Hey Babe: Childhood trauma survivor takes to TikTok to spread mental health and wellness message

Very few of us escape childhood unscathed from one thing or another – divorce, abuse, bullying and poverty all inflict trauma. However, influencer and mental health advocate Madison Little endured more than average.

At just four years old, Little watched his father murder his mother. She moved from house to house, living with her aunt and uncle, her grandmother, then a friend’s family before settling on her own. Little’s traumatic past has informed her bright future, however. Knowing that her story could help people like her, and coupled with an interest in mental health advocacy, Little decided to be an inspiration to others in their dark times.

After her mother’s death and her father’s incarceration, Little struggled to internalize and process what she had witnessed. Her emotions manifested in bad behavior: she broke her aunt’s little finger and often had to be carried out of her nursery room because she was sobbing uncontrollably. Things did not improve as she grew older, and finding that they could not control her, her twenty-something aunt and uncle shipped Little off to her grandmother.

“My grandmother could handle me. She knew how to treat me like you would treat kids in the 60s,” says Little, “but the generation gap was a huge barrier between us.

Being a child growing up in the midst of soaring social media addiction, Little was constantly on TikTok and Snapchat. It was an obsession that her grandmother couldn’t understand.

“She told me, ‘my kids would be playing outside in the yard from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day,'” Little recalled with a laugh.

By 11th grade, Little’s struggles regarding the generational gap between her and her grandmother increased. She moved in with a friend she knew from the camp, but that was short-lived. Little was still struggling with unresolved childhood trauma, which reared its ugly head with poor choices and relationship issues.

After graduating, she knew she had to take control of her future. So she decided to finally do something meaningful with all the trauma she still had inside.

“I realized that childhood trauma was something to overcome,” she says. “It will push you to be stronger in the long run.”

With 100,000 TikTok followers in his back pocket and a spark of an idea to inspire others to deal with their trauma in healthy ways, Little set off for Los Angeles.

“I said to myself that even if I don’t know anyone, I don’t know how to do anything, I don’t have any diplomas and I don’t know how to be an inspiration to this world,” says Little, “but if there is one place where I will learn to be an inspiration would be in Los Angeles.

Little jumped on a plane and landed in Los Angeles not really knowing what she was doing. Once settled in, she started reaching out to people in the way most comfortable for her: through TikTok.

Through her “Hey Babe” videos, Little has tapped into something her generation seems to have craved: someone who checks in with them, asks if they’re “ok” and shares similar feelings – whether it’s anxiety, social pressure, depression or fear of what the future holds. The videos resonated with TikTok viewers and Little quickly amassed nearly a million subscribers on the platform.

“I’ve created a community that supports each other and is there for each other. It’s evident in the comments section,” Little says.

Little acknowledges that a lot of negative things can come from social media, especially in the influencer space. The focus is on relevance, collecting likes, and appealing to a wide range of people. Nonetheless, Little thinks the best way to advocate for the well-being of his peers when it comes to mental health is to simply “check in.” Her videos are like sitting down and talking to a friend, and she’s found success on TikTok and Instagram by being a calming influence amidst the noise.

Little begins her videos asking people to “turn their phones” and “get a little closer,” creating an intimacy rarely experienced on a platform full of dance challenges and pranks.

In addition to her strong presence on TikTok, Little has launched her own life coaching business. Coaching Boost specializes in working with people to help empower them to make big changes in their lives. Little became a Certified Life Coach in 2021 and has successfully coached clients in the Los Angeles area. By taking her business online, Little hopes to gain greater reach and give people greater accessibility to her services. Clients who sign up for Maddie’s Coaching Boost can choose to receive advice on their career, relationships, life in general, or a ‘mindset change’.

“Coaching is the best way to change your mindset,” says Little on his site, “Your coach will be there to help you plan your future, improve your career, or just help you organize your spirit.”

Little is also working on herself. She returns to school at LA Film School to study the entertainment business and continues to develop her unique online platform.

“That’s your ‘advice,'” she said on her post announcing her return to school. “Take your shot. This will make things better.

Madison Little can be found on TikTok @maddiejameslittle and on Instagram @_maddielittle

Coverage by Simon Berger on Unsplash

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