New Study Finds 1 in 12 College Students Make a Suicide Plan

Cornell University students cross the college's Thurston Avenue Bridge in Ithaca, N.Y. on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. In the past month, three students have fallen from campus bridges. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
Cornell University students cross the college’s Thurston Avenue Bridge in Ithaca, N.Y. on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. In the past month, three students have fallen from campus bridges. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Des Moines, Iowa – This week, ending on Friday February 12, 2016, former foster kid turned national speaker and author Travis Lloyd is seeking support in the form of online votes for a new Suicide Prevention campaign aimed at impacting college campuses nationally titled #STOP1in12. #STOP1in12 represents the epidemic of high suicide rates amongst college students aged 18-24 and references the statistic that 1 in 12 college students has written down a suicide plan as a result of stresses related to school, work, relationships, social life, and still developing as a young adult.

Center For Disease Control (CDC) lists suicide as the #1 cause of death amongst this age-range.
The #STOP1in12 campaign is competing for initial launch funding through the Dream Big Grow Here Competition, hosted by the Center for Business Growth and Innovation at University of Northern Iowa. This funding will allow the campaign to launch with marketing and awareness in the first 5 states of the developing national campaign. Sponsors of the event include Iowa Bankers Association, iHeart Media, VentureNet Iowa, Technology Association of Iowa, IA Source Link, America’s Small Business Development Center of Iowa, U of I Credit Union, and UI Partners.

Anyone with a Facebook account can log in from their mobile device or computer to vote.

To vote, visit www.STOP1in12.org & click the link to the Dream Big Grow Here competition at the top of the page.

Campaign Developer Travis Lloyd has personal experience with stressful situations as a former foster kid himself who later served multiple communities as a mental health nurse and Mobile Crisis Worker, even talking someone off a bridge at one point. Travis states, “There were times that I would get called to talk a college student out of swallowing a bunch of pills because they were home-sick or got broken up with. So many people laugh at that, but it is a harsh reality and one that matters. We as a public need a better understanding so we can support each other instead of brushing those feelings under the rug.”

The staff at Changing Lives Entertainment is encouraging everyone in the community to be an active ambassador simply by voting. Every vote can make a big difference in launching this campaign on a national level by funding marketing efforts and initial media production.

The first campaign stop, where they plan to do the initial video shoot, is scheduled for September 9, 2016 during Suicide Awareness Week at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, IA.

To sign up for #STOP1in12 Campaign Updates, visit www.STOP1in12.org

Self Care: Placing An Oxygen Mask On Yourself Prior To Assisting Others

Traveling with friends and family to events is something I like to do for two reasons. One is the fact that I like to share experiences with others who might not otherwise have the opportunity to travel. If I can help them create new memories and expand their minds I always try to. Two, I simply prefer to have company when I travel for speaking engagements or HipHop performances.

But there’s one specific time I recall that I’m sure my travel companions may have wished they had missed out on my excursions.

Primarily filled with judges and lawyers, this 1000 person audience threw me for a loop and off my game. What happened was both humbling and embarrassing. It also opened my eyes to some internal emotional work that I had yet to address. I wish it wouldn’t have unfolded on stage, but everything happens for a reason and this was no exception.

I stayed up until 5AM the night before the big conference preparing my notes and pacing in my hotel room, undoubtably irritating both my sister and friend/videographer who were sharing the two room suite that had been provided to us. I was noticeably more nervous than usual. Rightfully so, it was an entirely new audience. This nervousness led up to a level of self-exposure that was not planned nor pretty.

Keep in mind that keynote speaking is my full time career. These organizations don’t hire me just because of my fancy website or produced videos, they hire me because I have personal experience in the system and spent 15 years working as a Registered Nurse and child welfare advocate prior to launching my platform and publishing my book. Hopefully this tells you that this mishap was not due to inexperience, but rather a lack of awareness in the self-care department. It was not something that was obvious.

