What did you do for your Gold Award project?
Both my biological parents were drug addicts that suffered from mental illness. I was taken into foster care at age two and adopted at age three. You would think my story would end there. A kid born to drug addicts and placed in foster care should fail, right? My biological parents gave me a gift, the gift of both musical and artistic talent. Due to early childhood trauma, I experienced at the hands of my biological parents, I struggle with attachment disorder, a mental illness. Our society often views people with mental illness as failures. The stigma attached to speaking out about mental illness and getting help for a mental illness is one of our nation’s greatest social problems. This is where my Gold Award project takes shape. I combined my experiences with having a mental illness and my artistic talent to speak up, take a risk, and make a social change. I built a little library full of mental health books. I spoke out to groups of people about my mental illness and asked them to support my project with books. I presented to groups of young children and educated them on mental health issues. I created a safe place for conversation around mental health issues while creating a physical library people can go to get information on mental health.
How did you measure the impact your Gold Award project made on your target audience?
I found that my storytelling became in itself a work of art and an important part of my project. The impact of storytelling is hard to fit into a spreadsheet and measure. The conversations started by the box have become just as important as creating a beautiful space for mental health resources to be exchanged. The creation of a physical box started a conversation. We must tell our stories to address the social need of breaking down the stigma around mental illness. We need to find spaces that are safe to share our resources. The stories people shared with me measured the impact more than any numbers every will. I do, however, visit the box weekly and see titles are gone and new titles put in there place.
How is your project sustainable? How will your project continue to impact after your involvement?
My project is sustainable as long as there is a book in it. The library will continue to impact people by educating them about mental health, as well as providing amazing resources for families in need. I have partnered with therapists and counselors and asked them to continue to direct people to the free library. This mental health library is also listed on a global website that directs people to free little libraries around the world. https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/
What is your project’s global and/or national connection?
I am an artist. I looked at the link between mental illness and people with artist backgrounds. I researched how difficult it is for all people to access mental health resources. Nationally, there is a lack of funding for mental health resources. I wanted to create an artistic work of art that would also function to provide mental health resource to the community. “Countless painters, composers, writers, and musicians have suffered from depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, prompting people to ask the question, are artists more likely to suffer from mental illness. The research says yes. A 2012 study followed 1.2 million patients and their relatives and found that bipolar disorder is more common in individuals with artistic professions including dancers, photographers, and authors.” Source: https://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/8-artists-who-suffered-mental-illness
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am stronger than I thought. That I can start an uncomfortable conversation. Lastly, that I can overcome obstacles thrown my way.
How will earning your Gold Award impact you in the future?
It is my hope that my project has helped create a new space for sharing mental health resources, while encouraging others to share their stories.I hope to continue using my gifts and talents in the future while seeking a degree in art therapy.
Why do you feel the Gold Award was an important part of your Girl Scout experience?
I have been in Girl Scouts for over 10 years. I always looked at doing my Gold Award as the last step in my Girl Scout experience. The Gold Award gave me something to work for in my career of Girl Scouting.
How did earning your Gold Award help you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?
Risk-Taker! Let’s face it, many people who ignite change, at first, fail! The first person who said, “Women should be given the right to vote,” risked failure, and failed for years. Being a teen who stands up to announce that she lives with a mental illness makes people uncomfortable. In telling my story and using my artistic talents to create a safe place to exchange mental health resources I am taking an authentic creative risk. I am saying it it time to tell our stories about surviving and thriving with a mental illness. I am using my story and my talents to say it is time for us to provide free resources to support those with mental illness and it is past time to feel safe to stand up to say I live everyday with a mental illness. I will gladly fail if my creative project and my story helps start to break down the stigma attached to living with mental illness.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog represents only a small fraction of the hard work, dedication, and requirements that go into earning a Girl Scout Gold Award. It is simply a brief summary, which is meant to inspire Girl Scouts to Go Gold in the future. For more information on earning your Gold Award, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.