To decrease the high rate of adolescent suicide, and bullying through creating safe and healthy school environments for all youth, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual and all allies. Donations are used for continued advocacy, sharing resources and promoting kindness.
The purpose of Lily’s Hope, LLC - a social impact company - is threefold.
First purpose is to educate and raise awareness of, the increasing rate of adolescent suicide, the critical connection with “bullying” (violence), and the significantly higher rate of risks faced by LGBTQIA youth. AND to share CRITICAL solutions to this.
The second purpose is to help others who care, to engage in creating positive, lasting change, through advocacy. This site offers resources for how everyone can help in small personal ways - in their daily lives, to larger advocacy in the schools, community, state and nation.
Finally, the third area of focus is to address the visible and documented reduction in empathy seen in our youth and our culture as a whole, which our youth emulate. We advocate that when schools are promoting kindness, mindfulness and emotional intelligence, through policy and curriculum, the result is an increase in empathy and well being and a reduction in bullying and adolescent suicide.
Lily's Hope for Kindness was created in 2017 after my daughter Lily's suicide when she was 13 years old and in the seventh grade. To read more about the incredibly kind and compassionate person Lily was and her story, go to the Lily's Story at the bottom of this page. This site was created to help other parents, teachers, and others who care, to ensure that ALL students are safe in their schools; for those who understand that LGBTQIA youth are at extraordinary risk of bullying in schools and the truly life threatening risk this poses.
The essence of the solution lies in seeing clearly that the social environment in our schools is CRITICAL! Environment is everything. If students do not feel valued, protected, safe, supported, accepted, or appreciated for and allowed to be who they are... the result is a toxic school environment. If the schools aren't asking the students anonymously how they feel about the school culture, it is a guarantee that their voices are not being heard. NO person thrives, learns, grows or succeeds in a toxic environment. MANY of our schools are toxic and truly unsafe. This situation can quite literally swallow them. The negative impacts of social media severely amplify the impact of a toxic situation. Without any hyperbole, this is truly a crisis. However, there are SOLUTIONS! When implemented effectively the NECESSARY COMPONENTS (below) result in schools with lower bullying incidents, higher engagement with students, greater overall academic success, significant reductions in suicide (both attempted and completed) as well as many other mental health issues - increased states of mental health for all students, higher attendance rates, and higher post graduate success rates.
NECESSARY COMPONENTS for SAFE SCHOOLS
If your schools don't have these parts in place, the students who are marginalized are not safe. Go to the advocacy page for more info on how to change this.
Surveys: Must be anonymous. Data should be used to guide schools in where change is needed.
Mental Health and Therapists: Licensed therapists must be in schools in addition to guidance counselors. Mental health of students and the impact on that from school environment must be a priority. Effective Restorative Justice Programs include therapists in their process. If your state (like UTAH) won't include therapy as a required part of resorative justice, the programs don't work. Mindfulness programs included in schools have a profoundly positive impact on bullying and mental health issues. TEACHERS can incorporate emotional intelligence into their curriculum to improve mental health and reduce bullying overall.
Policies/Accountability/Transparency: To demonstrate transparency and accountability, surveys, as well as actions taken to address them, should be posted publicly on the school websites. Policies around non discrimination MUST be in place and enforced for students and all staff. *** This is an area most schools are failing.*** Effective tracking systems for incidents of bullying can help schools to appropriately intervene and to protect targets of bullying.
Visibility: When LGBTQIA and all other marginalized students feel they can be visible, be seen, appreciated and accepted for who they are... ALL of them, they feel safe, valued and hopeful. Teachers and staff can post safe zone stickers to visibly demonstrate to all student that they are a safe and accepting person that can be turned to for support or help. Visible diversity in staff also further creates an environment of safety and acceptance.
*** Students in states like Florida with their 'Don't Say Gay' policies are NOT safe. If your state has a similar law (as Utah did when my daughter took her life) this creates a toxic environment which sucks out all hope and will swallow students. Get connected with organizations fighting for safety in your state. See the Resources page for more info.