A small dog suffering from smoke inhalation was rescued by firefighters and given oxygen by firefighter/paramedic Mark Hubert. Photo by: Gigi Graciette (shared by OCFA)
A small dog suffering from smoke inhalation was rescued by firefighters and given oxygen by firefighter/paramedic Mark Hubert. Photo by: Gigi Graciette (shared by OCFA)

I have spent nearly a decade engulfed in self-development and improving my approach to self-care so it was not for lack of trying. It was simply something that went under the radar. I think that we all have little things that sift through the cracks of our diligent efforts time and time again. Which is why we need to regularly and consistently be reminded of the importance of self-care.

No matter how many times you have flown, the flight attendants always remind you to take care of yourself first. If the cabin loses oxygen then make sure you have your oxygen mask on prior to assisting others even children. You’re no good to anyone if you die before getting to them. And that is what happens when we keep letting little things slip through the cracks.

We die a little inside and aren’t able to be the great people we were meant to be for our friends, family, and clients. How many social workers do you know that need a social worker? Probably a lot. Remembering this can save your life and your relationships.

Therefore, at the risk of exposing my own insecurities to yet another large audience, I offer this story to inspire your own self-reflection in hopes of allowing you to be better prepared to face the unknowns in your life and work. Allow yourself to care for your own hidden emotional barriers before making a fool out of yourself in front of friends, co-workers, and most-importantly family members and clients.

During my presentations, I often speak about my relationship with my mother and the impact it had on me as a child as she was absent and often emotionally abusive. Shortly before this presentation, I learned more about the truth behind my mother’s behaviors during my childhood. I learned that she had been labeled with multiple mental health diagnoses and placed on several psychotropic medications that impaired her ability to function, much less parent.

It gave me a sense of relief. So much of my life, I had hatred pent up in my heart for her inability to provide love, compassion, trust, and understanding. But, this new knowledge gave me a new direction for that anger. It allowed me to blame others or simply blame the system.

During this presentation, I spoke about those new findings. Self-exposure is generally very moving, right? I thought so too, but I found that to be the case only if done strategically and with purpose.

There was no purpose for my ranting about the corruption of the system. I was simply ranting.

Afterwards, a lady who looked my mom’s age and as if she may have had a rough life herself gave me a note. She told me to open it when I get back to my hotel room, and I did. It read: “I’m glad your aunty was there for you when I wasn’t able to be. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to be who you needed me to be. I love you very much. -signed, Mom”

I didn’t know it, but those were the words I had been longing to hear my entire life. And this woman knew it. Something tells me she was in my mothers shoes most of her life and possibly was once in my shoes as well.

Sitting in that hotel room, I broke down in tears immediately upon reading those words. She got it. She found a gaping wound and she picked up on it from my ranting on stage when I should have been providing actionable steps for the audience.

50 percent of the reviews from this event were negative. I obviously didn’t follow through with what the audience needed. I am embarrassed to say that, but hopefully this is a reminder that it is okay to need help. It is okay to take time away. Self care is essential, and it is okay for the counselors to seek counsel. Actually, it is necessary so that you don’t cause 50 percent of the people in your life to feel negative about your interactions with them.

We are here to help others, but we must help ourselves first.

Peace And Love Movement Brings Awareness to Foster Care Normalcy Law

In 2013, Florida lawmakers chose to implement the Normalcy Act; a law that requires their state government to allow foster parents to have the right to make decisions about allowing foster children to do simple things such as attend school outings and participate in sports.

In this article, the Florida Department of Children and Families called this the “Let Kids Be Kids” Law.

Most people who I’ve talked to even some child welfare professionals are unaware that such restrictions ever existed. I get to travel the country on a regular basis speaking to judges, lawyers, social workers, foster parents, CASA workers, and foster youth so I have talked to a large amount of these populations.

In actuality, these restrictions causing a foster child to jump through hoops just for permission to attend a school outing still exist in most places.  Sometimes they even have to go all the way back to a judge through social workers and case workers prior to getting a permission slip signed.  This Salt Lake City, UT article shares about a teen girl who had to battle just to be able to join her teammates at a state cheer competition earlier in 2014.

