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Brittany Tichenor-Cox wants to grow ‘Izzy’s Village’ into a safe space for everyone

Brittany Tichenor-Cox speaks at an Izzy’s Village panel discussion addressing mental health in children, in Salt Lake City, March 11, 2023.
Curtis Booker
Brittany Tichenor-Cox speaks at an Izzy’s Village panel discussion addressing mental health in children, in Salt Lake City, March 11, 2023.

Losing a child is painful, and it's a feeling Brittany Tichenor-Cox knows well. Her 10-year-old daughter, Isabella “Izzy”, died by suicide in 2021 after she was allegedly bullied in school for being Black and autistic.

"There should be no more deaths like this happening in the state of Utah,” Tichenor-Cox said. “You know, if we have people here in support to come together to prevent it from happening, there should never be a 10-year-old contemplating taking her life."

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 13% of children in Utah experience anxiety and depression. Teen girls in Utah are also reporting feeling sad or hopeless at higher rates than boys. That's why Tichenor-Cox, along with Preslie Bahr, created Izzy's Village.

The nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing mental health resources to children and adults dealing with trauma. Tichenor-Cox believes more Black children are experiencing racism and may be suffering in silence. Izzy's Village, she said, is intended to be a safe space for people of all backgrounds.

"I don't care if you are LGBTQ. I don't care if you're yellow, white, brown, purple, white. This is for everybody,” she said. “So when you don't feel like you can go to nobody, this should be your group. So we know what to do and the appropriate terms to make sure that you're safe.

Kimberly Applewhite, a clinical psychologist at the Utah Center for Evidence Based Treatment, said challenges related to mental health and neurodiversity could correlate to children, especially those of color who may feel like they don't belong, or that they're a burden on their families and peers at school.

"What makes it hard sometimes is that children don't always know, especially a 5- to 10-year-old where it's like [to be] depressed or sad, they don't always know what to do."

Applewhite said the work starts at home with parents, and she encourages them to look for the early warning signs if their child is struggling.

"It really is effective to just start conversations about how you're struggling. Anybody can look at the symptoms of depression or anxiety on the web, or something like that, and just be on the lookout for their kids not enjoying things like they used to."

According to the Child Mind Institute, getting children to express their feelings about a problem isn't easy. It could be something they're embarrassed about or think they don't need help. They say as parents, you may need to think differently about what therapy looks like for your child's situation.

As for Izzy's Village, Tichenor-Cox said the organization is just in the beginning stages of its work and they hope to gather additional funding for workshops and events that families can participate in.

"Even though my daughter's not here, this gives me a chance to connect with you guys and to help give you guys resources. That's what the village is about."

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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