People often seek venues through which they can express themselves without the fear of judgment or criticism on the part of their peers and acquaintances. Many struggle to find a “safe space” within which they are able to speak openly about issues that carry negative stigmas, and thus often internalize the burden of their thoughts. You Mean More members pledge to fight the stigma and foster a community in which people are comfortable and free to discuss their thoughts and opinions regarding any subject, especially those regarding complicated issues such as mental health and suicide.
During our first General Meeting we asked our new members what they thought were appropriate strategies we should keep mindful of in structuring a “safe space” so we can always promote positive discussion and people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. Here is a compilation of what we decided were crucial to building a respectful community:
- Use “I” statements
- Promise of confidentiality, whatever is said in the room stays in the room
- “1 mic, 1 diva”
- Give the speaker full, undivided attention
- Create a supportive atmosphere (hugs are appreciated)
- Have fun!
- Keep neutral expressions so as not to offend anybody as they are sharing their thoughts/opinions
- Challenge the idea, not the person
This is by no means a complete list of all of the strategies that can be used to create a “safe space,” and we are sure the list will continue to grow throughout the semester. We hope this activity helped people feel more comfortable contributing to future conversations and safe in sharing their thoughts and opinions with everyone else. Ultimately, You Mean More aims to provide everybody with a place they can go to in order to feel good and support each other in a positive atmosphere.