When I was in care, I ended up with a biological aunt who allowed me to forge my mother’s signature to avoid this process. Although some people may not think that is right, I am ever so grateful for that common sense move that she made to simplify my complicated childhood.

But not everyone has such an advocate on their side who is willing (or legally able) to do what is truly in the best interest of a child without serious reprimand.  Therefore, this issue shows up with almost every group of foster youth that I speak to.

After speaking to them to inspire hope for their future, they usually want to take photos with me, but if they are under the age of 18 they can’t because it takes too long to get signed permission for a “media release”.

After a while, I got sick of seeing disappointed faces when a program director would tell kids they can’t take a photo with me.  So, one time in South Dakota, while touring with the Unified Judicial System, I found a way to work around the system.

I asked the entire group of kids to stand facing the wall and I stood in front of them facing the camera.  All of them proceeded to hold up “peace” and “love signs, giving birth to the #PeaceAndLove Movement.

Here is the original group of foster youth who started this movement:

Peace And Love Rapid City, SD Foster Youth | Normalcy Law | Foster Care Speaker Travis Lloyd
Peace And Love Rapid City, SD Foster Youth | Normalcy Law | Foster Care Speaker Travis Lloyd

I now do this Peace And Love activity with almost every audience I speak to.  You can see several of the audiences that have already faced the wall and joined the movement in 4 other states by clicking this link (scroll to the bottom of the page to see all of the photos)  In these photos you will find college students, fortune 500 corporate executives from businesses like Luxotica and Ray Ban, as well as foster parents, judges, and lawyers.

This #PeaceAndLove Movement needs awareness.  The next time you’re with a group, large or small, ask them to turn around and hold their Peace And Love signs up with both hands, as high as they can.  And then take a photo of yourself standing in front of them then add the hash tag #PeaceAndLove.

Don’t forget to check out the other awesome photos and share them with your networks.

Overcoming Emotional Trauma: Life Beyond Survival Mode

Motivational speaker Travis Lloyd’s Overcoming Emotional Trauma: Life Beyond Survival Mode is a fresh fusion of autobiography and practical advice for professionals and those who are experiencing or have experienced trauma.

Dealing with trauma is never an easy task, but Travis takes a topic that is normally excruciating to think or write about and makes it approachable. Oftentimes funny, always down-to-earth, and full of great insight, this book will be a comfort to those who are going through a tough time.

Download Overcoming Emotional Trauma
Download Overcoming Emotional Trauma

Overcoming Emotional Trauma follows a balanced format of each chapter beginning with Travis talking about his life and in the latter half of the chapter devoting itself to more general advice based on the issues raised in the earlier part of the chapter.

For example, when Travis focuses on how he was acting in “survival mode,” the end of that chapter suggests ways you can begin to get out of survival mode yourself.

The “Roadmap to Success” chapter later in the book, where Travis compares the timeline of his own life to Ryan, another individual who grew up in the foster care system, is where light bulbs will light up in your head if they haven’t already.

Seeing the vastly different experiences of two people at the same age with very similar childhoods emphasizes the point that everyone responds to trauma differently and that you always have the choice to change your life for the better.

Dr. Gregory Keck’s chapter about the “two screens” of perception in traumatized individuals is also particularly interesting, and it’s a surprisingly light read given the heavy subject matter. Travis shares his experiences with abuse, drugs, and high-risk behaviors, and he never seems self-pitying while always emphasizing the power of personal choice in making life changes.

Rather than listening to a dispassionate expert give you dry information on how to repair your damaged psyche, Travis makes you feel like you aren’t so alone in whatever it is you’re going through by sharing his own struggles. It is one thing to be told what to do to overcome trauma, it is quite another to feel like there is someone out there who “gets it,” who truly understands what you’re going through. Travis takes experiences that could seem maudlin and trite, but instead infuses them with a sense of humor and compassion.

As a motivational speaker, author, health care professional, and hip hop artist, Travis uses his multiple talents to reach youth in different mediums. Travis’ goal with this book is to help empower its readers to get out of survival mode and start to make changes in their own life.

