Our Story behind our new project: THE MENTAL WELLNESS BOX

Our Story behind our new project: THE MENTAL WELLNESS BOX

Jennifer St. John

“Always be so happy, Hon – always be so fulfilled – always have this excitement surround your life (as well, of course) always have very valuable ‘down time’, as well; always be at “peace” with your core.  Very importantly, for you Babe, always have that challenge; that which keeps one ALIVE with energy and feeling.  You have ‘joie be vivre’ – always maintain that, Hon – never let any circumstances or any person every rob you of this.”

This is an excerpt from a letter sent to me from my Mom.  I think this was around the time when I decided to leave behind a career in design, one which I had gone to school for and was still paying student loans for… and completely switched gears with a move into the film industry.  Where I was starting all over again, at the bottom… with an internship (AKA basically working for free!). 

Most parents would have said ‘What the heck are you doing?’, but I had had a different kind of childhood and I had long been quite independent and wanted to figure things out for myself.  Well, my childhood experience had created this muscle memory, so it was my natural state (years later, I would learn how to ask for help and lean on people when I needed to, but I wasn’t there yet).

And I did figure it out. 

Fast forward to now and launching a new brick-and-mortar business in the year of a global pandemic and my Mom’s note from decades ago still rings true.  Some people would think “You’re doing what?” But that isn’t how it looks from my vantage point.

I see a hurdle or a problem and then I figure out a way around it, over it, through it.  I don’t look towards other businesses and try to ‘copy’ them or envy them.  I look towards the companies who do things differently, who create opportunities for themselves, who support those around them and in their community as they continue on their journey, who do their best each day to keep doing what they are doing.  And I celebrate them and support them. 

And this was in-part the inspiration for our new project: THE MENTAL WELLNESS BOX.  I found myself wanting to do more to highlight other companies who have a mental health/mental wellness give-back model to their businesses.  I am passionate about continuing the honest and frank conversation around mental health and doing anything we can to keep the conversation going. 

What's the worst that can happen?  They say no. 

So I picked up the phone, composed an introduction “Do I have an idea for you?!” kinda email, and reached out.  And not one company that I’ve personally connected with has said no!  As things pulled together, and realistic timing was sorted out (more COVID lockdowns, AKA,  trying to fit in a work day around schooling for two children – fun fun!), I landed on Mother’s Day as a great holiday to launch this project. 

I couldn’t be more thrilled with the group of companies and products we’ve brought together:

Part of the reasoning for this was also a little book project I’ve been working on for the last three years.  ‘BE KIND, LOVE HARD, MAKE MEMORIES:  A guided journal meets mini memoir’ will be published this month and I wanted to include a copy of this book in each MENTAL WELLNESS BOX. 

After my Mom passed away and we were going through her belongings with Dad, we came across some of her journals while she was dealing with her recovery.  In her early fifties, my Mom finally had some solid footing under her in the way of a team of professionals and doctor’s.  She had lived her entire life with mental illness, including Bi-Polar Disorder II, without any treatment or medications.  And she had finally decided to deal with her past and more importantly, her future. 

My Mom always wanted to be a writer and just never made that happen for herself. So I vowed at that point to do this for her.  And I started working on this book.  I pulled together over one hundred and twenty pages of her journal entries, my journal entries, letters to each other and letters from my Dad as well.   Then I sat down and pieced together our story. 

It was important to do this using the honest and real reflections we had at the time of each phase or during each situation.  And it was also important to share our journey through all three phases of our story – surviving, coping, and healing. 

A year or so into the process, I reached out to an illustrator in Toronto, Belinda Love Lee.  I had been following her on Instagram and adored her aesthetic.  Then through a local artist in Barrie, Katie Greene, I was introduced to Nola Grimes from NG Printing in Toronto.  And voila – I had my team!

Being able to share this book with everyone, especially leading up to Mother’s Day, is just the icing on the cake for me.  I’m thrilled to be putting this project out into the world and finally, creating this opportunity for my Mom. 

“This is like a ‘bottom of the ninth, final game of the World Series, down one run, two outs, bases loaded, hits a ‘grand slam’ kind of project girl”, said my youngest sister Teresa, after she read the final draft.  “This is outstanding.  You’ve captured how in their way, they were saying sorry.  Sorry for the pain, sorry for it all”, said Kate, my oldest sister. 

So Mom, I’m still doing it.  I’m still living a life that challenges me and one that keeps me alive with energy and feeling.  And I could not be prouder to be launching our first MENTAL WELLNESS BOX this week!