Beyond Borders – Sustain the Comfort, Narrow the Gap

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April 10, 2022

Writers: Isaac Calayo, Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio, Iris Messiah Osano
Researcher: Isaac Calayo
Editors: Alvin Joseph Mapoy & K Ballesteros
Graphics: Jacklyn Moral, Sarah Mondoy, Krystle Mae Labio
Tweet Chat Moderators: Isaac Calayo, Marc John Paul Agbuya, Chistine Joy Salvacruz
Spaces Moderators: Richardson Mojica, Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Azie Libanan, Roy Dahildahil

Over the years, have nourished, amplified, and created better channels for the discussion of Mental Health and Mental Health-related issues online. In 2022, #UsapTayo continues its work to build a remarkable and meaningful community not only on Twitter, but also in the personal lives of its volunteers.  

The #UsapTayo segment of #MentalHealthPH started  in April 10 of 2017 with  the topic of #EndStigma. It was the  beginning of the advocacy to zero the suicide cases and the stigma against mental health.

In light of its 5th year celebration, #UsapTayo of #MentalHealthPH launches a safe space session for April 2022. #MentalHealthPH continues to grow its  family of mental health champions, united in the mission to offer mental health education while recognizing and respecting the venue of the internet as its boundary. 

 

Beyond Borders – Defining Safe Spaces

Safe Spaces provide comfort and security within our communities as venues for interaction and mobility. These are places  where people practice respect, feel secure, and express themselves [1]. Safe spaces provide a break from judgements, unsolicited opinions, and the expectation to  explain ourselves  [2]. 

Everyone deserves a safe place to live, to communicate, and to socialize; we all deserve the feel of the stage and its spotlight, we all deserve to feel seen, heard, and appreciated — these are the very characteristics that prosper within safe spaces. 

It’s also of value for teenagers in their hallmark years of development to have a safe space where their peers are  mature and inclusive enough to guide them [2] because safe spaces encourage  free speech and communication. Safe spaces help us maintain our   mental health to help us become more active at work and in school  [2]. 

The Washington Post interviews individuals who spoke about safe spaces, Roquel Crutcher writes:

“When I wake up, I think about the fact that I’m Black, I have to think about my hair, I have to think about my edges, I have to think about how I look … whether or not I look too this or too that, and that’s something that I get tired of doing sometimes. And so it makes me feel good to know if I can go somewhere and just be me without having to worry about changing who I am — that’s a safe space.”

One of the volunteers from batch 3 of #UsapTayo told her journey about MentalHealthPH and the safe space she received in #UsapTayo, Marie Nicole Ingrid Lusterio:

“Since 2016, I have lived my life with fear of being hated by everyone. As I tried to keep up with the expectations of my family and pressure from my peers. Super hirap na I have the feeling of being invalidated and not accepted in my own circle of social. And I have the hope nun eh, na sana I can find a home which is able to listen and understand me. Not until in 2021, I signed up for a MentalHealthPH Batch 3 Volunteer for a reason of gusto ko na may pagkaabalahan talaga during summer. In which this decision that I made is more than just a leisure, it is a lifetime opportunity for me to meet friends and other people, also to hear different stories of life. I owned the responsibility to be part of this family, yes, a family that not only gives me chances to showcase my skills in writing but also allows me to feel the love and care within the community. This #UsapTayo became my primary definition of safe space and I would forever be grateful for being part of their shared advocacy in Mental Health” 

When we define safe spaces, we don’t define spaces that are only targeted towards certain individuals. Safe spaces are  inclusive and open to all; we define a safe space as a venue where we can dream, imagine, and truly be ourselves – because that’s how and where humanity thrives.  Humanity thrives when we see each others as diverse, colorful, and beautiful individuals worthy of what the  world can offer. 

When talking about safe spaces, we can follow two D’s. Gina McGovern of Youth Today described them as: Define and Deliver.

First D: Define 

Ground Rules 

It includes our right to be heard, a keen sense of respect, and the value for confidentiality. It is very important that a safe environment is private and intimate. When people are not interrupted in  speaking, and when they are given the time to process, prepare, and perform, they deepen their sense of understanding for themselves and their empathy towards others. 

When setting ground rules, we need to tackle the things that are in front of us. Physical space also matters. Safe space-builders need to identify physical spaces that protect and secure their participants, and are conducive to intimate conversations [6].

Brigit Altwegg wrote ten (10) useful tips to approach safe spaces,  which highlight the value of the claim of our own histories and our ability to be accountable and responsible for our future. According to Altwegg: “create space to acknowledge history and accept responsibility for the future”. Altwegg highlights how safe spaces  allow people to move-out of old paradigms and continue moving forward. 

Caring Culture

Camaraderie and the sense of community are important characteristics of a caring culture. . La’Ketta Cadwell of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee writes of the importance of using words in this culture, “a lot of these young kids, they’ve never been told that somebody loves them. From the beginning, we say that all the time.” 

Beyond words, actions matter just as much, it’s better for safe spaces to be clear regarding the things  they can do, produce, and deliver – the space must also be open about the things that they can’t do. 

Equity and Inclusion

As builders of safe spaces, equity and inclusion start with understanding the participants, helping the participants understand themselves, and helping them understand each other. When people enter a  safe space, the goal is to understand where they come from, and to never make assumptions about them.

Equity and Inclusion is commonly paired with diversity, these goals must revolve around indicators and achievable chunks for the community. Scarlet Clarke of Commonwealth described strategies to promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (especially in workplaces): 

Building safe-spaces may require a long but steady approach under the objective of being accommodating beyond traditional barriers, this starts by creating a culture of belongingness that mandates builders to immerse themselves in must-have meaningful conversations with their audience, this can range from starting to become a pronoun-friendly community to having open communication in administration and management (includes school-spaces and workplaces) [7]; this will help us bridge towards holding accountable for achieving this goal in these places, Clarke also reminds us that: 

“Remember, making incremental progress is okay. Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce is a journey—not a destination.” 

Second D: Deliver

The delivery part of safe space is to practice  equity and inclusion, care, and enforcing ground rules during sessions in the community’s safe space. This is especially useful for facilitators who  need to be fully immersed and present in the situation and in the session. Facilitators  need to hold their safe spaces with love. According to Altwegg, safe spaces are about  actions.  Facilitating conversations in the safe space requires a “high degree of self-awareness and selflessness, which can only be developed over time.” Altwegg lists four core values, namely: honesty, purity of intention, unselfishness and love. She cites  silent reflection as a tool to facilitate safe spaces. 

Beyond Borders – In its Fifth Year, Throughout the Homes

The #UsapTayo community strives to create safe spaces online, especially on Twitter. The people and audience behind and in front of the viral hashtag aims to zero the suicide cases with it’s thrice a month sessions every zeroeth of the month (10, 20, and 30). 

#UsapTayo uses social media for the greater good: to provide useful information, empathize with others, and help prevent bias to its advocacy. #UsapTayo uses Twitter as an avenue for people’s emotional sentiments where we can relate and empathize with each other.

Over hundreds of sessions, #UsapTayo faced the  demands of the world of technology.  MentalHealthPH radically runs  safe spaces online to provide comfort, acceptance, and inclusivity in the community. 

Remarkably, #UsapTayo produced sessions about safe spaces. One of these is the collaboration with Better Today PH, the #UsapangSafety which aims to discuss the creation of a healthy, productive, and transformative environment via online platforms. Another unforgettable chikahan was the #SafeSpaceAtWorkAndSchool in which sessions in MentalHealthPH are not only for the internet world, but also the promotion of safe space in an engaging and primary area of growth in every individual which are the school and the workplace. 

#UsapTayo unites people from all walks of life with inclusiveness across gender, race and religion. Everyone is welcome to share their experience, and the Do Not Retweet policy protects individuals who require more privacy with their sharing

#UsapTayo is a home, a place, and a sanctuary with all of our names on it. It’s that space of comfort, fun, and love — and in the community that we have all formed. 

#UsapTayo has been and will continue to be a safe space for everyone. It’s like your digital best friend who  does not judge you and just hears you. It makes us all seen and heard which is very important to our Mental Health. Safe space is a space that feels nurturing and allows your feelings to be what they are.

The MentalHealthPH Self-Care Kit Volume 2 reminds us: “There’s no shame in asking for help. A flower never asks the sun for permission before it sprouts or blooms. It just does it when it’s ready!”

Pre-Session Questions:

  1. In light of our fifth year anniversary, share with us the most memorable thing you’ve read or shared while participating in an #UsapTayo session!
  2. How and when did you join #UsapTayo?

Session Questions: 

  1. Who do you consider as your support system and safe space? 
  2. How do you encourage your family and friends to promote safe spaces within your circles? 
  3. How can we create safe spaces in social media? 

Post-Session Questions: 

  1. How did #UsapTayo became your safe space here on twitter? Share your story with us.
  2. How did #UsapTayo became your safe space here on twitter? Share your story with us. 

 

References:

[1] Mirriam College. (n.d.). What is a SAFE SPACE? https://www.mc.edu.ph/safe-spaces 

[2] Legg, T. J. (2019). Why ‘Safe Spaces’ Are Important for Mental Health — Especially on College Campuses. HealthLine. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/safe-spaces-college 

[3] Homawoo, J. (n.d.). The Importance of Safe Spaces. InStepp, Inc. https://www.instepp.org/the-importance-of-safe-spaces/

[4]  https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2016/05/19/what-college-students-mean-when-they-ask-for-safe-spaces-and-trigger-warnings/?utm_term=.8bdb64506b50

[5] McGovern, G. (2015). How to Build Safe Spaces: Define, Then Deliver. Youth Today. https://youthtoday.org/2015/07/how-to-build-safe-spaces-define-then-deliver/ 

[6] Altwegg, B. (2019). 10 TIPS FOR CREATING A SAFE SPACE. Initiative of Change: Switzerland. https://www.iofc.ch/stories/10-tips-creating-safe-space 

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