While social media platforms are often perceived as having a negative impact on people’s mental health, Madison Little is one influencer determined to share a message of hope. It isn’t easy for this 20-year-old model and life coach to share her story. “I’m an introvert who has always been terrified of public speaking,” she admits, “but now I’m in front of millions.”
One thing does continue to motivate Little, however — she’s reaching out to people like herself who struggle with mental health, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Her videos enable thousands to find the root of their inner pain and rise above it.
Childhood trauma doesn’t go away on its own
When she was four years old, Little watched her father brutally murder her mother in front of her. “My world was not just turned upside down; it was completely destroyed,” she remembers. “My dad looked up at me as he was calling the police. In the recording, you can hear him telling me to go back to bed.”
In the aftermath, Little’s father was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Little and her younger sister dodged foster care, but moving in with relatives proved challenging. Her aunt and uncle were young and didn’t have children of their own. Suddenly, taking on two girls dealing with deeply traumatic experiences proved overwhelming for them.
Little acted out even against the people who loved her most. “I clashed with my aunt and uncle and often tried to run away,” she remembers. “In one of those fights, my aunt tried to hold me back. In the struggle, I broke her pinkie. That was the last straw. I was kicked out of my room in the basement and sent to live with my grandmother.”
Little’s grandmother was better able to deal with the outbursts, but tensions mounted. “Even at that age, I wanted to be part of the larger world I saw on Instagram and TikTok,” Little explains. “I think because I looked like my mother, my grandmother wanted me to be just like her. Every time I picked up my phone, she would tell me that I should be playing outside.”
At sixteen, the growing conflict pushed Little to leave home. Although, a few months apart brought reconciliation. “My grandmother worked to accept me for who I was,” Little recalls. “She finally understood the hours I spent on social media were all a part of my healing.”
The memory of her mother’s death still haunts Little, but she rises above the pain by helping others. “Childhood trauma can be worked through,” she says. “Don’t let it hold you back forever. Instead, let it push you to be stronger and help people who are going through something similar.”
The TikTok influencer taking on childhood trauma
Little battled depression, compulsive lying, and thoughts of suicide for years. About that dark period, she says, “I am familiar with grief, rage, emptiness, and almost any emotion on the spectrum of pain or despair — but courage won out. Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ For years, I just needed to go to sleep willing to try again and wake up willing to stick to that decision.”
That courage spurred Little to start a TikTok channel and reach out to others dealing with mental health issues. After two years of making videos and responding to followers, she realizes that many people, like herself, struggle with simple decisions such as getting out of bed or making breakfast.
Growing up, Little dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist. “They helped me so much when I was younger and even to this day,” she says. “I just couldn’t do seven years of schooling to get there, so I help people on social media, instead. Currently, I reach almost 1 million people. I turn on the camera and ask, ‘How are you today? Did you eat breakfast, have some coffee, get outside, or do something you love?’ I hope to give people the courage to say ‘Yes’ to at least one of those decisions.”
Little believes hope is about the small choices people make every day. People may feel depressed, overwhelmed, or numb, but as long as they are breathing, they have hope.
“If you want to feel hope, then you just need to make small decisions that lead to bigger ones. Start by deciding to get out of bed. Your small decisions help you build momentum. First, you choose to go outside. Next, you choose to go outside and take a walk.”
Little says that exercise was one of the best votes she ever cast for hope. “Regular exercise does wonders for the chemicals in our brains,” she explains. “It makes us happier, healthier, and more likely to make better decisions.”
A new beginning
At 18, with 100,000 TikTok followers, Little caught a plane to California. “I don’t know how to be an inspiration to this world,” she says, “but if I can learn anywhere, it’s in LA.”
Recently, Little started classes in entertainment business at LA Film School. Though her presentation may acquire more polish thanks to the skills she’s learning, her message remains the same.
“Choose to listen to the people who love you and believe that they are worth living for. Be brave, be strong, and find the courage to make small decisions to help yourself each day. Exercise because it’s good for you, even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat even when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason. Choose hope! You don’t have power over your circumstances, but you have power over your choices. Realize this, and you will find strength. Practice this, and you will find courage.”
To find out more about Little’s story and how she is working to help people who struggle with deep-seated childhood pain and mental health issues, readers can visit her TikTok channel, Instagram feed, and coaching website.