Think of five of your closest friends, family, and loved ones. The odds are, one out of those five will be affected by mental health and illness within their lifetimes.
Unfortunately, all too many of us understand the ramifications of illness, whether that be in the form of a physical, mental or emotional attack on one’s well-being. In total, 43.8 million Americans are living with a variation of mental illness, and millions more may be affected. Things turn grey, fall out of grasp, and with a blink of an eye, you can lose your loved ones, your family, your friends, your heroes, or even yourself. While we, as a culture, may not fully understand the lasting impacts of mental illness, it is clear that we must destigmatize the conversation surrounding our mental well, or not-so-well beings.
As a platform that is dedicated to sparking conversations and lifestyles choices working towards wellness, we understand that a positive well-being is so much more than what lies on the surface. By exploring and encouraging more transparent and honest conversations surrounding our own mental health, we as a culture can become more compassionate and understanding.
With our outward appearance serving as an inextricable part of our identities, the fashion industry is inherently linked with mental health. By utilizing apparel as a platform to encourage conversations surrounding less approachable topics, such as mental illness, brands can engage in the advocacy space. The following brands have partnered with nonprofits and organizations that are working towards destigmatizing mental health, and are providing an opportunity for consumers to purchase thoughtfully. These four brands must serve as role models for other corporate marketplaces, expanding the white space that shrouds mental health transparency. We as consumers must call on our marketplace to utilize their power to encourage dramatic change in the discourse surrounding our health.
Image via Hannah Meadler
DYLM “Do You Like Me” is a jewelry collection founded by a recent fashion design graduate, Alexandra Rosenbaum, from Syracuse University, who is striving to establish a digital space dedicated to transparency within the social media community. By creating an open dialogue surrounding mental health and how we spend our time online, the DYLM Collection aspires to find a common ground among those living with mental illness and those who strive to be allies. The digital space was inspired by real life insecurities and anxieties that can make one question the relationship between intrapersonal connections and the behavior of the individual online.
“If they like my post, do they like me as a person?”
This conversation is crucial to have in the fashion industry where the perpetuation of aspirational lifestyles are sold and the resulting impressions become damaging to the audience’s perception of self. What we think is the best version of ourselves online doesn’t paint the full picture. The humor, the pain, the not so “aesthetically pleasing” bits of your life are what make you human and what allows you to connect on a deeper level with others. You don’t have to throw your phone away, there’s a different way to connect. DYLM challenges the seemingly perfect facade of “highlight reel” content online and offers a platform to share your truth.
DYLM’s approach to fighting and destigmatizing mental illness requires individuals to recognize that to be human is to acknowledge our mental health and to support the health of those who surround us. Social media may be triggering for many, and DYLM’s presence intends to highlight stories, advice and words of encouragement as a reminder that we all feel vulnerable behind the screen. DYLM’s welcomes all, as we all have mental health. You can support DYLM by purchasing the handmade earrings, an homage to the visuals we encounter on our social media platforms. Earrings are sold as singles so one can mix and match the collection to allow for the highest level of individual expressions of ourselves. You can also leave words of encouragement and support, sharing your thoughts on the survey within DYLM’s community page.
DYLM is partnered with the organization Clubhouse International – a group that helps create Clubhouses around the world that function as communities for those with mental illnesses and provide valuable opportunities for friendship, employment, housing, education and access to medical and psychiatric services. By supporting DYLM, an online community, you are also supporting Clubhouse International’s mission to build new communities around the world. 25% of every DYLM sale will be donated to the Clubhouse International cause.
Image via Kenneth Cole
Partner with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, otherwise referred to as NAMI, Kenneth Cole is considered a StigmaFree company. StigmaFree companies aims to help educate the population on the negative effects of stigmatization and the need to raise awareness around mental health conditions. For over thirty years, Kenneth Cole has been an authority figure within the footwear marketplace, and with their recent partnership with NAMI, the brand is taking steps forward to lead within the mental wellness marketplace as well.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a nonprofit organization, and is one of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to educating and providing a better, less stigmatized life for those millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI strives to serve the greater population through education, advocation, listening, and leading. The NAMI website also serves as a resource for those personally struggling with mental health, or those who wish to support loved ones experiencing trauma and turmoil.
