You know mental health is important- just as important as physical well being. That said, many of us still struggle to both identify, and then to access mental health services. Today, we are sitting down with the founder of “You Are Collective”, an e-commerce company founded on the principles of reducing stigma, extending help to those with mental health struggles and building a space of positivity around mental health issues.
Rebecca and Michael, founders of You Are Collective, share their own personal journeys with mental health and how it has led them to create the company they have. With it, they also share the resources they have created to help their community. We are thrilled to be able to hear more about their work, and how they have integrated their advocacy into their business!
1. How does your company, You Are Collective, give back to the community you are advocating for?
We give back through a variety of projects and initiatives including our #1MillionCampaign to help fund one million counselling sessions across Canada. We are vocal advocates in our community for many local initiatives and organizations. YAC makes community partnerships in order to create meaningful impact and help fill gaps; these include our collaborative apparel collections in which a minimum of 10% per each item purchased is donated to The #1MillionCampaign. These funds are then distributed to a variety of mental health services throughout the community. Our living experience has shone a light on the major barriers around accessing services, one being financial, which is why we always commit to providing free access to our events and workshops.
2. What supports do you find MOST lacking for those looking for help (This can be financial, long wait times, the urgent need for care, etc)
The support we find lacking the most for those looking for help is the accessibility and affordability for mental health services. It takes tremendous courage to even decide to ask for help and we find that if people do take that step they don’t know where to go next and even if they do they can’t afford the help that’s there. It feels like such a catch 22 because people feel like they’re not critical enough for the help, but also not okay enough to go without the support and there’s no normalization around accessing mental health services wherever you’re at. There are numerous obstacles in the way … and ways we’re hoping to make a difference
3. What sorts of supports do you provide for your community? What is the impact you have made?
You Are Collective provides a judgement-free platform to share lived and living experience as a way to keep the conversation going around mental health and illness. We do this through a variety of social media platforms as well as our bi-weekly Safe Spaces Check-In’s where we have open, supportive conversations about mental health and illness. This was born out of our mental health open mic night, Safe Spaces, which operated in-person before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Our collaborative apparel collections allow us to present our message in a unique way by both providing an empowering message and a resource on your mental health journey. Proceeds from these collections are then donated to our #1MillionCampaign to support mental health services in our community!
Searching for support and services can be incredibly daunting and so we’ve tried to ease this process with our Local Counselling Card initiative.TLCC is a gift card with the sole purpose of reducing wait times and increasing access to affordable counselling for those in need. The recipient of the card can choose from a vetted directory of participating counsellors to ensure they find one that works for them.
We also create and provide our own resources for free that we’ve curated to better our mental wellness. This includes a complete list of local resources all in one easy place! So far, The #1MillionCampaign has provided more than 65 one on one counselling sessions in our community and donated more than $4,000 to Connect Counselling + Therapy Services, Etcetera Youth Group, YMCA Okanagan, and most recently Childhood COnnections!
4.Tell us a little about You Are Collective. How did it start? (We understand you have personal journeys with mental health)
You Are Collective is a mental health social enterprise and to us what that means is we are dedicated to advocacy and support services for mental health and illness in our communities.
Whether it’s our empowering apparel collections, events and workshops or other community partnerships the focus is on ending the stigma and keeping the conversation going surrounding mental health and illness. At the beginning of 2020, we launched our #1MillionCampaign to help fund one million counselling sessions across Canada. We decided on this lofty goal after refocusing and reflecting on why we created You Are Collective in the first place…
I was a few months into the industry I went to college for, and things weren’t going as planned – not even close. So Michael and I started talking about ways we could move on and find better lives for ourselves… We ended up in Kelowna BC Canada where we had vacationed a few times throughout our relationship. It was bliss. If you’ve never been, it’s a picturesque valley surrounded by Lake Okanagan and the Columbia Mountains.
A few months into moving I got my dream job, we were settling into our cosy basement suite and exploring all the Okanagan had to offer. In Winter 2017 I hit a wall. A wall I was super familiar with and had prevented me from doing many things before. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t even think of communicating or tending to my basic needs. I spiralled for a few days before I made a huge decision to seek professional help. Only I had no idea where to go, what was I even dealing with? It was always a feeling and challenge that plagued me in my past but I never acknowledged or dealt with it. I started with a medical walk-in clinic and by some sort of miracle got an appointment with an incredibly kind, patient, and empathetic doctor. He listened, let me cry, and got me to open up about things I didn’t even realize I was hanging onto. He provided me with a business card that had the information for a mental health walk-in clinic downtown and let me know it was self-referral, it would be up to me to continue the process of healing. It was an incredibly positive experience, but I still felt the same.
