We’re currently in the process of dropping some of my all time favourite items of HATW merch, and so I’m conscious that we’re gonna be shouting about that a lot all over our social media, and in our shop, and well.. pretty much anywhere else we can.
With that in mind though, I wanted to share a lil reminder on why it is that we do our merch with a message, because I believe that far from being “just items of clothing” to help fund our work, the merch we create is a very key part of our mission.
From the very beginning of HATW, we’ve wanted to help start conversations around mental health; specifically, around self-harm. It’s something that affects somewhere around 1 in 10 people, but it’s a conversation that people can still struggle to have.
The truth is: the more we talk about it, the less scary it becomes to talk about. And the less scary it is to talk about, the more people are going to feel able to reach out and look for help when they need it. Purely by talking about mental health and self-harm, we’re taking away the power of the stigma attached to it. But how do you have that conversation? How do you start that conversation?! WELL THAT’S WHERE WE COME IN.
Whether we’re in our shop, at a festival, or just cropping up on someone’s social media feeds, we want to draw people in with cool designs by talented artists that you think “hey, that’s a sweet shirt. I want me a piece of that.” and then once they’re looking at it? BAM. We hit ’em with the meaning behind our merch. There’s a conversation about mental health right there. Take THAT stigma.
If ever I see someone wearing a shirt for a band I like, it’s a sign that we have at least one shared interest: we both like that band. That’s maybe a conversation starter if I’m meeting someone new for the first time. “I love their first record!” “I saw them at this festival 2 years ago” “I can’t wait to see them next month”. When we’re talking about relationships with people, it’s infinitely easier if there’s common ground. So we’re looking to apply this to a mental health context. Seeing someone else in a HATW shirt means that they’ve checked out the website, visited the shop, or followed us online and get what it is that they’re wearing. That means it’s someone else who understands on some level what it is to struggle with mental health, and some ideas of things that might help.
Now my hope is that if you were to say “Cool shirt!” to them, they’d reply with something like “Thanks! It’s from Heads Above The Waves, an organisation that support young people struggling with self-harm” and BAM. More stigma smashing.
I just did some quick maths and realised in the last 2 years alone, we’ve sold over 720 beanies. (Just beanies. That’s not even taking into account how many shirts/hoodies/bags etc we’ve sold. Wild.)
That means there’s more than 720 heads being topped with HATW beanies. 720 people who’ve heard the story behind the beanies. 720 people walking around sharing the idea that it’s ok to struggle, and there are things you can try that might help. And 720 people interacting with all of their networks of people around them, with the potential to create some real waves in terms of getting people thinking and talking openly.
So if you’re the proud owner of an item of HATW merch, it’s over to you. Get out there and start some conversations! If someone compliments you on your merch, take the time to explain what it’s about, what we do, and open up that honest discussion about mental health, and positive ways of coping.
If you’re new to HATW, now’s your chance to pick something up and a) help support us financially, since all the money from our merch goes back into our work, but also b) get out there and start some conversations of your own.
Literally, by just wearing an item of clothing, you’re doing something very real: you’re letting people know it’s ok to struggle sometimes, it’s ok to talk, and they’re not alone.