Our culture may have made some significant strides in mental health awareness, but our ability to truly accept those dealing with mental illness (and the realities of what it's like to be them) could still use some improvement. Now, one step in the direction toward helping people accept and speak about what they're dealing with — on the good days and the bad — is coming in the unlikely form of sometimes hilarious, sometimes adorable pins and patches.
"Our usual thing [that people who have a mental illness do] is saying, 'I’m fine, I’m great.' We always try to put on a smile and act like everything's going perfectly," says Summer Allen, 33, who runs Gimme Flair, an online shop stocking pins and patches from hundreds of independent artists. "But it's so liberating to be like, 'Yeah, today fucking sucks.'"
That's why she makes it a point to stock items at Gimme Flair that reflect that honesty. But they aren't always met with acceptance. Recently, she posted an Instagram photo of a glittery heart pin that read "Depressed as Fuck," and a debate ensued in the comments about whether or not such a sentiment being taken so lightheartedly was actually ableist.
"Anything I [post] that has to do with taking medication or deals with depression in a lighthearted way becomes a sore subject," Allen says. But in a society that still stigmatizes mental illness and psychiatric medication, being open about what you're really going through in a particular moment without necessarily trying to "fix" it can be its own kind of healing. "I've been dealing with [depression] since I was a teenager," she says, "and nothing has helped me more than talking about it."
Of course, even if you don't have a diagnosed mental illness, it can still feel just as powerful to tell the world you're not actually feeling great. "We all kind of feel shitty sometimes," Allen says. "Any [product] that [helps people be] casually open about it and not make it such a huge deal, I always try to carry in the shop."
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