The Rainbow Horse ~ Lily created this for an art assignment in school. She explained it to me as 'How you see yourself in the world'. This is a powerful image expressing the hopelessness that she felt in her school and in the world. When laws are passed that are discriminatory against the rights of LGBTQIA youth, this fills their view of the future with grey and barren hues. When laws support and protect these youth, they feel their color shine and can allow it to shine out into the world. What kind of environment is your child experiencing at school?
What it reveals about the crisis of toxic school environments.
Swallowed by a toxic school environment
Why listen to me? My background and how I gathered, processed and created this information.
Tools and information that helped me survive and transform my trauma so that I could continue to live and engage with life.
Prior to Lily's death, I had always been an involved parent in the schools. I volunteered in classrooms, went on field trips and brought our farm animals in for students to experience them first hand. I was also a teacher in the schools and in the middle of my third year teaching when Lily took her life. I knew first hand many of the problems in our schools in many areas. However, I did not know or fully realize how toxic the school environment was for her. As I detailed in Lily's story, we (myself and many others who loved her) were doing all of the things that we thought we should do; getting her the support she needed, connecting her with a therapist experienced with adolescent self harming youth, trying to surround her with people who lifted her up and who were there for her. Yet, we couldn't be there with her at school. At the time, Lily and I were discussing different ways to address bullying she experienced and a great deal she was witnessing. The growing sense of hopelessness was also heightened by the issues in the state and nation regarding LGBTQ+ rights and protections. It all painted a picture for her of a future that was full of hate and struggle.
She was Student of the Month for her Tolerance in January 2017. She resisted sharing what she was seeing and experiencing with the administration when I would encourage this. Her response was always the same; it was either "snitches get stitches Mom" or "NO - if I do then it will only get worse. They don't do anything to help." While the fact that she felt this way was very concerning, I chose not to go speak with them myself because she threatened to take her life if I did. We continued to discuss it and come up with various ways to approach the situation that might help her feel safe to report it. Tragically that opportunity ended when, as a result of many thing but most definitely bullying she experienced that day, she was swallowed by total hopelessness for the future.
There can only be attempts through words to describe the annihilation and total destruction that followed. I spent many months afterwards focused on the schools and addressing the areas where it was failing, because I knew too many students who were walking that razors edge and desperately wanted to protect them. I spent countless hours talking with students, parents, school staff, therapists, specialists, state school board members, lawyers and many others, about the situation LGBTQ+, and other marginalized youth, face in schools. Through those hundreds of hours, I assembled the Necessary Components and compiled the needed resources to demonstrate their need and their effective implementation. They are not just my thoughts, but rather reflect the insights of many people and organizations, from different backgrounds, experience and expertise.
In addition to working with the local school board and the State Office of Education (state level school board) to make critical changes, I tried to help connect various organizations who serve youth in the community, engaged in larger community advocacy and education, and with the incredible help of Isabella Walter created this website as a resource to help others. However, just before a year had passed, I hit a wall of my ability to continue to focus on that work and realized that for my own survival, I had to focus on myself and employ any remaining energy I could muster to tending myself through this inexplicable pain I was in and hell I was living. Throughout, I continued to engage in advocacy in different ways, but I knew with certainty that my focus and first priority had to be my mind and my heart if I was going to survive.
My journey to this place where I have synthesized my Trauma and am engaging with life and the world at large again, took over 5 years. All of it was intensive work. With every cell of my being, I wanted to escape the unbearable pain I had to bear. Yet I was committed to keep the promise I made to my son, and my loved ones, to stay alive. Doing so was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I know with absolute certainty that I would not have survived it without my son, my family, my boyfriend at the time - Christopher Beitner, the love and support of many friends, good therapists (CBT, EMDR and Neurofeedback), immersion in Nature and Meditation.