The next opportunity I could I made my way down, filled out five pages of paperwork, had a consultation with an interior health worker and from there the counselling/social work team decided to refer me to outside services. I left with sheets of paper and a list of upcoming group classes being told to wait for a call for one on one counselling. It’s true what they say, getting to share your story and get everything out is incredibly effective. After sharing more, I started to feel a bit of an upswing and even forgot I had been referred to outside services. About a month and a half later I got a call and booked my first free counselling appointment. I could share endlessly about how impactful, helpful and encouraging one on one talk therapy was/is for me and to discover that was super empowering so I began to share my journey more openly. The more I did, the more I heard about how truly special it was to have received the kind of care I did. The majority of people were waiting months, if that was even an option, for care. Michael and I have always wanted to create something together, and after many brainstorming sessions and long talks, we came to the agreement that we needed to do something to support mental health and illness. But what? We got personal, we reflected on our mental health journeys and the gaps and challenges as well as the resources available. We listened to our community and heard a need. You Are Collective was born!
Now, committed to our goal of providing one million counselling sessions to those in need and still going through incredible ups and downs in our own journeys we are excited to be supporting our community through empowering apparel and products, local partnerships, events and workshops, and providing resources.
5. What do you wish everyone knew about mental health and mental health support?
Loaded question! #1, we wish everyone knew that they have mental health exactly like they have physical health and they need to both be taken care of in order to best support your overall health! #2, you deserve mental health support. You don’t have to be in crisis, you don’t even have to know why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. All you need to know is that your feelings are valid and you are worthy of support and access to services wherever you’re at on your journey.
6.What are your future plans for helping the community?
We can’t wait to continue to grow our campaign and our movement. This means expanding our community and helping to support more grassroots organizations across the country. We are committed to funding one million counselling sessions and so we will be focused on this vision to create the most impact in the mental health community. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s how absolutely unpredictable life can be, so we’re trying not to make too many plans and instead listen to our community. We can’t wait to keep learning and growing to create better access for inclusive mental health support!
7.What sorts of treatments have you found most useful?
For myself, one on one talk therapy has been the most useful. I find talking to an unbiased third party super effective and very validating for what I’m going through. My first two counsellors were practicum students and they were INCREDIBLE, I would highly recommend psych students or interns because they are full of fresh, innovative knowledge and eagerness plus they’re typically low-fee!
Michael is more on the spiritual side and finds a great connection to his Indigenous culture. Talking to elders, being in nature and around his community has been super healing for him!
Different group environments have been super useful as well, for us (myself and Michael) it’s more about community so we find our best fit in groups that are safe spaces for everyone to share. CBT Training and self-compassion work have also been huge pillars in our growth.
Because of our work, we’ve had the opportunity to do a variety of mental health and suicide prevention training which have actually been very useful in our own mental health journeys.
8.Have you found it difficult to find free or publicly accessible forms of support?
Extremely difficult. If it wasn’t for the one miracle doctor that got the ball rolling for me, I would’ve had no way to navigate through the system I inevitably went through. There tends to be a broad stroke painted over mental health and so finding support and services that work for you can be extremely challenging. The cookie-cutter, by the book programs, work for a small percentage of people and we consistently find a lack of alternative, accessible support. Even though we work in the mental health community, we still come across challenges and barriers that don’t let us access support we need. It’s incredibly frustrating, honestly, and what makes it feel even worse is imagining how other people are trying to navigate care. If this is our profession and we’re struggling – how are individuals going through challenges able to receive what they need?
9.Where can people go if they want to learn more?
We can be found pretty much anywhere! Please know as much as we want to be we can’t be available 24/7 so should you need support please don’t hesitate to reach out to our personal favourite: The Kids Help Phone (text anything to 686868)
The door is always open!
We are incredibly happy to have been able to join up with We Are Collective, and hear more about their work.
Mental health issues, when left untreated, or undiagnosed, can cause a plethora of life challenges, but help is also available. Did you know that mental health issues like depression and anxiety can qualify for the Disability Tax Credit? The DTC helps disabled Canadians offset the costs associated with seeking additional support. Disability Credit Canada offers tools like our Disability Tax Credit Calculator and our Ultimate Guide To The Disability Tax Credit and our Guide To the Child Disability Tax Credit.
Disability Tax Credit Canada offers FREE assessments with no obligation. Call us anytime to find out more about the Tax Credits that can help you get the support you deserve.