Purchasing a card for a loved one is a small but meaningful way to show that you're thinking of them and that you care. "Get Well Soon" cards are popular for people who are going through a bout of sickness, but those cards may not be the best option for certain illnesses. Hope Street Cards, a company created by Australian sister duo Sam and Trudy Booker, offers a line of cards specifically made for people experiencing a mental health condition, as well as their loved ones.
"Our vision for Hope Street Cards is to provide avenues for connections between these... people when times can be a bit difficult or tough," Sam told A Plus. "Some people might find it more difficult to connect with a loved one when they are experiencing a mental illness, but it's at this time when that sense of connection is vital, for both of the people in that relationship."
Each of their cards is accompanied by a pamphlet with evidence-based information on mental illness as well as suggestions for how best to support someone experiencing it.
"Through Hope Street Cards we aim to provide an avenue for loved ones to express their support, love and concern in an appropriate, empathic and hopeful way, whilst also learning more about their loved one's diagnosis," Sam said.
One dollar of every card sold is donated to the Black Dog Institute, a mental health organization dedicated to research, clinical services and education programs surrounding the illness.
The sisters first got the idea after the son of a close friend attempted suicide. "I felt at a bit of a loss as to how to show my support. I was able to ask a lot of questions about the situation," Sam said. "But as a friend I wanted her to know that I cared and that I was thinking of her."
That's when she realized that she had never come across a card specifically made for mental illness. "That didn't seem quite right," she said.
The gap in the market became apparent once again when Sam experienced her third episode of recurring mental illness, which required her to be admitted to a private psychiatric hospital.
"What was noticeable on this admission was the amount of support that I received during my stay compared to the other patients," she said. "I was one of the very few patients who had flowers next to her bed. I regularly received mail. I had visitors attending at all available times. [I had] outward displays of social support that appeared to be quite rare when compared to the rest of the hospital population."
Sam wants Hope Street Cards to help change that. "We hope these cards help people feel connected to someone and also feel that there is hope," she said. "Mental illness can be so dark and isolating. We would like Hope Street Cards to be able to let people know they're not alone, they're loved, and it might get better."
But, she admits, recovery can be a long, long road. "Recovery is not a linear process or an end result. It's a process," she said, "that sometimes looks and feels like one big mess and is completely different for everyone. And it's really, really, really hard work because there's so many things you have to do that you often just don't want to do. Get adequate sleep. Exercise. Challenge unhelpful thinking patterns. And you have to do these things with no absolute certainty that doing these things will make you feel better. You need courage and commitment and a bucketload of hope."
So far, her cards seem to be helping to provide some of that hope. The Hope Street Card team has been overwhelmed with messages of encouragement and support. Many people have also reached out to share their own experiences with mental illness.
Sam feels positive about the awareness surrounding mental illness because it's improving, but she believes there is still so much work to be done. To help the cause, she suggests people find ways to raise awareness and challenge stigmas. Some simple ways to do this include educating yourself, learning about the experiences people with mental illness face, and offering support to people when they're unwell.
"Be aware of your own attitudes and behavior," Sam suggested. "We all grow up with some judgmental attitudes, but these can change. Try and view people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes."
Cover image via Hope Street Cards.