Whether you are looking to overcome your own personal trauma or you are a professional looking to better serve yourself and your clients/patients, Overcoming Emotional Trauma has useful advice and is a just plain enjoyable read. For more about Travis Lloyd, visit his website http://travislloyd.net/.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Raises Awareness

The month of August 2014 has proved to be one that will undoubtedly put a dent in American history. The ALS Association has broken records for their new #IceBucketChallenge campaign reaching nearly 14 million dollars in donations which is a huge jump from last year’s measly 1.7 million.

Ice Bucket ChallengeMedia outlets and social media are buzzing about famous people like Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Selena Gomez, and Justin Bieber doing the ice bucket challenge.  The most impressive that I’ve seen so far is rapper Macklemore where he takes an icing on stage during a large concert.  No wonder why the ALS Association has seen a jump in 280,000 donors.

In the video below, I share about how ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) has impacted me personally and taken the lives of two of my loved ones.  You can watch a celebration of life video that I created for my aunt here.  I also share about an interesting viewpoint comparing the level of awareness that the ice bucket challenged has received with the level of awareness that several other causes, including racism, needs.

At the same time that millions of us are skimming through ALS ice bucket challenge videos on Facebook, an American reporter has reportedly been beheaded by ISIS and in our own backyard, Ferguson, Missouri is in crisis over police shootings.  There is no doubt that the looting, riots, and peaceful protesting is one way or another tied to the deep roots of racism that still exists today.

Also in the video, I ask you to consider the true reasons behind many of the things that are happening in Ferguson and how the world could be improved with increased awareness to tackle the issue of racism that still exists in America today.  What if the truth about racism in America today spread as wide as this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?  Watch the video now:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbq-Xtv6kXQ[/youtube]

3 Tips For Overcoming A Fear Of Abandonment

abandonment

Many people struggle with a fear of abandonment. Losing an emotional attachment can be very traumatizing to anyone. If you have ever  lost a romantic relationship, loved one or friendship you may have a heightened awareness of when there is a potential to lose another relationship.

One girl called this “paranoia”. She sent me an email stating, “I have a fear, paranoia, and obsession about friends abandoning me. When something happens in our friendship I just wait for friends to find fault in me and walk away. It affects me daily any suggestions?”

Often times, these types of fears stem from some sort of previous traumatic experience in which you experienced pain as a result of a loss.  Maybe a close friend or family member, possibly a parent. Issues like divorce or someone moving away that was a strong emotional support for you.  I would recommend working with a professional therapist who specializes in addressing these types of issues.  For now, here’s a few things you can get started with:

  • The best thing you can do is start to train yourself to be aware of the exact moments when you start to feel that anxiety set in that stems from your fear of abandonment.
  • Once you are able to become aware of when you are feeling those feelings then you can identify why.  The why is called the trigger.  Triggers are specific experiences that cause us to experience the same negative feelings as when we experienced different negative events in the past.  For example, if you were once verbally abused and frequently yelled at by an alcoholic father and later he ran off with your older sister’s friend, never to return then you experienced a traumatic event.

    The loss of a parent or caregiver may be your initial experience of abandonment. Later in life, your subconscious mind might associate any argument that results in yelling, with feelings of abandonment.  In turn, you would associate those feelings with a friend who is involved in an argument or yelling at you.  The reality might be that when your  friend was yelling at you, it might be a simple argument and that person cares about you enough to talk it out.  After talking, everything will most likely go back to normal.  But, your subconscious mind is screaming help I’m going to be abandoned again! “You are in control of your life and you can choose which direction to take it.  Every day is another opportunity to make the right choice…”
  • Once you can identify the trigger(s) you can start to train yourself to understand that it is a trigger that is making you feel that way and that it is not likely your friend’s true intention to abandon you.

It takes time, effort and a dedication to being willing to experience negative feelings in order to be aware of them.  If you find it overwhelming to do this by yourself, try asking your friends what they mean when they say or do certain things that cause you to feel anxious.  You don’t have to tell them that it makes you feel anxious, but you can if you feel they might be supportive.  Hearing them say that they will be there for you might ease the process.  Just be careful not to allow yourself to make them feel responsible for making you feel okay.

