The Why 2018 was a busy and life-changing year for me. I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Fashion Design. I got a job as a childrenswear designer. I launched my own fashion business. And, someone I love was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
For me, it took time to process this news about a family member, a best friend. I didn’t know what schizophrenia was. In search of hope, understanding, and other ways to support them (and myself), I researched schizophrenia, online and in my community. I was dismayed by the lack of information, support, hope, and opportunities. Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with schizophrenia according to SARDAA, and it affects approximately 20 million people worldwide according to the WHO. Despite these numbers, information from internet searches felt like just a brittle frame. All the information I could find felt cold, undetailed, and lacking in empathy.
Schizophrenia impacts 20 million people, yet for years, I wasn’t aware of anyone else impacted by it. No one talked about it. It was hard to start talking about it, because it was personal to my loved one, something that brought up emotions in me, and something that changed my perspective on so many things. When I did talk about it, it was often met with people not knowing how to respond or misconceptions about what it was. This was not the fault of anyone that I shared with, but an indication of a need to raise awareness and destigmatize schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. I realized that by talking about it, I could do these things in a small way. Not knowing anyone else experiencing something similar to you can feel isolating is often common regarding mental health, while at the same time, connections and support are extremely important in recovery, coping, and mental health. Conversations I had led to impactful connections with others who were experiencing similar things. After years of seeing patterns of misconceptions, stigma, and even a stigma and difficulty in just talking about mental health, and seeing the need for more support, accessible information, and resources around mental health, I decided I wanted to go back to school.
While an undergraduate degree in Fashion Design is not a common antecedent of a Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling degree, my personal experiences have ignited an even stronger passion in me – to raise awareness and help destigmatize mental health and severe mental illness.
The Christina Yother brand aims to create purposeful fashion that starts conversations about mental health. By starting conversations, sharing facts, and encouraging kindness, we work to eliminate stigmas, raise awareness, and provide support. Clothes can be a tool to start conversations about anything. They can be used to inspire you to talk about something that is important to you or to help bring confidence and comfort. They can start conversations by being eye catching or by how they make you feel. The goal of our designs is to start conversations about mental health. These conversations could look like sharing the purpose behind the clothes, sharing a brand with someone else to spread information and resources, or becoming inspired or comfortable to share your own story. While these conversations will look different for everyone, we hope they can lead to someone being inspired to learn more, share accessible information and support resources, and create connections around mental health that wouldn’t have been otherwise discovered.
Talking about mental health is important because it can eliminate stigmas, raise awareness, provide better access to information and resources, and help you connect with others.