"New research has shown that only one in four people who have experienced a mental health problem have received a get well card during their illness, even though 80% say that a card would be a good way for others to let them know they are thinking of them." time-to-change.org.uk*
NB: I've done my best to write this without bogging you down with facts, figures and sources. If you would like more links let me know.
I've been reading a lot about the power of cards recently. I know it's a subject far bigger than me and something I don't think I'll ever fully comprehend but I'm on a mission to try. I've been trying to write this blog post for a while but it's hard to make something coherent when there's so many parts to it. Perhaps if I show you my thought process, and how I came to put this idea together you'll get a sense of where I'm coming from. (Personally I find my brain files stuff away and makes connections silently at the back of mind until I have a "Eureka!" moment.)
It starts with 3 unconnected moments / topics:
It started a while back when a friend's father passed away. To me sending a 'thinking of you' card just didn't fit the bill. It felt impersonal and I wanted more choice. It's a difficult time as it is and knowing what to say is always hard if not impossible, I felt I wanted guidance. Reassurance I was saying the right things. Perhaps even a little inspiration. This was way before Zoe Brennan cards even existed.
Next was reading this blog post about the power of cards back in 2013. http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/get-well-soon-cards-for-mental-health-problems. If you're keen to learn a little more about the subject then this is a great place to start. Ironically as a stationer I don't think I'd ever properly thought about how much of difference cards could make to some one with a mental illness. Reading genuine experiences struck a chord with me.
The final puzzle piece for me was actually only a few days ago. As an avid Tumblr user it's hard to miss "National Days", it's taken pretty seriously and I have to say it's completely changed the way I see social topics and has definitely made a positive impact on me. (Well done, Tumblr by the way. I wouldn't know these things were happening without you- the most recent being #BlackOut. Google if you want to learn more.) Anyway, March 31st was "International Trans Day of Visibility". As well as the usual assortment of transgender selfies, ally posts and information a lot of shocking info-graphics were appearing on my dash. These ranged from suicide facts**, mental health facts, homelessness stats all related to LGBTQ youth as well as advice on what to say when someone comes out to you.
Somehow these 3 experiences came together in my head and I thought - "What if I could make cards to help?" ***
Yes these are hugely different cases but for me, it's about reaching out to your fellow human being when they need you. I think we forget how far a simple act of tangible compassion can go in this digital age.
"Getting a card in the post is exceptionally nice, it’s also now increasingly rare; it’s easier to send an email, a text message or an e-card, which is lovely but not quite the same. An actual, physical card lets you know someone cares about you, and was thinking of you long enough to decide to send a card and get round to actually sending it." time-to-change.org.uk
Obviously everyone is different- you might not think sending a card is appropriate or it just might not feel like the right thing to do. There is no right or wrong and absolutely everyone is entitled to do things their own way.
But, I want to create cards for those who want to send them. Cards that are appropriate and well thought out. Cards that won't dismiss, discriminate or belittle.
I'm not talking rainbow flags, motivational mottos or quirky characters. If you're looking for that, Zoe Brennan isn't the right brand for you.
I don't have experience of being depressed, anxious, trans, asexual...the list goes on. This is where I need your help.
This idea is very much in its infancy and still has a long way to go. I was a little apprehensive about sharing this as obviously there's a lot of research to be done but I have to start somewhere. There's no point in me designing in a vacuum without getting the opinions that matter most from the very beginning. If you'd like to help, have ideas, experiences or know of anyone that might of assistance then please get in touch.
Everyone's ideals and expectations are different- phrases that work for some won't for others. For example I'm yet to see a range of LGBTQ cards that haven't offended me in some way or have been aesthetically the right card for me. Personally I think using phrases like "I always knew" belittle the situation. Coming out is hard to do, you need to give respect where it's due. I'm sure though that's perfect for someone else which is why I want to gather as many opinions as possible. What I think is right might not be and I can only make this the best it can be with your help. (I have to say there are some wonderful coming out cards available but none of them appeal to the designer in me!)
You can get in touch with me via facebook (http://www.facebook.com/likezoebrennan) or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If my cards can help just one person then I'll call this a success.
*The Time to Change survey was conducted online using SurveyMonkey between 19th December and 31st December 2012 and was completed by a total of 1,429 people in the UK with experience of a mental health problem. A link to the survey was distributed via Time to Change Facebook fans and on Twitter.
**Probably the best place to start with these facts is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_among_LGBT_youth and go from there. See also my general links below.
***I know these are 3 vastly different issues but as my cards are generally quite fluid so there will be a cross over in phrases. I will of course be focusing on each of them individually as well with specific designs for each. Ie "I'm Here For You" could be for any situation.
http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/ Mental Health Website
http://www.mind.org.uk/ Mental Health Website
http://www.glaad.org/ LGBTQ Website
http://www.stonewall.org.uk/ LGBTQ Website