I will be addressing many issues related to helping you overcome adversities and traumatic past experiences in my upcoming book Overcoming Emotional Trauma: Life Beyond Survival Mode where I offer inspiration and wisdom from the perspective of having been a “kid in the system” and a professional working in the system. Sign up to receive an update when it releases at www.OvercomingEmotionalTrauma.com.

 What’s Got You Down? Do You Have a Question? Tweet @TravisLloyd With #AskTRAV To Get Your Answers!

5 Tips For Overcoming Anxiety

I received a question on how to deal with anxiety in the form of a comment on an Instagram photo that I posted recently, and the question came from a graduate student studying to be a counselor. Many of us who seek to help, do so because we too have many things to overcome.

images (43)In response, I compiled a list of practical things that help with overcoming anxiety. Some of this comes from my own personal experiences, some comes from experiences in working with people who struggle with extreme anxiety and some comes from interviewing my biological mother, who has also struggled with anxiety of her own. She now helps people improve their wellness as a quit smoking coach. The following information is not medical advice, but is my opinion and shared opinions of others who I have interacted with.

No matter how severe your anxiety is, I believe that continuing to seek knowledge is the most important thing in reaching a higher level of mental wellness. Props to you for being here and in search of your own progress! With hope, dedication and focus, overcoming anxiety is possible.

  1. Desensitizing

    When dealing with anxiety related to a specific social situation, professional setting, or conversation, I personally use desensitization techniques. This means that I psych myself up in preparation for the situation and I force myself to be uncomfortable.  This generally opens the door for a negative experience, but it also creates the opportunity for me to learn and gain first hand experience as to how bad a situation really is. It also alleviates the fear of the unknown, which is often the culprit behind hatred and avoidance.  However, desensitization is definitely not the best option for everyone due to the extreme toughness that it takes to force yourself to be uncomfortable.

  2. Create a Chronically Balanced Life

    For me, anxiety often stems from a lack of balance. An imbalanced diet, physical activity, sense of safety or even imbalanced to-to lists are major precipitating factors when it comes to feeling anxious. If you are chronically anxious, what could be a better way to fight anxiety than to establish chronic balance and stability? If anxiety stems from having an imbalance, identifying and correcting that imbalance can and will diminish the frequency and severity of anxiety.  This method is effective mostly because it is not a way to “treat” or “get rid of” the anxiety, but instead it prevents it from getting bad to begin with.

  3. Take Care of Your Body

    When we get busy with school, work, relationships, and life it is very easy to let this slip. We focus on helping others or fulfilling duties that when we have time to ourselves we cope by doing mind-numbing things such as watching TV and sitting on the computer doing nothing for hours. Focus on creating a chronic pattern of exercise

  4. Eat Fresh

    This can be done with simple changes such as forcing yourself to plan meals ahead of time and using fresh produce.Keeping simple snacks like peanuts, almonds, and bananas wards off the hunger between meals. Eating small amounts every 2-4 hours during the day improves metabolism.  Buying local adds to the experience. Salads with grilled chicken, fresh fruit, beans, etc. are great. Peanut butter is awesome. If you are overwhelmed with the idea of thinking about what to eat, try to picking a few of these and sticking to them, alternating a few times each week or every other week. consistency is key. Cutting soda, excessive coffee, and processed foods will greatly improve your health and energy level. In turn, you are more focused and less likely to be stressed out.

  5. Treat Yourself Like a Queen/King

    Keeping a nice environment with essential oils like Lavender and also drinking chamomile tea helps. Cutting out people who disturb a calm environment is something you deserve. Take time to bathe with the lights dimmed and scents in the air. Using oils is less toxic than candles. You probably spend time focusing on other things so spend time focusing on yourself.  Taking the time to set a plan for how you will respond to stressful situations that cause you anxiety is a great way to ward off attacks. Deep breathing, yoga, etc are helpful.

