LETS TALK: A support gathering for Single Mothers
A huddle of single mothers gathers round on a rainy Sunday to offer each other the emotional support they lack in their everyday lives. The “Let's Talk” gathering was organized and facilitated by Mela Sierra, professional dancer, actress, social media influencer, and single mother. She created the gathering in an effort to break the societal standard of ignoring the serious emotional and mental health issues faced by women who bear the responsibility of raising children alone. The event was made possible through Mela's wide social media outreach and crowdfunding.
The gathering provided mothers with a safe, judgment-free environment where they each had the ability to share their stories and experiences in topics ranging from postpartum mood disorders to self-esteem and body image to mental illness and past traumas.
“The most important thing is to have self-awareness. Because when you don’t realize the problem and you’re just going along each day with a void that you don’t know how to fill, you’re creating an accumulation of darkness that you can avoid by just speaking," Says Mela, pictured with her 11-month-old daughter, Amethyst.
"My daughter is going to be three and I'm scared that she's already being affected by my mental illness," says Helena*, breaking down as she openly expresses the struggles of her reality as a mother living with mental illness.
"I didn't know I had mental issues until about a year ago. Let's be real,", shares Marjorie*, a doula and single mother from the Bronx, NY, "But I knew that something was wrong because of the way I was treating my daughter.” She says. “I always make sure to remind her, 'If you need a hug, let me know', because I didn't get hugs when I was younger. I always make sure to communicate to her when I'm feeling down, or when I'm crying.”
Mela’s mother, Jeanette, also attended the event. She shared that she, too, raised her daughters alone. She also shared that she first became pregnant at 17. "Children don't come with a handbook. It's not easy. When you have issues like money, housing...Thank god I had family that didn't let me become homeless, but I was there. Struggles for years," she recounts, "I was disconnected from my children cause of the struggles. My girls will tell you, like, "you never gave us hugs". I wasn't affectionate, cause I was too busy trying to survive."
Not a moment of silence passes as nearly all of the women in the room resonated with Jeanette’s statement. It is a direct example of our society’s disregard and neglect of the mental states of single mothers. Studies done by the University of Akron, Ohio found that 60% of America's single-parent households were affected by poverty, in contrast to only 11% in dual parent households. Moreover, the CDC published that approximately 1 in 10 women experience postpartum mood disorders in the United States, and those numbers can triple for low-income minority women.
in the end, the gathering was an amazing event that allowed each mother to open up and discuss their struggles, giving them a kickstart towards bettering their mental and emotional health by reminding them that they are not alone.
"You have to find the self-awareness, and then accept it. And then express. Talk. Release. The point behind it is very crucial, but the approach is so simple." says Mela.
From creating Let’s Talk, to openly sharing her personal experiences and struggles with 24.5 thousand Instagram followers (and counting), Mela embodies the definition of a cultural initiator by positively utilizing her social media platform and network to spread powerful messages. The let’s talk gathering will resonate with each of the women, and men who attended and challenges society to work towards tackling a serious yet extremely underrepresented epidemic in our society. You can keep track of Mela on her Instagram @Melamuder.