Inspired partly by her own mental health journey, Avery Timmons, third-year NEUR, created the “You Are More” project to sell apparel in order to promote awareness and raise donation money for mental health organizations.
The story behind the project was influenced in part by Timmons’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder freshman year and the help she received during that time.
“In my first year at Tech, I was definitely going through a rough patch in school and struggling a lot with my mental health. Not only was I lacking confidence academically, but I was going through some post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Timmons.
“During that time I was actually blessed to have many resources at Tech that offered me free counseling and supported me as I was trying to get better. Along with my amazing Tech friends who supported me by having mass sleepovers or sitting in the back of the class with me in case I had a panic attack.”
Another early inspiration for the project was the story of a friend who also struggled with mental health issues and the financial concerns that surrounded getting professional help.
“Fast forward to my second year and I am back home for December break. I was meeting with a friend to catch up about life and some of the events from that past year had been brought up, so we were talking about mental health and going to therapy. They broke down to me about their financial concerns with paying for medical bills and college; this is what inspired me,” said Timmons.
Timmons was originally motivated to help in a different way. While pulling 40 hours a week at her Starbucks job over the winter break, she planned to put money away in savings in order to write a check and give the money she saved to her friend in need. This plan fell through though, as another friend warned her the family may not take the money, and reminded her she had her own student loans to worry about.
She eventually figured out another way to help not only her friend, but many others as well through creating the “You Are More” project.
“This leads us to where it all comes together in lovely quarantine. I was frankly doing great in quarantine — it was the break I needed. But by the second month, that wave of loneliness and lack of human interaction was really getting to me and I fell back into the mental health spiral I had experienced over a year ago. I started using resources like Lyra that Starbucks was providing and started coming out of my sadness. This made me think about how lucky I was to have these resources and I started researching what resources are there for low income individuals who may be in need,” said Timmons.
At first, Timmons was mostly interested in how families and individuals covered the medical costs after suicide attempts.
“I found out that in most cases those costs fall hard on those individuals and families, especially if insurance will not cover the costs associated with the suicide attempt. The fact that individuals already struggling with mental health concerns had to bear the burden of financial crisis flipped a switch in me and I started planning out the site,” said Timmons.
The website she created not only hosts an online shop of designs created by herself and others, but it also features organized lists of free or low cost mental health resources, as well as a “BlackMentalHealthMatters” tab that lists educational resources and ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first few designs on the website were created during Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Among these first designs is the “You Are More” shirt, which represents the name and message of the project that came to Timmons one day when she was out on a run.
“It was near that part of the run where I was actually about to start walking and I kept thinking ‘you can run more; you are more’ and it was like an “Ah-ha” moment. I am surprised that it’s not already a movement because I have heard the saying “You are Enough” but I wanted to represent something all encompassing. You Are More is supposed to say that no matter how you or someone else may feel about a single characteristic or story of yourself, you are more than that,” said Timmons.
Timmons, who prints the shirts herself, encourages other designers to contribute to the project. Nehemiah Wilson, third-year CM, created the “don’t lose hope” design.
“I created the original design during the peak of the craziness going on in the world, from the seriousness of COVID-19, to the recent murderings of Black brothers and sisters, to not seeing my girlfriend for months. All of this and more is represented by the skull,” said Wilson.
“Despite the hopelessness plaguing the world, I have a perspective of the world through my relationship with Jesus that helps me keep hope alive. This is represented by the diamonds that light the eyes of the skull. This piece is a reminder to keep my eyes open and to let the hope of Jesus light my world.”
Proceeds made from Wilson’s designs are donated to Campaign Zero, an organization committed to ending police brutality through policy solutions.
“In one realm, the project is financially supporting the movement to end systemic oppression through the work of Campaign Zero. As a Black male, the work that they are doing is incredibly important in securing a future that is safe for me and my Black brothers and sisters,” said Wilson.
Wilson and Timmons, who have both served as resident advisors (RA) in on-campus housing, also commented on the state of mental health on Tech’s campus.
“Unfortunately the state of mental health on Tech’s campus is horrid, evident through several heartbreaking instances of students taking their lives,” Wilson said. “I believe students at Tech find a large part of their identity in their academic achievement. We’ve spent the majority of our lives building confidence in our academic ability, and for many people (including myself), Tech was the first time that confidence was broken into pieces. When this happens, a large part of people’s identities crumble, which can take a toll on mental health.”
Timmons expressed the importance of talking to others when experiencing mental health issues.
“As a RA, I really want to get this across that you can and should talk to people about mental health. You are not only helping yourself but you are letting that person you tell know that you are open to talking about mental health and making a safe open space for people to feel comfortable discussing all those thoughts that may be building up in their head,” said Timmons.
The website has only been up and running for a month, but it has already raised a thousand dollars. Proceeds so far have been donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and USA Cares among other organizations. Timmons hopes that the project will destigmatize mental health issues and encourage others to talk openly about their experiences.
“I have talked to many people who bought shirts and we discussed mental health and that is what I love about the project. That with a shirt people will ask you about it or the design and it can start a conversation about mental health which is what I think we need more of in the world. It needs to be less taboo to talk about mental health, it’s not bad, it is HUMAN. Like a cold or even coronavirus, it’s possible for anyone to get it and yes there are precautions but we should not shame someone, we should seek to help them and make them feel better,” said Timmons.
To learn more about the “You Are More” project, please visit https://www.you-are-more.org/