Eli Brown is doing his best to Shine the Light On Mental Health Issues

I was recently introduced to a company and movement I immediately clicked with called Shine the Light On. Shine the Light On is on a mission to bring a voice to mental health issues impacting youth. I’ve had a few phone conversations with the charismatic founder, Eli Brown, who has impressed me even more! You should head over to the website and check out the Our Story video to see him in action speaking on stage and giving away t-shirts like a rock star! But, it’s not all fun and games, on the homepage you can view a video explaining more about the company and the Our Cause page tells you that “with every purchase, STLO donates one educational program to advance mental health in youth.”

The facts may be a bit shocking to some but “1 in 3 youth from all walks of life suffer from mental health related issues. Two out of three suffer in silence due to fear of rejection and alienation.”

From the first moment I spoke to Eli, I felt like I knew him and his own struggles. His battle with his issues began after he was sexually assaulted at a young age. The shame and difficulties navigating his feelings were familiar to me in my own experiences and struggles as a youth. I know his story will resonate with many young people and adults and his advice is important.

As with all Social Good issues, the most important part is that WE CAN HELP others in what may seem like a small way. Buying a shirt or a few shirts may not seem like much but once you see what they are doing you realize that collectively, it will help a great many people. After you read our little chat, be sure to head to Shine The Light On to check out the merchandise for yourself.

Q: For those who aren’t familiar, tell us a little about you and how Shine the Light On came about?

Eli Brown: Shine the Light On is a clothing company that uses thought provoking designs to let people suffering from mental illness know they aren’t alone. People wear the clothes and become billboards, carrying the message with them. We work with non profits to partner and send this message throughout the communities who need to hear/see it.

We want to shift the conversation from reducing the stigma to acceptance and for every purchase we donate one educational program to help advance mental health in youth.

Q: As you have said, when we suffer certain traumas in our lives or carry certain secrets, we tend to feel we can’t talk to anyone about it because they won’t understand. Looking back, do you think now that you could have come forward earlier?

Eli Brown: Looking back now, having gone through sexual abuse I think I could have said something earlier and gotten help. It can be embarassing and difficult. As far as sexual abuse, there is a lot of shame and embarrassment. I was pretty uneducated on the symptoms of depression and anxiety so I thought it was normal freshman college issues. I went through sexual abuse at the age of 14 and kept it inside for years. At 18, 19, I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. That caused the mental struggles to grow.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who is suffering in silence or struggling with their mental health?

Eli Brown: The best advice: Find a support network that will help you get assistance. Guidance counselor, teacher, health professional. Reach out so you can start to receive help. Telling one person or two people creates a support group of your own and will give you the courage to go forward to seek out professionals. A friend or family member, talking it out with them helps you to get guided and ready to talk to professionals.

Q: Movements like Shine the Light do help to erase some of the stigma that surrounds mental health issues but there is still lots of work to do. What would you say to loved ones of anyone who is struggling?

Eli Brown: The stigma around mental health is definitely decreasing. I can say that when it comes to the people who reach out to me, I can only listen with no judgement. Hear their pain and their story, and then help them to seek professional help. Validation and support are key.

Q: You’ve been open and honest about your own struggles and the things you have done to self medicate. We see so often that individuals get to the point of overdose and many times it ends tragically. Are there certain signs we can look for in the ones we love that could prevent things from going so far? There is a difference between experimenting as we grow up and abusing to escape. Is it a difference that can be caught in time?

Eli Brown: I do think it’s something that can be caught. It depends on whether people want to act upon it. Weight loss, sleeping in, suddenly pale complexion. There are tons of signs but sometimes it’s difficult to confront someone about it. I went from being a high performance athlete, playing tennis, getting up early, eating healthy  to not working out, not eating healthy… you may notice changes.

Q: I know you have some exciting things going on and coming up, can you tell us some of your future plans for Shine the Light On?

Eli Brown: One exciting thing is that we are going to start donating a significant part of proceeds to affordable housing for people who struggle with mental health and addiction. We have found that being able to afford a place to live can be difficult for those you are dealing with these issues and trying to seek help.

Another thing is that we will be launching in Europe. Mental health awareness is different in each city in the states and each country in Europe. The Royal family in the UK is on the leading edge in that. They are doing some ground breaking things for the people there and they have been open to doing what it takes to help.

Q: I ask this of everyone, What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Eli Brown: One thing I can’t live without is this little book I carry with me where I write daily activities, phone numbers, notes. I love writing stuff down. I keep all of my notes and numbers in there. And ice cream! I love ice cream so I’d definitely say that.

I wish that at meals people could live without their phones. I don’t what it is, it really bugs me. People are out on dates or together in groups and are on their phones instead of paying attention to each other. People should pay less attention to technology during intimate dinners or gatherings and more attention to the people who are present there in the moment.

Q: Since you are so open about your own story and have spoken about it at events, do you have any particular stories that have touched you in surprising or memorable ways?

Eli Brown: I think one of the main things that surprised me is how many people there are that are impacted by mental health. When I was going through it, I felt like I was alone and I’ve found out so many others are going through it. So many of the stories I hear are impactful. Always very, very impactful stories after I speak somewhere or meet people through my work.

Q: I LOVE the partnership of Social Good and fashion, would you consider doing clothing for other causes?

