Interview By: Peiman Raf
We got the chance to interview a new friend of ours, Liz Beecroft – an awesome person and huge mental health advocate on the Local Optimist today for National Suicide Prevention Day. We just did a panel together in NYC last week on mental health in the fashion space and we wanted to get her on as soon as we could!
Mental health advocate and lady hooper with a soft spot for sneakers, Liz Beecroft is a licensed master social worker and psychotherapist whose main mission is to educate her followers and raise awareness on mental health. Through her outlets, Liz is able to connect through authentic storytelling and complete transparency, making her space in the world wide web a safe place for mental health advocacy whether it be through body positivity, women’s empowerment, or validating that it is ok to feel ALL of the feels.
Liz! Thank you so much for joining us on the Local Optimist. We love featuring people in our community that are making a huge impact - we’re so lucky to have you join us on National Suicide Prevention day! Let’s get right into it:
1. We want to know - what was your first experience with mental health? It can be personal or an experience of someone close to you
My first experience with mental health dates back to when I was around 7 years old. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania where sports, especially basketball consumed my life. I experienced my first symptoms of anxiety when away at my first overnight basketball camp. Staying overnight for several days was something that triggered intense panic attacks (shortness of breathe, crying, worrying, racing heart rate, sweating). I can remember having racing thoughts that led into having fears that something bad would happen to my family if I wasn’t with them. I felt isolated and alone and thought that no one else on my team understood what I was going through. I essentially felt like I had no control, which was very uncomfortable. After experiencing this several times, my parents started to stay at local hotels to comfort and support me. The symptoms kept occurring so my parents finally decided to send me to a therapist to better understand what underlying issues were causing this. I learned that I was struggling with separation anxiety and was not comfortable in new spaces and had a difficult time adapting to new settings and environments, which put my mind into a frantic emotional state. Over time, therapy helped me a lot and I was able to overcome this, but at the time it felt like there wasn’t going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Building off of that question - when / how were you inspired to devote your life to the mental health space?
I started struggling with depression after going through a breakup in college. Unfortunately, I had been cheated on which was very hurtful and it made me feel worthless. I had a very difficult time, dealing with bouts of sadness and anger. I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that I wouldn’t ever find someone that I would love as much as I loved this person. The night I learned that he had cheated on me I had taken the entire bottle of my anxiety medication that I was prescribed. I woke up in the hospital the next morning with my parents there at my side. I knew I had to get myself together and overcome the depression. I immediately began therapy again and through this I learned that this was a career that I wanted to pursue. I was already studying Psychology in college and knew I wanted to focus on mental health, however after my personal experiences with therapy and being helped I knew this was something I wanted to be able to do for others.
3. How do you think is the best way to message mental health as a whole? What have you seen have the most positive reactions both clinically and through your platform?
I think the best way to message mental health as a whole is to do it in an authentic, genuine, down to earth way. Having real conversations about this topic that don’t come off as forced is something I find to have the best response. If I were to tell someone one day that I’m not feeling well because of my allergies, I also want to be able to tell someone in the same way that I’m feeling worried because of anxiety. I think the more we are able to talk about mental health with our friends, our families, our loved ones will ultimately allow these conversations to expand and broaden to other networks. Clinically, I try to also talk to my clients authentically about mental health. I avoid using too many clinical terms because IMO that can be intimidating and sometimes my client’s might not understand what that language means. I want my clients to feel comfortable in our therapy sessions especially since they are sharing their most vulnerable thoughts, feelings, and experiences with me because that isn’t something that is easy to do. Being able to provide a space where they feel comfortable to talk about sometimes uncomfortable topics is important to me and I really try to create that environment for my clients. Personally, I find it easy to talk openly about mental health since this is something I do everyday for my career as a therapist. This helps me to be open on my social media platforms where I can let it out in my messaging. My hope is that it encourages my followers to be in control of their own narrative in sharing what they want to about their own personal mental health. I don’t expect everyone to go around sharing all of their mental health business, but my hope is that it will encourage people to be more aware of how people can struggle with mental health and lead them to check in on their friends, be able to offer support when needed, or motivate them to prioritize their own mental health by seeking out resources. I have an open door policy at work as well as an open DM policy online. I’m always here to provide resources or direct someone in a direction of support.
4. Have to ask - how did the “In My Feels” shoe come to be and how do you look at the impact such a launch can have?
The “In My Feels” sneaker came about in partnership with Cultivator x Nike By You. I had applied in May of this year to be apart of this experience and learned in July that I was accepted and would be creating a AM 270 React color-way. I’ve always wanted to create a mental health awareness sneaker, but never thought it would actually be something that would come to fruition. When this opportunity presented itself I didn’t have to think twice about the storytelling aspect. When designing the sneaker I chose the color green, which is representative of Mental Health Awareness. The wavy swoosh was something I chose to represent the fact that healing isn’t linear. The name “In My Feels” was something I felt was a phrase people often used to associate with feeling “negative” feelings (or feeling a way that they might not like to feel) so I chose this to express that no matter what you’re feeling, good or bad, it’s okay to be in your feels.
To be quite honest, I never expected the launch to have such an impact. It’s really an overwhelming feeling. I wasn’t sure at first how people would respond, especially in the sneaker community. I worried that people might think it was a lame concept, since mental health is still so stigmatized. However, my worries were proven wrong. I’ve had quite a number of people reach out to me sharing personal experiences with mental health and expressing how much these shoes meant to them. That’s the coolest feeling ever, knowing that something you created has impacted someone on that level. I think it shows that ultimately people do care about mental health, the conversations around this topic might be lacking and we as advocates or professionals can learn that there are ways to spark these conversations so that they happen more regularly to break down stigma. My hope with the sneakers is that someone wears their shoes and gets asked by a stranger about them, which will create a dialogue around mental health awareness.
5. We know you have a strong tie with AFSP - how have they been helpful in your mission to bring more awareness to the space?
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has been great. I view them as family at this point because we’ve been in contact with them throughout the launch and they have been nothing but supportive in helping me spread this message. I was originally drawn to AFSP because I really loved their messaging, especially the graphics they use on their socials and how well put together their resources and information are on this topic. They host various walks to raise awareness and raise money for suicide prevention research, provide volunteer opportunities, host in school educational programming, give grants for research, provide trainings as well as other amazing resources. Because of my personal experiences as well, I was also drawn to an organization that supports suicide prevention and honing in on recognizing the warning signs.
6. What would you put on a billboard today to help the most number of people struggling with their mental health?
I would put various mental health resources on a billboard. I think that is one of the hardest parts of the mental health space is finding the right resources that are a good fit for each individual. There’s so many out there yet finding them is really difficult! Even as a professional I am often struggling to find resources for clients and most of the time I find them via word of mouth from other professionals. Since we are aiming to increase the real conversations we have around mental health the chances of the “word of mouth” resources are probably not getting around or getting to the right people, so I would include resources specific to that region to help those get the help and support they need.
We know you love to hoop - favorite basketball player of all time?
Dream talk show event to be a part of?
The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Best habits you’ve implemented for your mental health.
Going to therapy regularly, playing basketball, and surrounding myself with positive, funny, & supportive people.
Forgive yourself each night & re-commit each morning.
Favorite Madhappy piece? :)
Everything, but mostly the heritage crewneck.