Growing up a sensitive soul, I was quite shy, unable to fully let go or be assertive. When it came to attending college, going through certain personal experiences during my studies built up anxiety within me to the point of panic attacks, nervousness on public transport and frequent feelings of being on edge unable to settle.
Through my life, my immediate family have struggled with mental health issues. Seeing them not receive the support and care professionally due to waiting lists angered me, and when I started experiencing issues myself, I did not know how to access help because it was not discussed in school or within college. We had a wellbeing service, but I knew the waiting lists were long.
What I didn’t realise until I got to University was that I had anxiety and that it was affecting day to day life. I was actually studying Counselling Therapy, which led to my self discovery of my issues. I accessed the wellbeing service at the University, with advice from my lecturer – which then lead to person-centred counselling with a mix of mindfulness based practice. Wow, did it change my life!
While studying at University, I had the idea to incorporate my love of art and fashion (which had a immensely positive impact on my anxiety) into my love of helping others. The need to help those who struggle – especially young people – really beckoned me to combine the two. Why not start a clothing brand promoting emotional wellbeing? So using my initials KR, I started Keep Real.
I started sketching in-between lectures (and I admit, sometimes through them), gravitating towards creating a business that is conscious in its decisions to make quality products (for example, organic cotton and sustainably sourced materials). Through clothing and goods, Keep Real aims to fund the creation of discussions for young people about mental health within educational settings around Yorkshire. Reach those in need from an alternative angle and lessen the stigma surrounding young people who want to access mental health services. Come from a standpoint of a brand who literally is trying to ‘keep it real’. Be a business that allows young people to talk openly about mental health, without the feeling of it being clinical, out of their depth to discuss and something we can’t all relate to. 70% of young people who experience mental health issues do not receive the interventions they need, so with Keep Real, let’s change that.
Wanting to set up Keep Real and be active within mental health discussions online, led to me being invited to discuss it on BBC Radio 4 for a programme about teenage mental health. I’ve also designed a shirt for the Welsh non-profit Heads Above The Waves who do amazing work for mental health. With the launch of Keep Real in July this year, my hope is to continue the journey of being a brand who is here to keep things real and positively impact the community.
You can check out Keep Real clothings and goods at www.keepreal.co.uk or find out more on social media @KeepRealUK and @kimmykeepreal