Valentines get roses, birthdays get cakes, Christmas gets stockings, but what do you give to someone who is struggling with their mental health?
One woman has created the perfect gem to send someone who might be struggling, by painting positive messages onto stones for a tangible declaration of love.
Meet Katie Dodd, the artist behind Etsy store Little Happy Giftshop, creating unique mental health and anxiety gifts that you won’t find on the high street.
Speaking to Uspire, Katie – who is also a trained counsellor and crisis line volunteer – told us about her personal journey with mental health before kickstarting her business.
Katie said: “My personal journey with mental health has been a rather long one, beginning when I was around 14 with depression and self-harm.
“This carried on for some time and when I was around 19, I was diagnosed with anorexia which led to multiple hospital admissions and me being very unwell at a very low weight.
“Later, I continued to struggle and at about 24, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which resulted in numerous hospital admissions and me wanting to end my life.”
Katie continued: “I now have a huge passion for mental health and the awareness surrounding it. As I have always crafted and created since a child, my style naturally morphed into a brand based around mental health and kindness as I really believe the little things make a big difference to people going through a hard time.”
As well as the stones, Katie creates other mental health themed gifts – including keyrings and toy ‘anxiety pets’ – and is also a published author, having written two books.
Her memoir, In Bloom Not Broken, tells the raw tale of Katie’s personal battle with mental illness. While her children’s book, Felix The Fox and his Awesome Odd Socks, promotes positive mental health diversity through story-time for kids to talk about their feelings.
The talented creative has also run several mental health campaigns, including ‘Hearts of Hope’, in which she designed hundreds of positive messages and quotes alongside the Samaritans phone number and filled the entrance to a park with them.
Katie’s mental health stones have earned her a five-star rating online, with phenomenal feedback from customers saying how much their loved ones appreciated them.
She explained: “The feedback and comments I get are so, so amazing and what really makes it worthwhile. There are many times they have made me cry.
“There is a huge range from children being bullied to people that are terminally ill and it is such a huge honour to be able to be part of creating smiles for people that are going through difficult times.
“Also being able to make something that enables someone to express feelings to someone that they may not otherwise be sure how to do, is what it’s about.”
Katie has also given a stone to someone close to her, so has seen first-hand the reaction.
She said: “I gave one to the lady who was pretty much my mum as she brought me up and was a huge part of my life for my whole life before she gave me away at my wedding last year, before she passed away just five weeks later.
“She cried, we hugged and talked, and it was a very special moment. I still have that gift in a box with her things next to my bed.
“My daughter also had one of the stones when she started her new school and it really helped with her anxiety as she said if she could touch it in her pocket she knew we were there. It’s amazing really what a big effect that small things can have.”
Looking back, Katie says she would have really benefited from someone giving her one of the stones when she had been struggling as a teenager.
Having felt alone growing up, she says something physical would have meant a lot to her.
She said: “I always kept things over the years that held sentimental value and it would’ve meant the world to know that someone was thinking of me and recognising my struggle.
“Sometimes I think that in itself means a lot, for struggles to be recognised and validated so that is also a big part of what I make too.
“It gives people a chance to say, ‘I know you’re having a bad time,’ while at the same time giving them a little boost and to know they are not alone.”
Going forward, Katie would like to see education around mental health evolve so that future generations can learn coping mechanisms and how to navigate their minds.
While she believes we have come a long way, she feels there is still a long way to go.
Katie concluded: “‘Mental health’ is used a lot but sometimes not in the right terms.
“We all have mental health, the same as we have physical health, and sometimes it can be good, sometimes bad, and sometimes we can have an illness.
“We all have to look after our mental health the same as our physical health and the same comes to it being recognised when we are poorly.”
She added: “I also think that certain mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia hold more stigma still, and there is not as much education and awareness around these.
“I’d love to see more education in schools. In senior schools, for example, I think it would be really beneficial to actively seek out people to come and give talks about their experience of mental illness and related struggles and how they overcame them.
“Things like this give opportunity for young people to relate to what someone else has been through, and potentially recognise it in themselves, or give them the courage to speak to someone about it. It is invaluable and I absolutely believe that things like this are very powerful in enabling someone to open up about themselves and create a conversation and discovering positive ways to cope and things that will work for them.”
Katie also hopes to see a class which focuses on individuality, feelings, achievements, and things to celebrate about each other, structured in a way that brings groups together.
She believes that by celebrating others’ achievements while in a space that allows young people to think about anything that may be going on for them, would encourage them to speak to a teacher or school counsellor if anything significant came up afterwards.
Katie concluded: “I think life can been very pressurised these days for young people and I think it would be great to have some sort of additional class that just lifted things a little as well as creating a space to actually reflect.”
To grab a mental health stone, click here: Little Happy Giftshop.