Healing Yourself & The Environment: A Review of Mental Health Apparel Brand, “How to Heal Co.” and an interview with its founder, Jessi Beyer
By Ellen Rubin
If you could only use one word to describe How to Heal Co. it would be thoughtful. Everything from the t-shirt designs to manufacturing and packaging has been thoughtfully considered with you, the customer, society, workers, and the environment in mind.
The company was founded by Jessi Beyer, a mental health author and speaker, as a way for people to express themselves through what they wear and to promote thoughtful communication between the wearer and the public. Jessi’s mission is to “break down the stigma of mental illness with authentic conversation.” She’s hoping the designs on How to Heal shirts will start that conversation.
Jessi Beyer’s Story
Jessi’s focus is on victim’s services and working with people who have suffered from critical psychological trauma. Much of her story and philosophy is included on the website, but I learned more about her, her goals, and her journey by speaking with her.
Like many others, Jessi’s decision to study psychology was fueled by her desire to understand issues that she, or those around her, experienced such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, and even attempted suicide.
She believes that each person’s path to healing is different. For her, personally, the path to wellness wasn’t therapy. She tried it but was so uncomfortable with the process that she never went back after that first session.
Her path was to educate herself and work on her own. What she discovered was that therapy was only one tool that people could use – that there are alternative therapies that can be explored in conjunction with, or in addition to, traditional therapy. She wrote about her discoveries in How to Heal: A Practical Guide to Nine Integrative Therapies That Can Help Release Trauma (available on Amazon).
“I’m not against talk therapy by any means,” she explained, “and for the right person, it can be a really powerful healing method. That being said, it’s no better or worse than any of the integrative therapies I discuss in my book – just a different way to heal!”
Jessi still believes in the efficacy of therapy and wants to encourage people to try it. This is why, with your first purchase of a shirt, you will also get two free therapy sessions with a qualified counselor who works with BetterHelp.
The offer gives you a free and safe way to experience therapy to see if it’s something you want to continue. This free offer has absolutely no strings attached. You aren’t obligated to accept the offer or continue with BetterHelp but Jessi hopes that the “excuse that it came free will open the door to healing” for some.
While the therapy sessions are private, wearing a How to Heal shirt allows you to bring mental illness issues into the light. The How to Heal site uses this quote from Glenn Close: “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” Jessi’s hope is that by wearing the shirts you can start authentic conversations.
How to Heal currently offers 1 sweatshirt and 4 t-shirt designs (with new designs in the future) that all have an underlying message about healing and survival. The designs were all imagined by Jessi and brought to life with the help of a graphic artist. She chose subjects that we, or people we know and love, can relate to.
Shirts that Love You Back
The good intention to start conversations is only as good as the product you’ll be wearing. If these shirts weren’t comfortable, it wouldn’t matter what the message says, you probably wouldn’t wear it. Luckily, these shirts are really comfortable. The t-shirts are made from 50% Repreve (recycled polyester), 25% organic cotton, and 25% Tencel (FSC-certified beechwood). The Tencel gives the fabric its drape and extra softness. The blended fabric is flowy and soft, washes well and doesn’t shrink.
Sweatshirts are made from 65% Better Cotton Initiative Certified Cotton, 25% Repreve, and 10% polyester. Reviews on the site describe them as “soft and cozy” and “so thick and cozy I’m going to be cuddled up in it all year long”.
How their shirts feel is very important to the company. There is the adage that if you look good you feel good. Actually, there’s a psychological concept called Enclothed Cognition that supports this notion.
In simple terms, it means that clothing impacts your feelings – how you view yourself and how others view you. It’s based on experiments scientists conducted using white lab coats and how people performed on cognitive tasks when they were wearing the coats. They concluded that the physical experience of wearing clothing, as well as its symbolic meaning, has an impact on a person’s psychological processes.
(If enclothed cognition interests you, you can read more about it at: Adam, Hajo; Galinsky, Adam D. (2012). “Enclothed cognition”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology or Exploring Enclothed Cognition (schoolofselfimage.com).
So, what does this mean in terms of the shirts you’ll find at How to Heal? Well, the shirt’s soft touch is the most obvious result. It’s also the reason there’s no itchy tag; labeling is printed at the shirt. Jessi believes that there shouldn’t be anything that bothers or distracts you from feeling good.
