When she was 11, Goldie Hawn was terrified of the atomic bomb. It was 1956 and she saw a training film in the fifth grade about the dangers of a Soviet nuclear attack, with screaming mothers and blood spatter and cities in ruins. She was traumatized.
“I called my mom at work and was still shaking when I told her, ‘Mom, come home quickly! We’re all going to die!'” she told USA TODAY.
After 9/11, fear returned.
“And I felt our kids felt that too,” she said. “And then, I don’t know if anything turned, I knitted the American flag. That’s all I could do to find some comfort. I knitted the flag and I cried and I thought, ‘The world is changing forever. ‘ And what can I do?
“And, you know, ‘I’ is really small. I didn’t know what I could do, but I promised myself that whatever I did to help, if I helped 10 people, that would be enough. And then at the end of the day, MindUP is what is made.”
MindUp for Life is a 15-lesson social and emotional learning program for schools, created by the Goldie Hawn Foundation in collaboration with researchers and scientists, that teaches children how their brains work and how to develop optimism and resilience. The program now serves children, parents and educators in 47 countries.
Hawn was concerned about the mental health of children 20 years ago. The problem has only exploded since then.
This week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sounded the alarm in a column for USA TODAY Opinion.
“Since the start of the pandemic, anxiety, depression, loneliness and negative emotions and behaviors have increased among young people,” he wrote. “Imagine a high school with 1,000 students. Now imagine that about 450 of them say they are persistently sad or hopeless, 200 say they have seriously considered suicide, and nearly 100 say they have tried their own in the past year. life. That’s the mental health state of young people in America.”
I spoke to Hawn about stress and solutions at the annual Concordia Summit in New York City. Here’s part of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
What’s going on with kids; why do we need this kind of program?
Children are asked to use their brains. They are never told how to use it. They don’t even know what’s in it. They don’t know how to access the various things they can basically do to succeed in actually feeling better, to have a sense of resilience and optimism on some level, or to reach into an area where they know that joy lives in them. They have it; they own it. They just need to clear things up so they can feel it.
US Surgeon General:Our children’s mental health is just as important as their grades. Here’s how to prioritize both.
Guys, don’t turn a blind eye. The most important thing we need to do, among a few other important things, is teach children to listen, behave, feel better, understand that the brain has plasticity and that we have the ability to be and to do. the things we might want to do because that’s what we’re going to tell our brains.
How do you convince them to add something else to their classes, with all the pressure that teachers are under?
It really doesn’t add anything. It’s creating something that you do because it’s important to your well-being in the classroom. I truly believe that these programs help educators too. It really helps everyone to create more fun in the classroom, more connectivity. And the research even showed that children were better at working together. If we could create a community of trust, faith and joy in a classroom, gosh, I think they could bring it out. They could learn that that’s a way to solve problems, you know, instead of hating and pushing and ugliness and name-calling.
What about social media and its impact on children?
You give children the insight that what goes into their brains actually comes out, that they need to understand how to manage themselves, even when they are online. Now they’re not going to do it without us. The parent has to stand up and say, no, we’re all going offline. Saturday we go offline. We’re all going to do that together. New research has been done on this, namely: our parents still matter. So we can’t give up. On the other hand, there’s a way to discuss what’s going on, which means, “I saw that thing on TikTok. What did you think of that?” It’s not going away. So if it doesn’t go away, it needs to be embraced. It’s kind of, you know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
I remember when Katie (daughter Kate Hudson) grew up and Madonna was everything. I didn’t say you can’t look at Madonna. She had a beautiful voice. I just wanted her to know I was watching Madonna and praising her for her talent. You know, a little curious about her costumes (laughs). So we have to (participate) with our children so that we can show what our opinion is. Instead of being judgmental, we can be part of a conversation.
You’re talking about emotions that are contagious, what do you mean by that?
Laughter is contagious. When you hang out with angry people, you get angry. It’s what our brain does. It’s how it works. When you hang out with aggressive people, you become aggressive. This is all science and research. So you want your kids to be able to mimic something that’s really productive. Mimicking positivity. If we know all these things in terms of how the brain works, we can create programs to make it stronger, healthier and more resilient.
You can talk about suicidal thoughts and depression. USA TODAY editor shares advice after her mother’s suicide death.
How has mindfulness affected your life?
Well, mindfulness actually helped me quite a bit as I went through my anxiety attacks. I wanted to go home to Maryland and, you know, marry a Jewish dentist and literally just have babies and open a dance school. That’s what I wanted. That’s not how it went. And I got a strange reaction to it. So I did psychology for about eight years and studied my own mind and my own behavior and a lot of my history. But I also think that manifested itself in writing and meditation. And I remember the first time I did that, it was probably the most extraordinary experience where I was breathing and concentrating. Now we know the research behind meditation. It’s very important for your brain, it actually brings a little more harmony to your own body.
I mean, I produced, I acted. I tried to remember rules. I did what I wrote, I directed. I’ve done a lot of things, very stressful. Sometimes I would act and say, look, I just have to stare at a wall. And I would, because I had to bring the energy back to me. I mean, life is messy and we have to think of all the ways we can help each other and help ourselves.
Why isn’t more known about your advocacy of brain science in schools?
I will be honest with you. Goldie Hawn wouldn’t be someone anyone would listen to on a show. Sorry, but I wasn’t that person, nobody knew me. Right. So I didn’t delve into it. I wanted to stay in the background. I’ve done a few interviews. But the proof of the premise was very important to me, because I didn’t go out with a program that might not have worked or had a problem. Now we have the data, now we have all the information. We’ve got all our research now, which is incredible, and we’re still doing research.
I brought schools, doctors and so on to write this curriculum. It took about 17 months to assemble. And now I can’t go on. There’s no script that makes me more interested than what I’m doing right now. I look at my career like this now. We all have phases in our lives, and I wouldn’t be one to wait for the phone to ring. I wanted to do something that mattered. This came to me because it is a part of me. Not much can stop me.
Nicole Carroll is the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY and chairman of Gannett’s news department. The Backstory offers insight into our biggest stories of the week. If you’d like to receive The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here. Reach Carroll at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @nicole_carroll. Thank you for supporting our journalism. Subscribe here.