Mental Illness awareness jewelry

I find that most blogs shy away from talking about the heavy stuff, and I sort of plan on my blog being no-so-serious all the time, but I wanted to write about some of the jewelry I’m making and the story behind it.

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I’ve been making jewelry with resined bezels featuring messages of hope for those living with mental illness or those who support us. I say “us” because I am both a mental health professional and someone living with mental illness.  I have been struggling with depression, anxiety, and panic disorder since I was a teenager. It’s been an up and down battle for me, and one that I will probably have to manage for the rest of my life, but I remain hopeful that someone with mental illness, just like any physical illness, can strive to live the life they cant.

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On June 29th, 2014, I lost one of my closest friends to suicide. It was extremely difficult to cope with because it was unexpected, and because it is my line of work to prevent these things.  I strive to honor her life and keep her memory alive in my work. I’m so proud of what she did in her life (including being a petite, blond state police officer that you wouldn’t want to mess with if you were the bad guy!)

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My experiences with mental illness and my own clinical psychologist led me to choose a career as a psychologist when I entered college. I’ve earned a BA and an MA in psychology, and for almost 10 years, I have been working in research and treatment for suicide and self injury. I am currently a psychiatric researcher working at a Veterans Affairs hospital in NYC with veterans struggling with suicide, PTSD, substance use disorders, and more.

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Inspired by Project Semicolon, I started making jewelry with messages of hope. I love working with resin, so after finding an excellent jeweler’s grade resin (i.e. won’t yellow over time, is extremely durable) I made a whole bunch of them, and they sold out of my Etsy shop within a few weeks. I’ve made more and they’re selling really well! I want to keep them at an affordable price point, which a federal EIN number allowed me to do because of my ability to buy wholesale supplies.

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Essentially, the message is that the semicolon, a simple punctuation mark- which divides sentence clauses – is being used to help raise awareness about depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide, substance use disorders, and other mental illness. A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. It is a physical representation of personal strength in the face of internal struggle.

I love that creating and selling this jewelry has allowed me to connect with others concerned with this cause. One of my first orders was from a woman who wanted me to send the necklace to her best friend as a surprise birthday present. Another person let me know they too live with depression and anxiety, and that they appreciate my story. It’s so gratifying to interact with people in this way and to create something that will be a little reminder every day.

xo Jaime