This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on August 13, 2019.
I am enough.
These three words are the foundation of Andra Liemandt’s The Kindness Campaign (TKC), which is aimed at normalizing emotional health.
Liemandt was dealt a devastating blow when her close friend’s 12-year-old daughter, a victim of school bullying, committed suicide. This tragedy inspired Liemandt to start conversations with her two daughters about feelings and emotions and to delve deeper into the scourge of suicide.
Liemandt learned more about the epidemic and discovered that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. By the age of three, 1 in 4 children enters school having experienced trauma during their short lifetime. Liemandt soon realized a critical need exists in schools. Children need to be given emotional health tools to assist them in positively navigating their roller coaster of emotions.
In 2015, Liemandt launched TKC. What started in five elementary schools in Texas quickly grew to 80 and is continuing to expand throughout the nation. In 2018, TKC launched its signature programming to middle schools and high schools.
Liemandt created TKC’s mascot, Enoughie Buddy to help kids develop a better understanding of the program’s concepts. She chose Enoughie’s color as a tribute to her father because blue is his favorite color.
When Liemandt isn’t creating a global movement of mental health, she performs with her band, The Mrs., an alternative rock group in Austin. Liemandt is the drummer and one-quarter of the all-female band, who also promote TKC’s mission through fantastic music.
TKC’s mission applies not only to schools. In fact, they’ve partnered with companies like Bumble, Understated Leather, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, Paul Mitchell, and Dell, to spread their message to adults by developing emotionally aware and empathic workplaces.
The Kindness Campaign’s National PSA “I Am Enough” premiered on August 8 in AMC Theatres and will continue through August 15.
How does TKC change bullying behavior?
TKC is all about normalizing emotional health. So that’s why we treat everyone the same—from the bullies to the bullied. Bullying behavior is often a result of pain, which doesn’t make it any more excusable. While we don’t excuse it, there are likely deep, hurtful roots. If emotional wounds showed up on our bodies as visibly as physical ones, we’d probably take them a lot more seriously. We don’t want bullies to be ostracized; we want them to feel like they are part of something bigger: a classroom community, a school a family. If we can replace their sense of isolation with a sense of connection, then the impulse to bully very often falls away.
Which social and emotional development tools are effective?
For us, being effective means being accessible by making sure as many kids as possible receive our curriculum. We serve 40,000 children, and we’re growing rapidly! In July, for example, we rolled out our first national commercial product: a gorgeous emotional health journal with Erin Condren. The Erin Condren brand has been an incredible advocate for us. It’s called the I AM ENOUGH PetitePlanner and is available online and in stores nationwide. This is a huge milestone for us! It’s the first time we’ve been able to take our curriculum and make it available to children and adults outside of the specific schools we serve.
Where did the Enoughie Buddy character come from?
It came from conversations with my daughters, who, at the time this was all coming together, were very young. We knew we wanted Enoughie to be unique, in that he wouldn’t look like other characters and would be markedly different from the human world he interacts in. That’s because a lot of kids feel like they don’t fit in, or that they aren’t “enough”— so we wanted to show how Enoughie deals with those feelings, too.
What is the biggest obstacle for TKC?
By far, our biggest obstacle is being able to meet the demand for our tools because there is such a hunger for quality social-emotional learning curriculums among educators. TKC started with a rudimentary “feelings journal” which I created for my child’s classroom, but when the principal saw it, he asked for journals for the whole school and then four more campuses. So, right out of the gate, the challenge has been one of growth. How do we grow as fast as we can to get our tools into the hands-on more teachers and children?
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Truly, I am so proud of the partnership community we’ve created with companies, brands and individuals who not only support the work we do but help spread our values into mainstream. From Kendra Scott (one of our earliest supporters) to KIND Bars, Bumble, The Grammys, Nordstrom, and now AMC Theatres, who are airing a PSA for The Kindness Campaign nationally before “The Lion King” through August 15. These are companies who understand emotional health. There are so many I didn’t name, but they all see the need.
Who are musical inspirations for The Mrs?
This might sound cheesy, but truly our biggest musical inspirations are the people we meet in real life. From our very first music video, we’ve had the extreme privilege of hearing stories from individuals we meet on the tour and here in Austin. We believe music connects people, has the power to heal and can even change a life. In the recording studio, we’re thinking about tonality. Do we want this to rock? Do we want this to be a dance jam? Is this a love song? We’re asking all these musical questions, but we write music based on people and their stories have shaped every single album!