Throughout the month of May, Kenneth Cole donated 20% of the proceeds from the men’s mint Colvin sneaker and the women’s green KAM sneaker to NAMI through their “Wearing is Caring” campaign.. The 20% is representative of the 1 in 5 adults who will experience mental health conditions per year. The green hues of the symbolics sneakers is in congruence with the color green, NAMI’s official color of the cause. While corporate companies benefit off the capitalist structure of our society, partnering with organizations such as NAMI can offset some of the negative connotations associated with brands within the fashion sphere.
British independent designer Gemma Shiel established a name for herself straight out of university. Founding streetwear brand, Lazy Oafs, Gemma has built a widely successful ecommerce and brick-and-mortar empire, with a flagship in London’s Soho epicenter. Recently, she utilized her platform for a social benefit, raising awareness and education surrounding the necessity to discuss mental wellness.
Teaming up with five artists from around the world, Gemma created a capsule collection in honor of the United Kingdom’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The capsule collection included seven different designs across garments and accessories, and aimed to raise awareness , destigmatize discussions surrounding mental health, and encourage creative expression. With 100% of the proceeds from the collection going towards Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma campaign, Gemma and her artists strive to emphasis, “it is OK to not be OK”. Time to Change works with thousands of schools, employers, and local communities to establish workshops and programs centered around mental health education across England.
Through creative outlets, Gemma maintains her own journey with mental health, “I lose myself in creativity. For me, it is where I find a source of therapy, and is often how I communicate and is my safety net. I’ve had varying experiences with mental health, and I know that just talking about it can be a terrifying leap, but can absolutely be the best thing to do. You don’t have to spill your guts, and just talking about anything it fine, but learning to open up to the right people and getting some emotional support can really make a positive impact”.
Known for their bright colors and charismatic messaging, streetwear brand, Madhappy.’s slogan is “Welcome to the Local Optimism Group.” The brand encourages their audience to interpret the site in their own individualistic manners. Madhappy., an oxymoron, is the “essence of life: two words coming together to create a life-like existence.” By recognizing the highs and the lows, the brand strives to push consumers to acknowledge the complexities of our mental health. Alike many paths in life, the road to an ideal mental wellbeing is not linear, and cannot be measured, or rushed.
With collections for men and women, Madhappy. offers an array of products that work towards providing a platform that is dedicated to providing resources, events, and content that educates participants of the effects of mental illness and not-so-well-being. Their headquarters as a physical resource, open to the public and the Mahappy. community every Friday for weekly programming.
Over the course of the upcoming year, Manhappy. will collaborate with an array of artists that hold the same end goal of a destigmatized culture. The brand will continue to work towards building an inclusive community and platform for their participants to seek education and resources on mental well-being. Madhappy. is set to release a podcast mid-2019, emphasizing the need for our society and our consumers to demand the dismantlement of the oppressive culture surrounding mental illness within our society.
Within our culture, silence is the enemy. Mental illness will remain a threat as long as we continue to allow our society to stigmatize conversations illuminating our mental health. Through compassion, support, advocacy, and empathy, we can break the stigma surrounding the national discourse on mental health.
Be informed consumers. We have the power to demand change in the way our society operates. Through conscious consuming, you have the ability and opportunity to be an ally.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing a shift in their mental well-being, there an array of resources available, at no expense. Listen to yourself and your loved ones. Often, this is the first step.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides referrals to support groups, mental health professionals, resources on loss and suicide prevention information. Phone: 888-333-2377
The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 crisis intervention, safety planning and information on domestic violence. Phone: 800-799-7233
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects callers to trained crisis counselors 24/7. They also provide a chat function on their website. Phone: 800-273-8255
Feature Image via Vanessa Granda