Words by Ha-Teya Gripske
Illustrations by Charlotte Derou
You always hear about how the clothes you wear reflect your personality. But what if the clothing you wear could actually leave a lasting impression? What if what you wore could be a starting point for someone seeking help?
Caitlin Ayling, a 20-year old entrepreneur, watched her family and friend’s mental health deteriorate during lockdown this year. She was so impacted by watching the way loneliness and separation could affect someone that, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, she created an online society dedicated to encouraging lifesaving conversations.
Since then, The 3:17 Society has become a space of empowerment for those struggling with their mental health. Wanting to spread her message further into the community, Caitlin created hoodies printed with the phrase, “Your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it”.
“I lost a friend last year to suicide and he passed away at 3:17 in the morning, so that’s where that time-stamp came from”Caitlin Ayling
The ‘3:17’ timestamp means a lot to Caitlin, serving as a reminder of why spreading mental health awareness is so important. “I lost a friend last year to suicide and he passed away at 3:17 in the morning, so that’s where that time-stamp came from” she explains. With five dollars from each hoodie sold going directly to the organisation Headspace, Caitlin says the purpose of the hoodies is to create conversation and spread mental health awareness.
Laughing, Caitlin shares a time when wearing her hoodie encouraged strangers to come up to her and ask what it said: “I wear mine to the gym in the mornings … at 5 o’clock in the morning, no one talks to each other at that point. And one morning I had three people come up and read what it said. That’s the whole purpose of it, to be a conversation starter.”
According to the Black Dog Institute, every day six Australians will die from suicide and a further thirty people will attempt to take their own life. One in seven people will experience depression in their lifetime, which is the third-highest burden of all diseases in Australia.
Dylan Matheson is a friend of Caitlin’s who watched her build The 3:17 Society overnight. Having suffered from depression and anxiety, Dylan knew instantly that this was something he felt he needed to be a part of. “Mental health is a big part of who I am now and the last thing I want to see is people going through what I did. So, anybody doing something to try and fix or change mental health I’ll be a big supporter of,” Dylan explains.
Since purchasing the hoodie, Dylan has received a lot of attention from his friends and believes it’s a great way to spread mental health awareness. “The hardest thing about going through depression and anxiety is that your brain just turns on you and it’s really hard to think about the positives that you have in your life.”
“I’ve certainly had friends that have seen me wear the jumper, ask about it and ask me where it’s from … as simple as it is, a jumper with the words ‘mental health is nothing to be ashamed of’ may start the conversation and raise a bit more awareness,” he says.
The 3:17 Society hoodies have also helped change the way mental health is talked about in other people’s relationships. Zoe Nickson decided to purchase a hoodie as a way to support her friend who was journeying through her own mental health illness. “I only purchased it because we’ve always had these conversations with her about her mental health and so I was literally getting this jumper specifically for her. She ended up buying one as well,” Zoe explains.
Zoe also believes the hoodie is an influential tool in starting conversations and helping others. “When I read [the hoodie] I thought, ‘man do you know how many people’s lives could change by reading that in a shopping centre or something? I think it’s so important … you never know what kind of impact it will have on that person, you never know, you could be preventing a person from ending their life,” she says.
Read more about 3:17 Society at their website
Or follow them on Instagram
If you or someone you know needs help contact Lifeline 13 11 14
Visit Lifeline for more information on how you can help yourself and others in times of mental and emotional distress.