Words by Blyth Brentnall
Going into psychiatric care is tough enough in itself. What makes the process worse is having to wear uncomfortable scrubs. To replace scrubs with a feel-good alternative, the apparel company Unfin;shed gives patients a well-needed confidence boost with clothing embroidered with positive messages.
Lauren Hackett founded Unfin;shed during the Covid-19 pandemic. She had just had to leave a singing and songwriting degree due to ill health affecting her vocal chords. When the pandemic hit, everything became too much and her mental health spiralled.
At first she considered applying for psychiatric care but decided not to after learning more about problems in the system. She posted a callout on Instagram, asking for people to share their experiences of psychiatric care. Many people came back to her; some found it positive while others said they came out feeling worse. But the common issue for former patients was the paper scrubs they had to wear. They felt uncomfortable, itchy and dehumanising.
After abandoning her singing career, Lauren had started to reimagine what to do with her life. She found some solace in embroidery, “- something that didn't take a whole lot of energy but still produced something beautiful and positive,” she says. She would create a design on her computer, input it into her embroidery machine and marvel at the outcome.
She started to wonder how she could use her passions to make a living while doing good. Marketing seemed like an obvious direction to take because both her parents had been entrepreneurs. As Lauren put it: “Marketing is the music of business; there's so much creativity involved.” Once she picked up the skills, she just needed to find a means of putting them to good use.
Then it occurred to her that she could improve other people’s lives by replacing the paper scrubs psychiatric patients had to wear.
That’s when Lauren created Unfin;shed. The name came from the idea of the semicolon, which has come to symbolise solidarity and determination in the face of depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues.
For Lauren the name ‘Unfin;shed’ was a reminder that her story was not finished, that she needed to continue forging her way through life and positive experiences were yet to come her way. She also felt it might mean a lot to others.
She explains: “Stories have really bad chapters, but it doesn't mean the story is finished.”
To encourage people everywhere to pursue their own visions for life, Unfin;shed sells comfortable hoodies, sweaters and jogging bottoms. Each garment is embroidered with positive messages such as “Loved”, “You deserve the world” and “Embrace change”.
The clothing spreads joy and optimism for those who wear it as well as people who read the messages. Buyers often write to Lauren about how strangers have said how much the message on their clothing means to them.
But the most impactful part of Unfin;shed is their donations programs. The company has partnered with a number of psychiatric care units and wards to use 10% of the monthly proceeds to replace paper scrubs with their empowering clothing. At the end of each month, patients can choose a colour and message to go on garments to be delivered to them.
“This is very empowering for patients and we know it makes a big difference,” Lauren says. “I tell people that I may have lost my voice, but I found my purpose.”
And she won’t stop there. Lauren’s longterm dream is to entirely replace paper scrubs in psychiatric centres for low risk patients. She hopes to normalise seeking help but also to continue deinstitutionalizing treatment, making it more accessible and a better environment for patients
“I’m very focused on promoting open and honest conversation about mental health treatment and inpatient treatment,” she explains.
Most importantly though, she has learnt a great deal about looking after her own mental health. At times running her own business can be tough, but she is glad to be able to manage her own time and take breaks when necessary.
“I have learned to give myself a lot of grace, especially in situations where my mental health is struggling,” she says. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and what needs to get done but I make an effort to prioritise times to rest and focus on my own needs.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Campaign to End Loneliness. This charity campaigns to make sure that people most at risk of loneliness are reached and supported. Support them here.
Samaritans. Samaritans works to make sure there's always someone there for anyone who needs someone. Find out more here.
Ripple Suicide Prevention. R;pple exists to ensure immediate mental health support is presented to individuals following a harmful online search. Learn more here.