The prevalence of mental illness in our society may be often over looked, but according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, which works out to be about 18.5% of our population, or roughly 43.8 million adults. It’s not always easy to talk about, and unfortunately that leaves a lot of people lost and unsure how to seek help. No two peoples’ minds are ever quite identical, which is why mental illness affects everyone differently. It’s safe to say there is a large spectrum, and all cases are unique. The question is then, even if one finds comfort in being unique, how does one reach out to connect with others and start a conversation, let alone ask for help? Steven Gold, a life long resident of the Northland, has come up with an idea to help start those tough conversations. His first incarnation, a simple shirt design that reads, “Depression Sucks.”

“It’s art inspired by mental illness. I’ve always liked designing and creating at the same time, so it’s an outlet for my own mental illness that I deal with,” said Gold.  Gold has experimented in the arts for years, and dabbled in many mediums, but his long time compassion for advocacy lead him to try his hand at something he could personally stand for. “I’ve been in so many different creative environments, but being able to give mental illness a physical embodiment (through art), speaks not only to myself, but seems to reach others well too.”

Though the idea is just getting off the ground, it seems to be gaining speed quickly. Part of the proceeds from the first batch of shirts Gold made will be donated to the St. Paul chapter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He also mentioned, the shirts seem to be flying out the door. He only started selling them in the last two weeks and it’s already time to make more. “I’d like to eventually turn it into a foundation, or non-profit, so I could raise more funds for the cause, and aim to focus on Duluth. I’m hoping to name it it the MIS Foundation, or the Missing In Sickness Foundation, which is also the same acronym as Mental Illness Sucks”, an ode to one of the next shirt designs.

How does a shirt change the way society handles mental illness? Well it doesn’t necessarily, or at least not right away,  but that’s not the immediate expectation of the project, it’s really about starting conversations. Gold went on to elaborate saying, “I have one friend who bought a shirt because he works in the mental health field, despite not personally experiencing it. Another friend bought one because she personally deals with her own mental illness. She wore the shirt out (in public), and said immediately other people began approaching her and discussing their own experiences, because they felt safe with a stranger wearing a shirt that reflected their feelings.”

“Mental illness creates some of the most interesting people, because when you have it, you’re forced to think outside the box. That can be amazing, and lead to creativity, but that doesn’t mean people with it aren’t suffering. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed, or do basic things with depression,” explained Gold. “Mental illness sucks, so let’s talk about it.”