From “Happyish to be here” hoodies to “Ask Me About My Baggage” totes, the irreverent DTC brand helps fund free therapy at the Mental Health Association of Forsyth County
Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Award-winning creative agency The Variable is launching FreeTherapy, an irreverent apparel and gear brand that lets GenZ proudly wear their mental health on their sleeve (or hat, or hoodie, or tote bag).
The Variable conceived, designed and produced the brand on behalf of its client, the Mental Health Association of Forsyth County, to raise awareness of the benefits of mental health treatment while also raising funds for the clinic’s free therapy program. The brand makes its debut timed with Mental Health Awareness Month.
Born in the shadow of 9/11 and raised online with a “nothing is private” attitude, GenZ is more comfortable talking freely and publicly about their mental health than any generation in history. They are also grappling with unique mental health issues: Half of young people aged 18-24 are experiencing moderate or severe depression, while another 23 percent have mild symptoms, according to the Covid State Project. Yet GenZ’ers are less likely to embrace traditional therapy than their parents or grandparents, often turning to social media sites like TikTok and Reddit for help with their mental health.
Embracing GenZ’s openness around mental health, The Variable created the FreeTherapy brand to help Zoomers further express “their feelings about their feelings” in a way that is lighthearted, but provocative, while also raising money to fund free therapy from the Mental Health Association for young people who can’t afford it. From hoodies that say Happyish to Be Here and Grippy Socks Resort to bucket hats that say All-Seasonal Depression and tote bags that say Ask Me About My Baggage, FreeTherapy’s unique product line is cleverly designed to let young people normalize the socialization of mental health.
FreeTherapy will be sold direct-to-consumer primarily through its website and will be heavily promoted across TikTok and Instagram. To raise awareness and engagement locally for the Mental Health Association of Forsyth County, The Variable is leveraging non-traditional out-of-home that serves as interactive metaphors for setting therapy free– like placing couches and signage in locations that are crowded or can trigger stress or worry; and launching a pop-up therapist’s office on a crowded street corner in Winston-Salem, N.C. to offer passerbys a chance to get some things off their chest, and walk away with resources to access free therapy.
This summer, The Variable will stage a first-of-its kind shoppable TikTok fashion show for the FreeTherapy brand, collaborating with TikTok designers to design and present original “therapeutic clothing” items – like a one-of-a-kind jacket inspired by Pop It fidgets and stress-reliever toys and a “Get in Touch” jacket made from memory foam that lets the wearer track how much human contact they have in a day. The 1-of-1 fashion show items also will be available alongside the full line of apparel at FreeTherapy.vip, with a portion of all proceeds going to the Forsyth clinic’s free therapy program.
“Gen Z has a unique relationship with their mental health struggles.” says Joe Parrish, Chief Creative Officer at The Variable. “Rather than hide from them, they own them in bold ways. They want to be open about their issues so they can move on from them. The opportunity is to create a brand that meets them where they already are. One that allows this generation to be more honest and open than the generations before them. It’s honestly a much healthier way to approach mental health.”
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