Irma Goosen wants to help those who are on the edge

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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!

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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

Upside Down

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.

Charles D. Clark

I was recently blessed by being introduced to Charles D Clark via mutual Twitter friends and was so impressed by his kindness and his story that I had to get him for an interview. You may know Charles from his role on Empire on Fox or his role on Greenleaf on OWN TV. You may have been lucky enough to hear him speak and hopefully have been motivated and inspired by him as well.

Charles is not afraid to talk about his past, the path he has been on (including the wrong turns), and his hopes. It’s refreshing to see someone with a dream who also knows he has responsibilities along the way that he cannot ignore. I hope we see lots more of him on the small screen, the big screen, and at his speaking gigs!

Q: From looking at your resume, clearly you have so much to be thankful for. From looking at your website and social media, clearly you know how to show your gratitude. As we go into a new year, what are some of the things you are most grateful for from 2017?

Charles D Clark: I truly am grateful for life itself. One must have life to live to do great things. I’m grateful for my family, friends and my social media fan base because as we know social media is very, very important in marketing and branding.

Q: Speaking of the new year, what are you most looking forward to in 2018?

Charles D Clark: Where do I start lol?! I just want to become the next greatest actor. In that transition I want to also not just inspire, but to continue to change lives through my platform as a professional actor and speaker. I simply want everyone to win.

Q: I see one of your buddies is someone I admire greatly as well, Devon Franklin. How did you guys connect and what is the best advice he’s given you?

Charles D Clark: I meet Devon by entering one of his contests that was partnered with an AT&T social media movement called Inspired Mobility. Devon chose 4 winners who created the most inspired impactful quote. I was blessed to be one of the winners. From there I was honored that Devon became my mentor and friend. Both Devon and Meagan are truly a blessing to my life. Their commitment to spreading God’s love & wisdom through books, films and global events is phenomenal.

Q: You are on two shows I enjoy, ‘Empire’ on Fox and ‘Greenleaf’ on OWN TV. Can you tell us a little about your experiences working on both?

Charles D Clark: Well, let me start with Green Leaf first because I was just on there as a featured extra once. However, the experience was amazing meeting the main cast and Kirk Franklin who was a special in the episode. To be on an OWN Network set, and mind you I’m an Owner so I’m part of the family, lol, it was a great experience.

On the other hand, Empire was the highlight of my acting career that opened up so many doors ! To start as background driving 13 hours from VA to Chicago approximately 7 times under 2 months is nothing but superb dedication and crazy faith! I didn’t complain and I put a lot of work into it because even as a background the Empire cast and production treated me like family. Now I have a ( Director’s Pick Recurring Role ) as one of Shyne’s main goons/enforcers. To be officially part of a prime time hit show is a dream come true. Xzibit is phenomenal and always gives me great wisdom. The entire Lyons family is simply amazing and down to earth. Terrence and Taraji are just gifts to this world.

Q: As someone who has been chasing his dreams and living them, what advice would you give to others out there who are in the beginning stages of doing so or who are struggling with it all?

Charles D Clark: Simple..Listen to God and not people!

Q: How did you get involved in motivational speaking and what drew you to it?

Charles D Clark: Motivational speaking came natural for me. First you have to have a testimony. My father died when I was 6. In my late teens I got involved with drug dealing and gang banging. When I was about to turn 22 I was arrested and served nearly 8 years in Federal Prison. Then I got I started sharing my story to churches, schools, events, boys homes, and any other place that God sent me. My name started spreading and I won 5 awards as a speaker and through my advocacy I won another AT&T contest as the grand prize winner called ” 28 Days Moments That Matter “. This contest was during Black History month, which is 28 days in February. AT&T wanted to recognize the newest leaders in this time. Because of my work and advocacy during the Baltimore Riot in bringing peace and love along with my volunteering work, AT&T chose me.

Q: If you weren’t an actor, what other fields would you see yourself in?

Charles D Clark: Well, I majored in psychology and I was working with individuals with mental & physical disabilities, so it would in that field. I love helping people and supporting those who feel like there is no hope.

Q: Where can people find you and keep up with you online?

Facebook: Charles D. Clark

Twitter: @cclarkinspire7 IG: @cclarkinspire IMDB: http://m.imdb.com/name/nm5645633/

Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Charles D Clark: I cannot live without God, my mother and my beautiful 7 year old daughter Cynne’ Clark. I wish we could all live without hate. I’m totally against racism and even though I’m not gay I will not hate anyone because of their sexuality. I love all people because only God can judge. All love and no hate is what I stand for!

Q: What’s up next for Charles D. Clark?

Charles D Clark: There,s so much, especially since I’m a SAG actor now! God gets the Glory! Expect to see me in even bigger roles and on the big screen. The main thing is not just stardom, but just being a part of making this world a better place. I can’t do it by myself but I can be apart of the process.

 

Eli Brown is doing his best to Shine the Light On Mental Health Issues

I was recently introduced to a company and movement I immediately clicked with called Shine the Light OnShine the Light On is on a mission to bring a voice to mental health issues impacting youth. I’ve had a few phone conversations with the charismatic founder, Eli Brown, who has impressed me even more! You should head over to the website and check out the Our Storyvideo to see him in action speaking on stage and giving away t-shirts like a rock star! But, it’s not all fun and games, on the homepage you can view a video explaining more about the company and the Our Cause page tells you that “with every purchase, STLO donates one educational program to advance mental health in youth.”

The facts may be a bit shocking to some but “1 in 3 youth from all walks of life suffer from mental health related issues. Two out of three suffer in silence due to fear of rejection and alienation.”