Eli Brown: Yeah, when we initially started that is something we discussed. I think as we go on we will continue to Shine the Light on other social causes that impact youth.

Q: Where can we find you and Shine the Light online to learn more and to order some items so we can proudly and stylishly support?

You can go to our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and visit the Website for more info on us, to find out where I’ll be speaking, where we will be featured, and of course to order our clothing.

Q: Since you are someone who had a vision and made a success of it, what advice would you give to those who have passions, dreams, and visions but are having a difficult time getting stared or haven’t been able to overcome certain fears that come along with pursuing them?

Eli Brown: One of the most difficult things to do is to stay focused and to stay tight on your vision.

There was too much feedback on what I was trying to do. I was getting sidetracked listening to eveyone else.

My biggest piece of advice is once you have that vision established, stay on that course until you start to see the vision becoming a reality.

Tommy: I want to thank Eli for sitting down with me for this interview and I definitely look forward to working with him more. I’m proud to be one of the brand ambassadors for Shine the Light On and would love to do something possibly for the LGBT community with them at some point in the future.


Anthony Tilghman is helping to Make SMART Cool

In April of 2013, Anthony Tilghman set out to start a movement that would show young people the importance of education and inspire them to change the way they thought about it. He realized that for many students, education had become less of a priority. School should be cool and Make Smart Cool intends to do just that.

Many young people think education is not necessary any more for many reasons. Today, some see internet sensations or their favorite artists who may not have finished or continued their education and think they can follow the same path. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy and no matter what, EDUCATION can give you a great edge no matter what industry you intend to pursue. I’ve often said, it is better to have knowledge, especially when it comes to finances and money, so that others cannot take advantage of you at least. Other children find it hard to get excited about being smart because of bullies or due to financial restrictions. This is why I wanted to show my own support for Make Smart Cool and see if we could turn that around.

Here is my interview with Anthony, please feel free to check out Make Smart Cool and show some support. They have these cool t-shirts you can purchase to show you are part of the movement and inspire others! Anthony Tilghman is also a very talented photographer so I must encourage you to check him out as well!

Q: What inspired you to start the “Make Smart Cool” campaign?

Anthony Tilghman: I wanted to do something to Inspire the youth and promote education. I grew up loving school and I think it’s time to motivate the youth to enjoy learning and as you can see the leaders of America’s largest corporations are making smart cool.

Q: Have you been surprised at the reception you have received with this campaign?

Anthony Tilghman: I have enjoyed the feedback and the support we’ve received but I think there is so much more to do and we are constantly learning about things we can do for the community.

Q: Speaking of being smart, what have you learned from working on the “Make Smart Cool” campaign?

Anthony Tilghman: I have learned that it takes a lot of work to run an organization and I’m definitely up for the challenge and I’ve learnt that it takes a community to motivate the youth and I’m going to try to continue inspiring these parents & teachers to help us make

Q: What would you say to young people who are made fun of and/or bullied because they are smart?

Anthony Tilghman: I say it’s time to change the stereotype and motivate those individuals that being smart is the coolest thing you can be.

Q: What is the best advice you have ever received? Who was it from?

Anthony Tilghman: The Best Advice I have received so far is from a Teacher who told me to keep going and don’t let anyone stop me from my dreams and that what I’m doing is making a difference.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever given? Are you good at taking your own advice?

Anthony Tilghman: I think the best advice is what I tell the youth daily and that is Never give up on your dreams because when you work hard in life amazing things happen.

Q: What’s one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?

Anthony Tilghman: I honestly can’t Live without my Phone because as a business owner you have to be available to as many opportunities as you can but I think sometimes I need a break so I just unplug.

Q: Where can we find more on “Make Smart Cool”? 

Anthony Tilghman: The Best way is to visit our website at www.makesmart.cool to learn more about how you can join the movement and support and also learn more about events.

Q: I know you are also a very talented photographer. Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Anthony Tilghman: You can learn more about me at my website at www.anthonytilghman.com

Q: What’s up next for the campaign and for you?

Anthony Tilghman: Well the Whole Month of August we’re giving away backpacks with school supplies to help the kids go back to school also we’re going to be reaching out to schools to come and talk & motivate the youth about the importance of education.

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Upcoming 140Conference on Education

For the second year, the 140edu will be held in NYC at the 92nd Street Y on July 31st and August 1st.  The event will once again explore the state of education in real time.  No one can deny that since the explosion of the Internet and Social Media, everything has changed, including how we educate our children.  I attended last year to see what it was about, although I have no children I found so much valuable information.  I realized we are all educating people through Social Media.  Each of us represent what we do and the area we are from, which not everyone in our circles may be familiar with.  We become ambassadors of knowledge that is only available to us since the explosion of the World Wide Web.

Even if you are not in the education field, you do have reason to be up to date on the latest ways we are using technology to educate our children.  I think parents and teachers especially need to be aware of what our kids are doing and how much they already know simply because they have had it right there all along.  There is also much value in harnessing these technologies and using them to make education more effective as well as fun. You may even find that something children and teens are using for entertainment purposes can be explored and adapted as an educational tool.

Check out the list of speakers for the upcoming event and register on the site. It will be two days of discussing the state of education in real time as well as being educated in a very unique way.  There will also be plenty of networking and the opportunity to meet Mr. 140 himself, Jeff Pulver!