speaker or program in place to assist them with the bullying issue. Get the kids involved, and let them make decisions as well about what they would like to see in place. Start the programs early, and continue them into high school. The schools all have budgets for programs, and mental health is probably the most important one to deal with. If the schools don’t want to pay, do it for free. It has been proven that bullying drops by 25% if the schools get involved with anti-bullying programs.
There are kids who are in abusive relationships, and don’t know they are being bullied. There are many kids who are growing up in households where the parents unfortunately are dysfunctional, and the kids themselves didn’t realize those relationships were not normal. The schools will then be the place they could get the education from. From there, the help they need. 1 out of 5 kids get the help they deserve, it’s up to us as a society to change that.
Q: In one of my own jobs, I work in an environment where bullying has been tolerated. Do you see many adults dealing with the issue in the workplace and what would you suggest if complaints have been made but not addressed?
Irma Goosen: Bullying in the workplace should never be tolerated. I have seen it happen over the years and it’s a tough situation. I was bullied at the start of my engineering career, because I was the only female among the males and as such, a minority. I have seen people quit their jobs because of the old-fashioned, patriarchal attitudes.
Talk to the person. Tell them that their words and actions are hurtful, and that you would like them to stop. Then, put it in writing. You now have a record. The next step if that didn’t help? Report it to your supervisor. They should then talk to the individual. In many cases the bullying should stop there. Still nothing? Human Resources. In many cases I have seen, the individual responsible for the unacceptable behaviour was either moved to another department, or their services were no longer required. In some cases HR will suggest you making a case at the police against the person, if things don’t stop. Then it becomes possible for the bully to be charged with a criminal offense.
Most workplaces have counsellors available as well. They are there to help. I am fortunate that I don’t come across much bullying in the workplace anymore. I don’t say it’s not happening. I think there has been a shift in the way people think. It’s all about education.
Q: Most times, those who are doing the bullying have suffered at the hands of a bully themselves either at home or in some other situation in their past. The saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people”. This doesn’t excuse the behavior or lessen the effects of it on victims but, as a parent and professional, what do you suggest is the best action if you can’t actually seek results with the parents of a bully because they are actually part of the problem?
Irma Goosen: This is why education is key. Talk to someone you trust. Young people have a keen sense of knowing whom to talk with. They could talk with a friend, the friend’s parents, a teacher, an adult in the family they trust. There are free counseling services available in almost every town. Talk to the preacher. Always, but always, make sure the person you talk to is trustworthy. Sometimes it would mean talking to more than one person, because the first one or two didn’t believe you. Don’t give up. There is someone out there who will help you.
Once again, this is why the schools should get involved. By having programs in place the kids learn about their behaviour, which in turn could lead them finding help for the adults in their lives. Fear is powerful in any abusive relationship, and even more so when it’s an adult figure and their charge. This is why I will continue speaking up to have the collective voice of young people be heard.
Q: How can people join your Movement?
Irma Goosen: By getting involved at your schools and youth organizations, the Movement will grow. Let me know when you do that!
I would love for people to buy the books and distribute them to schools and groups. Contact me if you want to create a cinematic experience like video games, or movies or a series.
Book me to speak at your events to raise awareness about bullying.
Join my video series by submitting your stories of strive, then hope. Contact me for the format. Let’s bring positivity back to our lives!
Join The PDA App. It’s free, and there are so many specialists who could help. Make sure to look me up as well! I would love young people to be sponsored, in order for them to share their stories of triumph after having gone through traumatic experiences growing up.
Let me know when you did something to help youth, I want to see this go worldwide! Make sure to tag me!
Q: Where can people find you and your books online?
Email me: Irma@discoveringlife.info
My website which is new: http://discoveringlife.info
My books can be ordered through Amazon. The titles are:
On the Edge
The 3rd book in the series is almost there!
Q: I ask everyone this, What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Irma Goosen: I can’t live without having kids in my life. I adore kids, they are wise beyond what we can imagine!
I would love for us all to live in harmony. War is senseless. Bullying is fear reaching out as violence. So the one thing I wish we could live without would be without violence.
Q: What’s next for you and your movement?
Irma Goosen: I have teen events where I get specialists in their fields to teach real life lessons. Example: What to look for when a young person opens a bank account. Or, how to check the air pressure in the tires. Or, how to build a fire. The list is endless.
I am also rolling out my full day workshop to talk to corporations about mindfulness in the work environment, and what it means for their families as a result. That includes bullying.
I am in negotiations for a possible tv show, it does cost money for the production costs and studio time, so any help would be appreciated!
The one thing I would love to have happen is to be able to speak to thousands of kids, and their parents. To share my daughter’s story of triumph. To let them know, there is hope.
I am working on my YouTube channel, updating my website and getting it all ready to start sharing the amazing stories of so many courageous people.