“A year ago, we were just two students in university living with mental illness. Stigma kept us from getting better, and reaching out. It wasn’t until we began talking about our experiences that we realized the need to create more conversations.”
This quote could have been taken from any of the countless students living and dealing with mental health issues while also balancing work, school and, well… life. This particular quote comes from the Canadian fashion-loving duo, Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed, two young entrepreneurs determined to spark – and keep lit – the conversation about mental health.
MacNevin and Reed met while studying at the University of New Brunswick and became friends under perhaps slightly less-than-common circumstances. They didn’t meet in a statistics study group, or in the same residence hall, or at a football tailgate; these two met through a youth mental health outreach initiative. Here, they came to the profound conclusion that young people need to be able to open up and shamelessly talk about their mental health needs. Both MacNevin and Reed have personal experiences with mental illness – one struggled with an eating disorder, the other with social anxiety. They helped each other learn how to comfortably and openly talk about their voyage through the struggle. Now, they want to share their experiences and their vision with the world.
Using their combined fashion expertise, MacNevin and Reed launched a start-up company called Wear Your Label, a clothing company with clever slogans like “Stressed but Well Dressed” and “Sad but Rad”. They donate 10% of profits to mental health projects and, to date, have given about $4K! They have also become advocates in the mental health world, speaking at various locations to share their story. The goal behind their innovative brand is to stop the stigma that regrettably too often comes along with a diagnosis.
One of the coolest things about this brand is perhaps the part of the clothing that you don’t see. Inside each garment is a tag that, rather than stating standard care instructions (“machine wash cold, lay flat to dry”), it gives some care for yourself instructions (“40% stretch, breathe, meditate; 30% sip tea & eat well; 15% feel your feet, be present; 10% laugh out loud; 5% listen to an awesome song”). These suggested coping techniques are meant to be self care reminders for when the wearer is experiencing a mental health symptom, such as anxiety or depression. Because, as the t-shirt states, “Self Care Isn’t Selfish”.
MacNevin and Reed hope their message can help to prevent tragedies like the numerous recent cases of students who have taken their own lives, many of whom never talked openly about their inner struggle. This original way to say, “It’s okay to not be okay” can be a conversation starter and may help young people to be more open with parents, friends and classmates about their mental health needs.
So what can you do to start the conversation? You can reach out to someone who is having a hard time; you can share your story, a smile, or a cup of tea; you can listen without judgment, and share without fear of being judged. One in four people will experience a diagnosable mental illness each year. You are not alone.
For more information on Wear Your Label, go to http://wearyourlabel.com/