COVID-19 is an infection filled with uncertainty. It provokes fear and unsettling feelings in us all. We make sure to adhere to the hand-washing reminders, and we wear masks to protect ourselves and those we love. On top of all the hectic feelings we experience daily, people with mental health conditions deal with an additional layer of emotions. For some people with anxiety, wearing a mask triggers claustrophobia and causes cycling anxiety attacks. For people with an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) hand-washing compulsion, the hand-washing reminders cause paranoia of germs, leading to hands becoming bloody and raw. It can become incredibly frustrating trying to combat a mental health condition during COVID-19. As a result, I wanted to spread encouragement, or what I like to call sunshine, to people at mental health facilities who might feel like the sun will never shine again.
My name is Natalie Salvatierra, and I am the 16-year-old founder of the mental health organization Solely Sunshine (@solely.sunshine on Instagram) and the author of the children’s mental health picture book, “Do Not Worry, Little Donkey.”
To spread sunshine and to provide the opportunity for anyone to write an encouraging letter that I would send to mental health facilities, I created the website www.solelysunshine.com. Utilizing the Solely Sunshine website, anyone around the world, can write a virtual letter of encouragement for free (and without submitting any personal information). After someone submits a letter on the virtual form, someone from my amazing team of volunteers transcribes the letter to paper, and I mail out the letters or as I like to call “sunshine” to mental health facilities nationally and internationally. I want patients’ “storm clouds” to become bursts of sunshine, and it’s as easy as writing a simple letter from the heart.
One of the best parts about running Solely Sunshine is hearing the responses from different mental health facilities and people who have received letters. One facility told me that the children hung the bright, colorful letters up in their room. Another facility, where teens were being quarantined for COVID, told me that the teens were thrilled about receiving a letter of support from the outside world. An individual letter recipient even said, “…I was desperate I was even thinking about suicide…sincerely, thank you for your help; I’m really grateful, I will try my best, I will look at your message every day so I can try my best and have confidence.” It makes me smile knowing that a little act of kindness can make a huge difference.
Since May, I have mailed over 2,500 letters of encouragement to mental health facilities and impacted more than 5,000 individuals. My ultimate goal is to mail 10,000 letters to people in mental health facilities, but I would love to help as many people as possible. It would mean so much to me, and even more to the recipient, for you to write a letter on my website www.solelysunshine.com. Join me in spreading sunshine. It only takes 5 minutes to help get rid of those storm clouds. Let’s spread kindness and encouragement. Sending Sunshine to you all!