By Holly O’Doherty
‘#ConvertTheStigma’ hope to increase their local outreach efforts amongst teenagers and young adults in the next few months. This follows along from the enthusiastic approval they have received since they launched their website on 12 March.
The creators of ‘#ConvertTheStigma’, Tiernan Thornton and Joshua Kyle, are involved in the City of Derry Rugby Football Club. The tightening of lockdown restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, halted the rugby teams group training.
Tiernan Thornton felt that the absence of training gave way to negative thoughts. In relation to group sessions, he said, “It’s your chance to maybe release some of the stress of your working life, your family life, whatever is going on and when that’s been taken away, it just magnifies the negatives that might be there.”
At present, ‘#ConvertTheStigma’ fundraises money for the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum through the production of hoodies and t-shirts. The profit from the sales goes directly to the charity, which will be used in turn to further support the local community.
The pair are eagerly anticipating the growth of their brand, both socially and physically. At present, all clothing is made to order to ensure there is no waste, but they are keen to begin stocking items in local stores. Joshua Kyle hopes seeing their clothing will raise awareness throughout the city. He said, “You see everyone in Derry wearing Han hats. We want to see everyone in Derry wearing the ‘#ConvertTheStigma’ hoodies.”
They also want to push for more feet on the ground to raise mental health awareness throughout the community. The duo is exploring several avenues, such as physical presentations in schools and emotional support sporting sessions. They hope their efforts will help create a safe space for teenagers and young adults.
A major goal for ‘#ConvertTheStigma’ is to change the narrative when speaking about mental health, especially for men. Both individuals expressed how uncomfortable being in a clinical GP setting for their mental health made them feel. Tiernan Thornton described his first-time walking in to counselling he was “looking around to see who could see me.”
They hope that moving away from detached and objective settings and providing a more open and casual environment will help bridge a gap between silence and support.
‘#ConvertTheStigma’ can be found on Instagram using @convert_the_stigma or on their website here, https://convertthestigma.com.
Anyone worried about themselves or a loved on can contact The Samaritans on 0330 094 5717.