When I was diagnosed with depression, I was just 15 years old. It wasn’t something I talked about. It wasn’t something even my family talked about. And my friends? Well, my friends had no idea I was suffering: I never told them I had a mental illness because I was afraid and ashamed. Because I believed the stigma was real, and that my mental illness was a mental deficiency. I believed my mental illness was “all in my head.” And I felt this way for years.
An entire decade passed before I spoke up.
I tried to kill myself twice before I really reached out and ask for help, not just professionally but personally.
Yet even when I shared my struggles, my friends didn’t know what to say. My family didn’t know how to help, and I didn’t know what to ask for. I didn’t know what I needed. In fact, sometimes I still don’t. Because despite the fact that I have suffered from a mental illness for 17 years now — despite the fact that I am a mental health advocate and now use my illness as a platform to help others and to help stop the stigma — many still do not know how to address those who are suffering. Many of us do not know what to say, or how to say it.
But the good news? Two Australian sisters are working change all of that. Trudy and Sam are working to bridge the gap — and help enable a loving and supportive mental health conversation — with Hope Street Cards, a series of get well cards aimed to give loved ones a “supportive and appropriate” way to express empathy, compassion, and concern. Or in their words, “inspire hope, and [to] encourage recovery.”
As Sam recently explained to the Australian women’s website Mamamia, the idea for Hope Street Cards began shortly after a close friend’s son attempted suicide. Despite being a qualified psychologist herself, Sam admits that even she didn’t know what to say in the moment.
“[I found it very difficult to] show support as a friend and …[to] demonstrate that we cared and were thinking of them,” Sam shared.
However, this wasn’t the only “a-ha” moment that led the sisters to launch Hope Street Cards. In fact, it was the result of several life-changing events in a row, including Sam’s own hospitalization for a recurring mental illness and their mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. You see, when Sam and Trudy’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, the sisters immediately received numerous cards and letters of support. Everyone was empathetic, and the outpouring of love and compassion was overwhelming. However, when Sam was hospitalized, she told Mamamia that she — and many of the other patients in her facility — received little mail, rarely had visitors, and almost no one had flowers next to their bed. As Sam explained to the outlet, there were very few “outward displays of social support,” and she quickly realized that was a problem.
“[These cards aim to] provide an avenue for loved ones to express their support, love and concern in an appropriate, empathetic and hopeful way, whilst also learning more about their loved one’s diagnosis,” Sam continued.
Currently, Hope Street offers cards specifically for depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder; however, Sam and Trudy hope to soon add cards for perinatal anxiety, postpartum depression, and suicide bereavement.
What’s more, for every card sold, Hope Street makes a $1 donation to the Black Dog Institute, an Australian non-profit which provides clinical services, educational programs, and conducts mental health research.
And while I have never received a “get well” card for my own mental illness, I know I would be honored to receive one of Hope Street’s cards myself. Not only are the messages simple and inspiring, but the cards themselves are an all-important reminder that the “sufferer” is loved, that they are not a alone, and that there is always hope. Even in the darkness, there is hope.