13 Reasons Why Star, Alisha Boe, can profoundly speak to mental health challenges on and off the screen.
In honor of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Alisha partnered with CO. By Colgate to foster an authentically candid conversation on cyberbullying.
In a world where mental health is so prevalent, it’s ironically still so taboo amongst young populations. Alisha is changing that narrative.
Alisha is collaborating with The Cybersmile Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to digital wellbeing and tackling all forms of bullying and abuse online.
The event focused on the prevalence and emotional impact cyberbullying has on Gen Z, as well as best practices for addressing cyberbullying and contributing to a more positive experience online.
Although the event has passed, the conversation surrounding cyberbullying and mental health is ever so relevant.
We had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Alisha herself, to discuss her own personal experiences with bullying, tips for young people who are struggling with acts of hatred online, and her goals in normalizing mental health dialogues.
Can you talk a little bit about your personal experiences with cyberbullying and your biggest takeaways from these hardships?
Growing up, and even today, I have been targeted for my skin color, weight, and general physical appearance. It took me a long time to get where I am today mentally, but I cannot highlight this enough, do not go through this alone, shut down, and let the bullies win. Reach out to friends, family, or a confidant to explain how you are feeling, you will be amazed by how much support and love you receive.
I also like to remind myself that these people targeting others, who are resorting to cyberbullying, are probably going through something more difficult internally and in their lives causing them to attack others. They need to target others in order to make themselves feel better about themselves.
Drawing on these personal experiences, how is the state of cyberbullying different for Gen Z versus other demographics?
I, along with the rest of Gen Z, have grown up in a world obsessed with social media. The use of social media grew dramatically while I was in high school, but has allowed anonymous cyberbullying to be present our entire lives. My earliest memory of being cyberbullied was when I was around thirteen years old and the most recent memory would be about four hours ago when I received a dm from someone on Instagram calling me a hurtful name. Gen Z has been impacted by cyberbullying our entire life, we cannot imagine a world where we don’t question our next post or what others might say, it has warped our world.
What are some tips for being a better ally online?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the golden rule, treating others how you want to be treated. In order to be a better ally, I always think of how I would want to be reached out to and follow the same three steps to ensure those victimized by cyberbullying feel loved and protected.
What motivated you to get involved with CO. Spaces?
As a public figure on social media platforms, I can relate to cyberbullying both through the characters I’ve played and my own personal experiences. That's why I'm partnering with CO. by Colgate and The Cybersmile Foundation to show how we can play a part in reimagining a healthier future for all online. This is an important issue and I’m proud to host the CO. Spaces roundtable discussion on cyberbullying.
How is the Cybersmile foundation bettering the lives of Gen Z?
The Cybersmile Foundation works to promote kindness, diversity, and inclusion by building a safer, more positive, digital community and encouraging people to realize their full potential without the fear of ridicule and abuse. CO. by Colgate is donating $1 for every product purchased to The Cybersmile Foundation, for a minimum donation of $200,000 and a maximum of $300,000.
What is the correlation between mental health and cyberbullying? How is the emotional impact of cyberbullying different than other forms of bullying?
The correlation is quite simple. Most times, people who tend to hide behind the computer screen may have low self-esteem, so in turn, try to bring others down which causes an increase in anxiety, depression, or feeling alone. Being cyberbullied makes you question your own identity by comparing yourself to everyone else on social media platforms and sometimes it takes more courage to take a step back and remind oneself of your purpose in this world.
Are there any practices for addressing cyberbullying and contributing to a more positive online experience?
I always try to uplift others online, whether leaving positive comments or reaching out personally and expressing how happy I am for them. It takes less than 30-second to leave a positive comment on someone’s post or shoot them a text, that will probably make their entire day.
Technology is a blessing and a curse all in one. What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media as it relates to mental health?
Technology and social media platforms are a wonderful way to stay connected with friends, family, and classmates. With my busy life, I adore being able to stay up to date on what my loved ones are doing. But social media also provides an easy way for people to comment and say hurtful things, either directly or anonymously, targeting someone in an attempt to make them feel lesser and usually succeeding. But that's why I'm partnering with CO. by Colgate and The Cybersmile Foundation to show how we can play a part in reimagining a healthier future for all online.
Many people suffer with mental health in silence. How is your work aiming to amplify these voices and encourage people to seek help?
It takes time for people to open up about their mental health and struggles, it is very personal, and we always fear how others will respond. But, once you find that strength within yourself to confide in someone or share your story, you will find yourself surrounded by more support than you could imagine.
It is important to not go through the hurt alone, I reached out to my friends for support through these tough times, and still do today. Although I didn’t reach out to my parents when I was younger, I recommend speaking with a parent when feeling overwhelmed. Parents seem to always offer the right amount of support and provide a sense of protection. If you are experiencing identity-based bullying or negativity online, The Cybersmile Foundation offers a range of help and support services for users of all ages and abilities.
On a broader scale, how is the work destigmatizing and normalizing mental health in our culture?
This work is destigmatizing mental health in our culture by showing how we can play a part in reimagining a healthier future for all—where everyone feels confident to be who they truly are, without fear. As well as sharing best practices for addressing cyberbullying and contributing to a more positive experience online.
Photography by: Tiffany Nicholson, Dustin Belt.