“Having a sustainably made and meaningfully designed shirt is great,” she told us, “but that really doesn’t mean much if the shirts are super uncomfortable. That’s why I went through multiple different manufacturers to find one that made ridiculously soft shirts, and that’s also why I took out the manufacturer’s neck tags in favor of custom printed ones. I don’t know about you, but it can totally ruin my day if I’m constantly having to itch the back of my neck because of an ill-placed tag.”
You’ll notice that the shirts all have muted colors, too. Jessi explained that mental illness and the depth of pain that people feel is not bright and playful. She’s found that many companies that affiliate themselves with mental illness focus on bright colors and childish designs that are even immature. To her, this diminishes those that are suffering from mental diseases.
How to Heal’s shirts are meant to bring peace and calmness. The colors are warm and overall, the shirts are comforting, even if the messaging may make you feel vulnerable.
Shirts that are Ethical & Sustainable
It would be hypocritical to care so much about the end user without caring about the people who make the product. That’s why only ethical companies were chosen to manufacture their shirts. There’s a care label on the bottom side seam that also has a QR code that gives you information about the factory where your shirt was made. Currently, How to Heal uses Allmade and Threadfast to manufacture their shirts.
Similarly, it would be hypocritical to care about people without caring about the environment. The two are intrinsically interwoven. Obviously, the primary way to do this is by using sustainable and ethical manufacturers. Both of their manufacturers are WRAP certified.
Shipping is another big factor in sustainability. How to Heal shippers use recycled or compostable materials down to details like their labels. By partnering with companies that insist on carbon-neutral shipping practices, both in the US and internationally, they help fund initiatives aimed at preserving and regenerating natural ecosystems.
“We’re trying to change the world through mental health advocacy,” Jessi told us, “and it would be pretty counterintuitive if we simultaneously ruined the world through our shipping and manufacturing practices. A brand is only as good as the worst step of its supply and marketing chain, which is why I looked at everything from manufacturers with solar-powered factories to shipping labels made with 100% recycled material to ensure that we were as sustainable as possible.”
Personally, I appreciate that the packaging was actually the size of the shirt (approximately 7” x 11”). The shirt was neatly folded and fit the bag perfectly. No extra plastic packaging was needed because the mailer kept the shirt safe and dry. It annoys me when a company claims to be sustainably minded, yet ships their product in a box or mailer that is many times the necessary size. I keep thinking that there is waste there – even if it isn’t in the weight of the box, it’s in the amount of space it occupies in shipping and the amount that goes into a landfill afterward.
How to Heal’s page on sustainability will give you all the details about how eco-friendly their products are. They also give back by donating to their charitable partners and supporting frontline mental health professionals through their Make a Therapist’s Day Fund.
The Importance of Nature
Nature’s healing quality is another facet that’s very important to Jessi’s philosophy of mental health. She believes that an appreciation of your surroundings is tied into your mental health. In fact, spending time outside will change your cortisol and hormone levels which in turn reduces anxiety. Nature provides a spiritual connection that we are part of something that’s bigger than ourselves. This helps reduce our feelings of isolation and loneliness.
“Spending time in nature is where I feel most like myself,” Jessi shared with us. “It’s sometimes one of the only places I can breathe and feel like life isn’t so overwhelming. There are tons of evidence-based psychological and physiological benefits to being in nature, but for me, it’s the spiritual and soul-based benefits that are more important. When I’m in a swimming hole or at the top of a mountain, I feel like I’m home more so than in any house I’ve ever lived.”
While each person’s struggle is individual, it may take being part of a community to heal. Nature gives you the feeling of being connected to something greater than yourself until you’ve reached the point where you feel able to connect with others. How to Heal’s answer is to help you connect through their shirts’ messaging plus provide you the opening to experiment with therapy.
Final Thoughts on this Mental Health Apparel Brand
How To Heal sells you a soft, comfortable, attractive shirt, gives you 2 free therapy sessions, provides an opening if you choose to have a conversation about your personal experience and feelings, protects and helps regenerate the environment while ensuring that all the people that make this possible are treated fairly.
That’s an awful lot to expect from a shirt, yet by being consciously thoughtful about the purpose and execution of her vision, Jessi has created a platform for people to heal.