Joel Brazier is on a mission to normalize counselling, one hoodie at a time.
The Vernon counsellor has been working in mental health for 15 years, including a detox facility, in specialized homes, schools and in government, and he’s now working for himself at his local practice, Generations Counselling.
Brazier believes anyone can benefit from sitting down with a counsellor and talking about the kinds of goals they want to set, or the aspects of their life they want to work on.
With Bell Let’s Talk Day (Wednesday, Jan. 25), Brazier has launched his own initiative to help normalize working on one’s mental health. He’s created hoodies with the slogan ‘It’s not weak to speak.’ It’s a slogan he came across on the internet a few years ago that struck a chord with him.
“It hit me a while ago that there’s still stigma around people reaching out for support for their mental health, and so I thought that if I could create a hoodie that had a nice message and that looked clean and was wearable that it would help to fight against that ongoing stigma,” he said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Brazier has seen an influx of cases of anxiety, depression and loneliness in young adults, particularly young males.
“One of the things that I think COVID really hit us with was when we had to isolate and not go to work and not socialize. That took an average person with kind of mild social anxiety and turned it into more moderate and severe (anxiety) at times, so that’s been a hard comeback for a lot of people,” he said.
Since the pandemic, he’s seen a shift in people reaching out for support.
“That’s probably one of the best things about COVID,” he said. “But yet there’s still a stigma.”
And we’re still dealing with the aftermath of COVID, he says.
“I still think the need is very high. Government agencies have month-long waitlists and even a lot of private counsellors in town have a waitlist.”
Brazier likens working on mental health to the way people work on their physical health; there’s no stigma around going to the gym five days a week, and it should be the same for people going to see a counsellor twice a month.
Brazier has a large blended family with three daughters and two sons, and it was thinking about the world he wanted to see them grow up in that spurred him on to start the hoodie initiative.
“I just want them to grow up in a place where … it’s a positive thing to work on your mental health.”
There has been strong support for his hoodie campaign so far.
“I was walking down the street the other day and saw somebody I don’t know wearing one, and that was a really cool feeling.”
The hoodies cost $50 and can be purchased at Pilates Health Hub on 30th Street in Vernon, or by emailing him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All proceeds from sales of the hoodies go towards supporting people who can’t afford private counselling, and Brazier says hoodie funds are already being used for that purpose.
The Vernon counsellor says anyone can benefit from counselling, adding there are warning signs that can indicate whether it would be particularly useful to an individual.
“Some warning signs may be excessive worrying, irritability, fatigue, lack of focus, low motivation and low mood … and if it’s negatively impacting your work and your relationships.
“Difficulty sleeping is a big one because when our head hits the pillow we finally don’t have any distractions, and so our mind can race or our mood can shift.”
If just a few people see his hoodies and are encouraged to try counselling — or even just talk to a friend — Brazier will consider his initiative a success.
“I don’t know if (the stigma) will ever go away, but I want to do what I can.”