Sesame Street is notorious for teaching children basics such as counting and spelling, and has recently been recognized for tackling stigmatized and taboo subjects within society such as feminism, homelessness, and racial inequality. Just in time for World Mental Health Day, the 49-seasons-and-counting show has decided to take on yet another highly stigmatized subject- addiction.
Karli, the lovable green muppet with yellow hair, was introduced earlier this year as the first muppet in foster care. In this new segment, the reason why she's in foster care is revealed to Elmo.
"My mom needs help learning to take better care of herself," Karli said. "So, she talks to people with the same problem." In a clip with a 10-year-old girl named Salia Woodbury from California who is also struggling with parental addiction, Karli said that addiction is, "a sickness that makes people feel like they have to take drugs or drink alcohol to feel okay. My mom was having a hard time with addiction and I felt like my family was the only one going through it. But now I've met so many other kids like us. It makes me feel like we're not alone."
The role of Karli is meant to prove that an issue like addiction is not solely a "grown-up problem," and that it affects kids, too. According to MSN, there are 5.7 million children under the age of 11 living with a parent who has an alcohol or other substance abuse issue. Now, thanks to Sesame Street, these children, like Salia, can feel represented and like they're not alone.
When I saw this trending on Twitter yesterday right next to #WorldMentalHealthDay, I wanted to cry. I grew up with an alcoholic parent and would often feel like the odd-one-out of a friend group whenever I had an issue at home that was bothering me. I knew I wasn't the only person in the world, but I was the only person around me with this burden I felt I had to carry. Now, seeing that there is a character for young children that talks about this heavier issue and the best ways to cope with it, I can't help but feel emotional. I can't even imagine how good this exposure will be for children in foster homes, children who's parents struggle with addiction, and children who feel like they're carrying these burdens alone.
If there's one thing that World Mental Health Day teaches us, it's that we're not alone. Everyone will struggle with some aspect of their mental health at some point in their life, and there's a good chance that someone you know might currently be struggling. Karli is the perfect example for kids to know that it's okay to get help, and that no matter what is happening in their life, it's not their fault and that they will be okay.
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