From the first moment I spoke to Eli, I felt like I knew him and his own struggles. His battle with his issues began after he was sexually assaulted at a young age. The shame and difficulties navigating his feelings were familiar to me in my own experiences and struggles as a youth. I know his story will resonate with many young people and adults and his advice is important.

As with all Social Good issues, the most important part is that WE CAN HELP others in what may seem like a small way. Buying a shirt or a few shirts may not seem like much but once you see what they are doing you realize that collectively, it will help a great many people. After you read our little chat, be sure to head to Shine The Light On to check out the merchandise for yourself.

Q: For those who aren’t familiar, tell us a little about you and how Shine the Light On came about?

Eli Brown: Shine the Light On is a clothing company that uses thought provoking designs to let people suffering from mental illness know they aren’t alone. People wear the clothes

and become billboards, carrying the message with them. We work with non profits to partner and send this message throughout the communities who need to hear/see it.

We want to shift the conversation from reducing the stigma to acceptance and for every purchase we donate one educational program to help advance mental health in youth.

Q: As you have said, when we suffer certain traumas in our lives or carry certain secrets, we tend to feel we can’t talk to anyone about it because they won’t understand. Looking back, do you think now that you could have come forward earlier?

Eli Brown: Looking back now, having gone through sexual abuse I think I could have said something earlier and gotten help. It can be embarassing and difficult. As far as sexual abuse, there is a lot of shame and embarrassment. I was pretty uneducated on the symptoms of depression and anxiety so I thought it was normal freshman college issues. I went through sexual abuse at the age of 14 and kept it inside for years. At 18, 19, I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. That caused the mental struggles to grow.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who is suffering in silence or struggling with their mental health?

Eli Brown: The best advice: Find a support network that will help you get assistance. Guidance counselor, teacher, health professional. Reach out so you can start to receive help. Telling one person or two people creates a support group of your own and will give you the courage to go forward to seek out professionals. A friend or family member, talking it out with them helps you to get guided and ready to talk to professionals.

Q: Movements like Shine the Light do help to erase some of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues but there is still lots of work to do. What would you say to loved ones of anyone who is struggling?

Eli Brown: The stigma around mental health is definitely decreasing. I can say that when it comes to the people who reach out to me, I can only listen with no judgement. Hear their pain and their story, and then help them to seek professional help. Validation and support are key.

Q: You’ve been open and honest about your own struggles and the things you have done to self medicate. We see so often that individuals get to the point of overdose and many times it ends tragically. Are there certain signs we can look for in the ones we love that could prevent things from going so far? There is a difference between experimenting as we grow up and abusing to escape. Is it a difference that can be caught in time?

Eli Brown: I do think it’s something that can be caught. It depends on whether people want to act upon it. Weight loss, sleeping in, suddenly pale complexion. There are tons of signs but sometimes it’s difficult to confront someone about it. I went from being a high performance athlete, playing tennis, getting up early, eating healthy to not working out, not eating healthy… you may notice changes.

Q: I know you have some exciting things going on and coming up, can you tell us some of your future plans for Shine the Light On?

Eli Brown: One exciting thing is that we are going to start donating a significant part of proceeds to affordable housing for people who struggle with mental health and addiction. We have found that being able to afford a place to live can be difficult for those you are dealing with these issues and trying to seek help.

Another thing is that we will be launching in Europe. Mental health awareness is different in each city in the states and each country in Europe. The Royal family in the UK is on the leading edge in that. They are doing some ground breaking things for the people there and they have been open to doing what it takes to help.

Q: I ask this of everyone, What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Eli Brown: One thing I can’t live without is this little book I carry with me where I write daily activities, phone numbers, notes. I love writing stuff down. I keep all of my notes and numbers in there. And ice cream! I love ice cream so I’d definitely say that.

I wish that at meals people could live without their phones. I don’t what it is, it really bugs me. People are out on dates or together in groups and are on their phones instead of paying attention to each other. People should pay less attention to technology during intimate dinners or gatherings and more attention to the people who are present there in the moment.

Q: Since you are so open about your own story and have spoken about it at events, do you have any particular stories that have touched you in surprising or memorable ways?

Eli Brown: I think one of the main things that surprised me is how many people there are that are impacted by mental health. When I was going through it, I felt like I was alone and I’ve found out so many others are going through it. So many of the stories I hear are impactful. Always very, very impactful stories after I speak somewhere or meet people through my work.

Q: I LOVE the partnership of Social Good and fashion, would you consider doing clothing for other causes?

Eli Brown: Yeah, when we initially started that is something we discussed. I think as we go on we will continue to Shine the Light on other social causes that impact youth.

Q: Where can we find you and Shine the Light online to learn more and to order some items so we can proudly and stylishly support?

You can go to our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and visit the Website for more info on us, to find out where I’ll be speaking, where we will be featured, and of course to order our clothing.

Q: Since you are someone who had a vision and made a success of it, what advice would you give to those who have passions, dreams, and visions but are having a difficult time getting stared or haven’t been able to overcome certain fears that come along with pursuing them?

Eli Brown: One of the most difficult things to do is to stay focused and to stay tight on your vision.

There was too much feedback on what I was trying to do. I was getting sidetracked listening to eveyone else.

My biggest piece of advice is once you have that vision established, stay on that course until you start to see the vision becoming a reality.

Tommy: I want to thank Eli for sitting down with me for this interview and I definitely look forward to working with him more. I’m proud to be one of the brand ambassadors for Shine the Light On and would love to do something possibly for the LGBT community with them at some point in the future.