There is no one thing, it is a lifestyle that facilitates being conscious and aware at all times. You may also want to check out my blog about overcoming a fear of abandonment.

Exploring The “CRAZY”: Looking Deeper Than Labels In Mental Health

I frequently meet great people who identify as “bi-polar” or are labeled with “schizoid personality disorder,” often times both labels have been assigned amongst an array of other diagnoses such as schizophrenia, borderline and ADHD. When I ask them, “How long have you been diagnosed”?  Some of them say “forever”, and/or they often give me an age like “since I was 12.”

dsm5Many people place judgement at this point and see them as permanently damaged with a life sentence of living in chaos due to labels in mental health. Even worse, many of the diagnosed individuals place their identity in “being” a label/diagnosis and become more vulnerable to stigma and discrimination.

It is no surprise that one might find their identity in a diagnoses as this is fully supported by the medical model of health care that is all-too-often inappropriately utilized in mental health services across America.

For example, if you “are” a type 1 diabetic that is something that you cannot control, for the most part.  A doctor can pinpoint an incurable illness or disease and the patient receives an answer with a plan of care.  There is never a need to ask “why?” because there is nothing we can change to reverse or “heal” the illness.

In social work and health care we often become bitter and burnt out with the same old problems.  The revolving door in emergency departments and mental health units is a timeless joke heard across the country by both professionals and clients (sadly).  It is also the epitome of a lack of asking “why?”

When we fail to ask why then we fail to address the root problem and in turn we fail to provide quality services.  When we fail to provide quality services then we do not follow through with equipping clients with the skill-sets for mental and emotional well being.  Instead, we make the assumption that an individual is “too damaged” or a “hopeless cause” because they have continually failed treatment.

We must remember that a mental health diagnosis is nothing more than a description of symptoms.  In addressing mental health, such symptoms are generally a list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that decrease an individual’s ability to maintain a feeling of safety, security and happiness.

So, when someone tells me that they were diagnosed at age 12, I simply ask “why?”  Most of the time they are shocked by the question because nobody has ever taken the time to listen.  They usually struggle offer a response.  At that time, I re-phrase the question by asking, “What happened when you were 12?”

I have not done extensive trials or studies on this, but for the past two years I have specifically focused on asking “why” or “what happened” in my work as a Crisis Worker and 100% of the time they give me a very direct answer.  For example: “I was beaten and raped by my dad when I was 12” or “I didn’t have parents and my only family was my grandma and she died then.”

Instead of focusing on improving emotional wellness and family dynamics, we settle for the poor practice of pushing pills.  Instead of offering validation followed by guidance, we belittle and talk down or, even worse, don’t talk at all.  My challenge for you is to inspire hope in the hopeless and simply listen.  There are lots to be heard and learned, even from those who just don’t seem to “get it.”  Everyone needs to be shown the way before they can start on the right path.  Be the one person that it takes to shine a light on the hard work of personal growth and emotional intelligence.

There is always a reason behind behavior. Instead of judging, lets ask “Why?”  This is the starting point for providing Trauma Informed Care which is now being trickled down from the federal level by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Children From Adversity: Interview with Travis Lloyd

Travislloydfb

Children from adversity is a term often used to describe children who have experienced childhood traumas, abuse, and/or stressful conditions which could dwarf their emotional and physical growth. When we think of children from adversity, we tend to imagine children heading down the wrong path towards prison, and we often hear the horror stories of the foster care system going wrong.

What about the successes, and those who defy the odds of escaping their circumstances? Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Travis Lloyd, an artist, and motivational speaker, who had to navigate his way through many foster homes and group homes in order to get where he is today.

The experience and knowledge of a child from adversity is a valuable resource helping professionals should be utilizing more often as a source of expertise. Are we adequately measuring, identifying, and using as resources children from adversity who have escaped their childhood circumstances in order to determine what’s working and what’s not?

