Ending the stigma around mental illness one T-shirt at a time
Published Wednesday, January 27, 2016 10:00PM EST
Two young Canadian entrepreneurs are attempting to take mental illness from out of the shadows and, literally, on to their sleeves with a fashion label that's starting to garner international attention.
Kyle MacNevin, 23 and Kayley Reed, 22, launched "Wear Your Label" as a summer project while attending the University of New Brunswick. Their designs are simple but powerful, featuring messages about mental health emblazoned across T-shirts.
Their most popular design reads: "It's okay not to be okay."
Another design simply reads 1/5, which is meant to represent the one in five Canadians who struggle with mental illness at one point in their lives.
The "Every 40 Seconds" T-shirt signifies the one person who dies of suicide around the world every 40 seconds.
"That's a very scary statistic and it's a very powerful one," MacNevin recently told CTV News.
MacNevin said the stigma surrounding mental illness prevents people from talking about it, and he hopes Wear Your Label clothing can help start a dialogue about the topic.
"What we really love is that we can use such simple language to bring home really serious and important issues," he said.
MacNevin struggled with anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder while Reed battled an eating disorder.
In Reed's case, she said she never opened up about her eating disorder to her family or friends.
"I felt that I was alone," she said. "I didn't think I could reach out to the people in my life because I thought they wouldn't understand."
Keeping those who have struggled with eating disorders in mind, the size tag on Wear Your Label clothing comes with a friendly reminder: "PS. This size does not define you."
'It's something so simple… that can make an impact on someone's day when they're getting dressed," Reed said.
Also included on garments’ washing instruction tags are "self-care" tips such a "stretch, breathe, meditate," while the clothing is shipped in packaging that includes resources from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The company was recently accepted into the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation in Toronto and was part of last year's New York Fashion Week. There are also plans in the works for retail outlets and a collaboration with Joe Fresh.
The label's models, or "role models" as they’re referred to on the company's website, are individuals who have lived with mental illness.
The company also donates 10 per cent of its profits to various mental health agencies.
Meanwhile, Wear Your Label is selling clothing in 32 countries and the founders are receiving plenty of positive feedback.
“People tweet out, ‘This is the best antidepressant we have used’,” MacNevin said.
The two said they'd like to see their business expand into athletic wear and pieces that are appropriate for the workplace.
But one of their main goals is to end the stigma around mental illness.
"I want (mental illness) to be as accepted and comfortable to talk about as physical illness," MacNevin said.
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip