Liz: Other Parents Like Me (OPLM) is a membership based community for parents and caregivers of young adults, teenagers, young people that are struggling with mental health issues. That can be learning differences, eating disorders, substance use, anxiety, depression, we really cover a wide range. At our core, our support groups are led by two peer parents who have been in it or [are] in it, and are trained by Casie and understand this space. So their level of empathy is through the roof. We offer 17 of those meetings throughout the day so that we can offer these support groups to people on either coast. And we are really trying to create more identity based [groups]; We have a solo moms, a men’s group, a trauma-informed group, and a newcomers group. And ultimately our goal is to be able to offer something for the LGBTQ community, BIPOC community, adoptive parents…the list could go on. But we must have parents that can lead those groups. So, you know, being in our infancy, we can only start where we can start.
But that is our mission, right? To offer these meetings 24/7. And every Thursday, we have a speaker talk at 8:00pm EST with industry experts, people well renowned in this space of mental health that have published books, have podcasts…and what makes this [series] unique is that parents get to ask these expert questions. This isn’t listening to a podcast. It’s not reading a book, and it’s free. It’s for anybody at any point. Every Thursday and we record them. So if you are a paying member, you can go back to the recordings, which we see get a lot of traction on our website.
And the third part of what we offer is a resource hub. I know when I was trying to find help, I was stunned at how difficult it was. I would Google and talk to places and they’d say, ‘Oh, your son has to check himself in’. And I would say, ‘Wait a minute, he’s 16 years old. What do you mean? I’m his mom!’ The laws are different from state to state. There’s a lot of acronyms. It’s very confusing.
So what we’ve done is we’ve created a list of words, a dictionary to help people navigate those acronyms, those new things that are coming up. And we also have a directory of individuals and organizations — if you need a coach, if you need a place for your child to go — that’s been vetted by Casie and the team. And then finally, a resource hub that’s searchable. So if you want to type in eating disorders and you’re looking specifically for articles on that, it can drill down as deep as that.
Casie: I’m just having a moment here. Liz is doing so well. I could hear so many of my words in her talk!
Casie: She listens well! The cool part about the support groups is with the two facilitators, the two peer parents are actually sneakily getting parents to start to do a little self care. So we start off with a meditation and then we have a topic. And we have a big library with lots of different things — everything from Yung Pueblo, who is a poet who writes about trauma. You’re nodding your head, do you know Yung Pueblo? I love him. Liz is like, you always talk about young Pueblo [laughs]. Or [the peer parents] talk about acceptance, or read about acceptance, or something from Brené Brown, or a brief video on vulnerability that Brené Brown has done…or something like that. And then the peer parents reflect on it from their own perspective. And that creates a situation where the parents start to reflect on it.
You have 55 minutes where you [as the parent] actually start to take note that, even though you’re there because of your kid, you’re there for you and you’re taking what you’re hearing and what you’re listening and what you’re sharing and starting to turn away from the outside and into yourself. And that’s what I love; it’s beautiful. And then usually there’s time at the end when you have someone who’s had a really big struggling kid moment that they just want to share, and then everybody can reflect on it or say, ‘Hey, we’re holding space’. Or, you know, that kind of thing. But we have two in the room, two peer parents, because sometimes there’s crisis, sometimes there’s suicidal ideation of the parent or the child. And so by having two, they can go out into a breakout room. We have tools that we’ve given the peer parents to help with so they can go and give that person the space that they need and the meeting still runs on. So it’s another learning thing for even the person in crisis if it’s okay for me to be in crisis and that there are things moving on in life.
So I think there’s a lot of power in the way we’ve organized the meetings. And that came from me attending and being a part of a lot of other organizations such as the Partnership to End Addiction and Tempest and the Luckiest Club; seeing how they’ve done it and how they create a space where people can talk about themselves but not. And so they end up learning. And then the hope is that [we’ve created] just a little window [for an] aha moment that when someone hears this they will go, ‘Oh, wait…Oh, I do that. Oh, that connects to me’. And you start to [build] a little bit change. Just a little bitty turn and then you get stronger and then you feel more whole and you gain more understanding about yourself.
Thus your change removes [yourself] and allows the person who’s struggling, the child who’s struggling, to not be the identified patient in the home anymore, or outside if they’re outside of the home. And that’s powerful for them because they don’t feel that they’re going to break their parents anymore. And that’s huge because there’s a lot of shame for the child to see their parents collapse. And the whole unit starts to improve. And that’s the beauty of what we’re doing.
Liz: I also think that we’ve created a safe space that can be anonymous. So a lot of people that are new are afraid to share, right? They don’t have to turn on their video screen. They don’t have to type their name in. It’s accessible. You can join a meeting from your phone. And what we’ve learned is it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey. I know for myself, when I first joined, a lot of tears, a lot [time] wrapped up in like what my son was going through. And then months later, you know, I could handle those situations. And I was really speaking more about myself.
But when I would hear somebody new come in, I realized, holy cow, look how far I’ve come. That person is me. And so there’s value in being in the room because you’re learning and seeing. It’s an opportunity to see how far you’ve come. And I think for the new people, they see the people that have been in the rooms for a bit and see the difference in them and want that as well.
Natasha: That’s beautiful. It’s a really great reminder about humanity; that we see ourselves in one another. But it sounds like Other Parents Like Me creates the container, creates the space for that to happen for parents, in particular, in these circumstances.
But I think at the end of the day, what you’re doing is really building a community, where there are small morsels or nuggets of awareness that are being popped in, that can be the catalyst for change — for their themselves, their family systems, and for the support they can provide for their children. I love it.
Natasha: Y’all sign everyone up! [laughs]
Casie: Yes, please. Yes, y’all! [laughs]