Standard Wax recently launched a new product that gives $5 from every candle sold directly to Bring Change to Mind, a non-profit on a mission to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. Designed by Brooklyn-based design studio Yay Foundry, the candle uses the science of scent to bring just a little more happiness into this world. As part of the launch campaign, I wanted to chat with a few inspiring women about why mental health is important to them, and how it can help make our communities better.
You can shop the candle here; stock is very limited.
When it comes to happiness – individually or as a society – what could be more important than taking care of yourself at a deeply personal level? Everything we do stems from who we are and how we feel.
At the extreme end of things, we can agree that mentally well people don’t shoot up schools full of innocent children. They don’t run their cars into groups of people simply because they disagree with their beliefs. They don’t spew hateful words at people that don’t look like they do.
On a more relatable level, we know that people who are in touch with what’s going on inside their brains are more likely to be considerate to others. There’s a good chance that these people are better equipped to help others through hard times. They can hold a respectful conversation with someone they might completely disagree with. They know the difference between feeling hurt and feeling angry, and how to express those emotions.
You don’t need to be diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety to talk about your mental health. It’s not a subject reserved only for those people in therapy. Talking about what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it is important for all of us.
“I cannot fathom separating mental health from overall health,” says Tayler Tucker, a wonderfully fascinating woman who also happens to be the media and communications maven for Planned Parenthood Arizona. “I believe that holistic health is better approach and a more true barometer of the ways we need to care for ourselves to tap into our potential and navigate this wild world.”
While every person on earth is experiencing emotions every single day, only a small percentage of people are talking about them.
Tucker, who struggles with body dyspmorphia, believes that the simple act of talking about mental health more could lead to a decrease in negative and destructive behavior and eventually, people living more fulfilled lives. “Our culture, because of our relative silence on these issues and the lack of resources of creating support networks that bring people into the fold instead of ostracize them, leaves little room but resorting to violence.”
So, how do we remove the stigma of mental health and let people know that this is something we should all be talking about? Tucker believes we just need more practice.
“Right now, the U.S. is ill equipped in how to deal with this issue. We don't have practice. It isn't until we see a huge tragic event or crisis or meltdown of someone with a blue check next to their handle that we bring up this subject.” To be more specific, she says, “I hope projects like this and me blabbering on in more public and more intimate platforms can help evolve our understanding and discussion. I hope that by opening up these safe spaces we can invite more people into a conversation that affects us all.”
Quite literally, we just need to talk more. Public policy would be wonderful. Insurance companies covering mental health treatments would be great. These things take time and tons of people, though. The things we can do on a personal level are simple and easy to execute right now.
“You can make an equally, more direct impact in starting with your family and chosen family,”
Tucker says. “I know that unapologetically speaking about mental health and sharing it when you are can is bravery epitomized - and it truly helps.”
A concrete example: Tucker made an Instagram story for National Eating Disorder awareness month, where she talked about her eating disorder. She received countless messages about the videos from people opening up on the issue and how they could relate to it. Because of this, she was able to start conversations, share resources and recommendations and help other people as well as have some sense of peace knowing that she’s not the only person in the world struggling with these feelings.
The lesson here is simple. Talking with other people about what you’re feeling starts conversations. It’s so obvious, but conversation is what we need more of in this world. Conversations let us know we aren’t alone. They help us understand what we’re feeling and how to best process those emotions. Simply talking about what’s going on inside these crazy brains of ours helps. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Malori Maeva is a floral design queen who’s also super passionate about filling the world in on her mental health. If you follow her Instagram account, you’ll notice that a good deal of her posts are letting the world know how she’s feeling. She’s not afraid to let you know when things are really bad and her anxiety feels like it might eat her up for dinner.
“I think there is a huge misconception that giving attention to your mental health means that you are broken or damaged in some way,” she says. “I have read a lot of accounts from people with mental health struggles that speak to a feeling of isolation in their challenges. People are afraid to talk about them or don’t know how to articulate what they’re feeling.”
Speaking of social media, let’s take a look at the role our friends Instagram and Facebook have played in perpetuating (and helping) the hush-hush nature of mental health.
“With social media there's been this huge spotlight on showing off the perfect life, and while you don't owe anyone a disclaimer for your happiness and success it certainly helps to remind your audience that you've got bad days peppered in with the good.” Says Maeva. “Or, if you're me, most days are about a 50/50 blend of joy and sorrow.”
Maeva believes that being more outspoken about her mental health has shown her that people are incredibly uncomfortable with sadness. “I would love to see our culture come to a place where we can sit with our sadness rather than stuffing it down and being happy instead. Happiness is wonderful but there is a full array of emotions that we have and if you allow yourself to really embrace them all, the good ones feel so much sweeter.”
Circling back to the easy steps we can take to make sure everyone feels comfortable talking about both the highs and the lows, Maeva agrees that starting with your friends and family can make all of the difference in the world.
“Even within my inner circle, I've gotten to see my constant soapboxing about mental health changing lives,” she says. “I think that people need to know that they aren't alone in the struggle and that anxiety/depression don't have to be a lifestyle.”
Alex Evjen is a social media influencer, content creator and story teller, which means she spends a whole lot of time on the internet. Personally, she uses social media to be raw and transparent about the path her life has taken since her recent divorce. Also a mother of two, Alex is extremely aware of the effects your mental state can have on your well-being as a whole.
When our downtime is filled with an endless stream of happy lives, impeccable living rooms, flawless relationships and perfectly behaved children, it’s really no surprise that people are hesitant to talk openly about their struggles and pains. We all have a personal brand to maintain; why would we dare screw that up by letting the world know the toll your divorce has had on your life?
“Mental health should be important to all people because we are all greatly impacted by one another,” she explains. “When we take care of our own health we can help take care of others, which is especially important if you are a parent.”
Healthy people are better equipped to help people that need it. Your kids are going to need help, your friends are going to go through trauma. It’s all going to happen at some point, so wouldn’t it be great to have this beautiful balance in the world of people in need, and people able to help?
And you can only get help when you ask for it. By speaking up, by breaking the perfectly clean outer level that’s hiding the messes of your life from the world, you can help show that asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of. There’s nothing wrong with showing off the shit show, sometimes.
“The conversations about mental health have gotten better, but most people I know still don't share about their counseling or depression or anxiety until after things are all better,” Evjen says. “I think we need to be free to have conversations about things while we are still in process.”
Sarah Woods is a visual storyteller who’s also struggled with her mental health for most of her adult life. In addition to taking a holistic approach to her mental health (a combination of medication, psychiatry, routine-building, diet and exercise), Sarah believes that looping in a small team of close friends and family you can trust is a game-changer.
“I think as humans we are struggling to be real, especially on social media. If we could all just be a little more real, I think that would help,” she says. “I know it’s scary, but I think in the end it’ll be worth it and more often than not, the response will be welcomed and applauded.”
So, where can we start? What do we do first? When we zoom out and take a look at where to start, the answer lies in your inner circle.
“It’s easier for someone to be understanding of the struggles of someone they care about,” says Woods. “If they understand that person’s struggles, then it might be easier for them to understand a stranger’s. It could create a ripple effect of understanding.”