Three years ago this week, I wrote about losing our niece Katie. 

It happened weeks earlier. But it took those two months for the fog to begin lifting. We were scrambling to arrange clinical help for our girls, supporting my sister, brother-in-law, and their family, all while processing our own shock and grief. 

Writing about it, even to thousands of strangers, was cathartic. You all blew me away, donating over $25,000 to suicide prevention in the following weeks. Thank you again.

We’ll never fully heal from it, least of all Todd and Alisa. Every birthday, prom, and – this year – high school graduation Katie missed is a searing reminder of a bright future lost. Our kids have changed from it, stronger maybe, but not without vigilant self-care.

Silver linings feel trite in this context, but there have certainly been beams of light. Your generosity was one. The compassion of our community was another. Alisa and Todd, meanwhile, have channeled their energies in a unique way, befitting of Katie’s creative talents.

Shortly after the tragedy, they started the Positive Painting Project to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention through visual art. They travel to schools, community centers, churches, and anywhere, holding events where people, mostly kids, paint personal canvases adorned with uplifting messages, like “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” or “You Matter” or “No Feeling is Final.” Finished prints are hung in school bathrooms, building lobbies, and coffee shops. Dozens of schools have participated. There’s now an arts scholarship in Katie’s name. 

People are good. Alisa and Todd are saints.

Fortunately, they’re far from alone. Efforts to highlight the importance of mental health – to destigmatize it – have borne palpable fruit in recent years. The percentage of Americans who receive mental health treatment has doubled since 2004. Gen Z views not seeing a therapist like not seeing a dentist. Because of course you should. 

Still, there’s a long way to go. After years of decline, suicide rates increased in the U.S. after COVID. Rates among men are 4X that of women, while (and perhaps because) women are 2X more likely to seek mental healthcare. We need to make treatment more commonplace, more accessible. We need more education.

This week, in observation of Mental Health Awareness Month, we published a comprehensive report on the state of mental health and wellness in America. Unlike most of our reports, this one is free. Read it, share it, print it, copy it, hell, drop thousands of them from an airplane. 

The more we know, the more we talk about it, the more bright futures we can preserve.

Here’s what we’re seeing: 

Consumer confidence sucks right now. Our Economic Sentiment Index fell yet again this week, as optimism for the broader U.S. economy plummeted a whopping 3.9 points – which I can’t recall ever happening before. Confidence in personal finances and the job market also dropped more than a full point in the latest reading, dovetailing less-than-stellar reports about GDP and job numbers, as well as growing rumblings about stagflation on the horizon. The overall trend since the beginning of the year has been far from great. 

A rapidly growing number of American workers are taking on side gigs. This study fascinated me immensely – and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, I’ll tell you that the percentage of U.S. adults who have a secondary job or income stream has increased by almost 20% since 2021, while the percentage looking has increased even more. What I found especially interesting is that people who have side gigs are much MORE likely to report being happy in their primary job. It tells me that people will stay in jobs they love – maybe because of the flexibility it provides – even if they don’t make as much money as they’d like to. Those looking for add-on income, however, are far less happy in their current job, but perhaps feel stuck. 

The elimination of non-compete restrictions will have a material impact on the job market. Once the FTC non-compete ban kicks in later this year, expect a lot more worker mobility, particularly among Millennials, nearly one in three of whom say the restrictions have impacted their ability to change jobs (or start new businesses). Also in our 3 Things to Know this week, we highlighted the significant public (including a majority of Republicans) support for President Biden’s initiative to ban “junk fees” among things like hotels and concerts. Finally, we looked at growing expectations for free shipping as part of customer loyalty programs.     

Why is anyone still uptight about tattoos? While not tatted myself, I’m a big fan – and may still take the leap one of these days. So, I enjoyed this study on the state of tattoos today. Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults (over-indexing among Millennials) have one or more and another 17% (over-indexing among Gen Zs) are hoping to get their first one soon. The good news is that 86% of Americans believe we’ve grown more accepting of tattoos over the past 20 years and 74% believe they’re acceptable at their place of work. On the other hand, 26% say they’re NOT acceptable at work, particularly in government, teaching, and finance jobs. Don’t you have something more important to worry about?

Moms rely on beauty products as a means of self-care. As Mother’s Day weekend arrives, remember that the moms in your life are probably overworked, stressed, underappreciated, and, far too often, taking matters into their own hands. Rather than waiting for your once-a-year bouquet of flowers or once-a-month turn to cook dinner, mom finds ways to quietly treat herself – and cosmetics, skincare, and other beauty services are increasingly popular outlets. Fifty-five percent of moms say they turn to beauty for self-care at least somewhat often. 

More awesomeness from the InsightStore:

  • Walmart’s new private-label food brand could draw in new customers;
  • People are increasingly pessimistic about their wage outlook but feeling better about their personal debt;
  • So-called “peak Millennials” are the largest U.S. population segment – and they’re really struggling to buy a home.  

The most popular questions this week:

Were you the oldest, middle, or youngest sibling in your household growing up?

How likely are you to address the red flags in a friend’s partner?

What’s your favorite season?

Do you usually shower in the morning or at night?

At what point in a car’s mileage do you start thinking about selling it?

Answer Key:  Youngest; Somewhat likely, in spite of the consequences; Summer by far; Often both; 200,000.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you fabulous, brilliant, hardworking, selfless, and beautiful moms out there. 

Hoping you’re well.


P.S.- If you’re feeling inclined to support the Positive Painting Project, it would be awesome. You can do that here.        

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