Because I had practiced various styles of meditation since I was 17, I had a good level of ability to listen to myself and feel into which style was best for me at any given moment. Meditation became the only space where I could find a small sense of peace, any small reprieve. It was also the space where I did all of the hardest work of allowing, acceptance and surrender. I spent hours each day immersed in meditation, usually in Nature - my favorite and most impactful place to meditate! Nature was my ICU ward and most powerful medicine as I went through layer after layer of pain and deconstruction, through shattering of identity, purpose and self, through the sense of burning alive and being unable to put myself out, through burning - over and over and over again. Excellent evidence supporting why and how Nature impacts us in such a profound way. Although it has always been my church, my sanctuary, my peace, it became a lifeline, a plasma so that I could live - My Best Hospital. I firmly believe that if I had not spent so much time meditating and in Nature, I would not have come to this place of synthesis and emergence.
In 2020 I read "The Body Keeps the Score," by Bessel Van der Kolk. The book affirmed and validated so much of what I was experiencing. I had already done some EMDR with my therapist which had radically changed the feeling of being tormented by images and the part of me stuck in the moment of finding Lily - what I call the Screaming Woman. That radically changed my experience. The images were still there, the Screaming Woman still part of me, but it was different. The images weren't bombarding me all the time or randomly, and it opened the door so that the Screaming Woman wouldn't be holding me there in that moment so often. However I still struggled with my PTSD, depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. A friend connected me with the NeuroMeditation Institute and Dr. Jeff Tarrant and Kendra Vita where received neurofeedback treatment. Through this treatment I read Jeff's book "Meditation Interventions to Rewire the Brain." Working with Kendra on neuromeditation while receiving neurofeedback marked a monumental moment in my recovery. Although I could feel into which kind of meditation worked in any moment, sometimes it still felt off or didn't have the effect I wanted. The insights I gained through learning about and practicing neuromeditation (especially with the immediate feedback of NF to validate the effect of certain states of meditation) allowed me to fully take the reins of my mind and take control of my response to my trauma and reduced the activation of the trauma response. THIS WAS LIFE CHANGING!! I was fully empowered to take control so that I could fully synthesize my trauma and emerge into a new life. However, this does not erase the trauma. Trauma never 'goes away'. It is part of us. I will still get activated, I just know exactly what to do to bring it back to calm. I still experience holes of depression, but I know how to climb out. I still at times have the waves of not wanting to feel the pain that will never go away, but again, I know how to respond.
Accepting that there is no END to trauma, is a critical piece for learning to manage it. We can't erase or undo what has been done, but we do have a choice about HOW we live with it and can have more control over how much it impacts us. Once you have tools that work for you to manage your trauma, you are the person who is responsible for using them when needed. All the tools I have learned to respond with have helped me, to put it simply, to LIVE and to begin to THRIVE. I will always hold sorrow and pain in my heart, but I can equally hold joy again. The trauma never disappears but you can free yourself from being at the mercy of it.
I have found my new purpose in this new life, it is to work with others suffering from Trauma and its devastating impacts take the reins of their own mind through neuromeditation, emotional intelligence, personal ceremony, nature and other tools. Freedom from being at the mercy of your trauma is LIFE CHANGING! Helping others to figure out which tools work best for them to do this brings me great joy. As does seeing others feel empowered and HOPEFUL for their future. I am currently building the website for that but until then if you or someone you know might benefit from these tools, please reach out. Go to the Contact Us page for more info. Feel free to email me at: email@example.com. I try to keep my rates affordable and am working on getting services covered with some insurance. I will be offering some group classes and individual work through the website when it is ready. If you are someone who wants to support access to these services for those who can't afford it, please send me an email. All donations for this will be used to provide one on one work with someone who is suffering and in need of help.
This site is in honor of my gold, my heart, my Lily. It is also dedicated to those who have lost someone to suicide, those who've had to bear the unbearable, accept the unacceptable, and find a way to survive and work to make the world a more humane place.