Children from adversity who are able to flourish despite their environment often display resiliency and survival skills many researchers still can not predict. Fortunately, Travis is using the skill sets he has developed in order to help others. I ran across Travis on Twitter when I viewed a YouTube video someone tweeted me, and I had to share his story with you.

SWH: Tell us a bit about your background, and what lead to your current role as a motivational speaker.

Travis: I have a story of Achieving Success Against All Odds, which is the mantra that I’ve built my speaking platform on.  This stems from beating the odds of the negative statistics related to foster care.  As far as my young mind could tell, I had a fairly normal life as a child. All of that changed when my parents divorced around the age of 9.  My parents had a rough divorce, as far too many people can relate to.  My father ended up in county jail due to the physical altercations and my mother wasn’t quite able to hold things together so she ended up hospitalized for her emotional instability.  My sister is six years older than me and struggled to cope as a teen.  She ended up running the streets and doing drugs so she went to drug treatment.

I ended up in two foster homes for a couple of months before my mother, sister and I relocated to Iowa, where my mother’s family is from.  Middle school was a struggle between a constantly unstable home life and bouncing in and out of a few group homes.  My aunt and uncle made a difference in my life by taking me out of that environment and giving me a permanent home to live in when I was about 14.  I stabled out in high school, but still struggled with some identity issues when I went away to college.  I started as a business major, but switched to nursing to have a guaranteed good income upon graduating.  I started a career as an ER nurse at the same time as taking custody of my 9 year old nephew.  I wasn’t satisfied working long hours in a high stress environment so I sought other ways to spend my time.  I ended up volunteering for a foster care empowerment program where after only 3 weeks I became the regional program facilitator.  Soon after that, I realized there was a need for people to speak and inspire foster youth and launched my first website.

SWH: When you are sharing your story, what is the reoccurring narrative or feedback you receive from your audiences?

Travis: People often share comments like “your message was very inspiring and encouraged me to stay true to my dreams. I really feel like you touched the hearts of every single person in the room.” I always get a few people who said that they started crying.  Most of these people are the ones who can relate to the childhood struggles or have a close friend or family member who has been through similar things.  They love seeing that “its possible” to overcome and succeed.

SWH: What do you believe are some of the biggest barriers and challenges facing our youth?

Travis: A lack of inspiration for dreaming and a lack of encouragement from the adults in their lives.  There’s a difference between being supportive through providing basic needs versus providing all of the unconditional love and compassion that encourages someone to never see a glass ceiling.  The majority of our youth haven’t had the basics of how to be successfully demonstrated to them.  It’s hard to do something that you’ve never seen before.  And if you don’t have a dream, or feel like your dreams are unrealistic, then what’s the point in staying on the grind?

SWH: How do you feel hip-hop helps you to reach youth who have difficulty opening up to adults?

Travis: I see how drastic of a difference there is with the varied approaches to youth on a regular basis.  I actually still work part time as a mental health crisis worker.  I do psychiatric evaluations for people who are suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, or otherwise in emotional distress.  Sometimes I run into teens who won’t talk to the police officers or any of their friends or family.  When I am able to take off my “professional” hat and talk in their language they almost always start to open up to me.  Sometimes I’ll even spit something a-cappella or encourage them to share something creative of their own.  It is pretty simple.  People open up to people they can relate to. Being able to relate to people from different ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds is key.

SWH: What future aspiration do you have, and where do you hope this path leads you?

I plan to expand the reach of the message “Achieving Success Against All Odds” into books, audiobooks, hophop CD’s, and training videos.  I recently released my first ever music video for the song “Take Me Away” and plan to produce several more music videos with inspirational messages related to topics that are relevant to youth, social service, child welfare, and mental health advocacy.  As this brand grows, I will expand my company Changing Lives Entertainment to hold hip hop events that make a difference and have a speaker’s bureau for speakers in various markets with similar goals.  Sometime down the road, I will go back to grad school and potentially pursue a doctoral program.  I also have a dream of being the next Dr. Phil.

You can learn more about Travis Lloyd by visiting www.travislloyd.net or visit him on Twitter at @travislloyd

Exit mobile version