One young Scot from the granite city of Aberdeen is looking to reach a global audience of 8 billion with a range of rainbow bright T-shirts. Lewis Edgar, started his ‘Fandabby’ T-shirt range in 2013 after a spell of mental illness and hopes his garb will get people talking for better mental health.
“The Fandabby name comes from the Scottish slang word ‘Fandabbydozy’. Which most Scot’s use as a way to say “I’m fine”, but really are you?” asks Lewis, “I designed Fandabby’s t-shirts to be globally recognised because I wanted to spread the word of mental health worldwide.”
The T-shirt range is fun, bright and sunny which couldn’t contrast the grey Scottish skies under which Lewis works more. But the designer is working hard on hammering the dark clouds out the sky with the help of friends, family and medication.
“I’m proudly still living in Aberdeen where it can be a little cold sometimes much like the rest of Scotland. The grey granite does not help with my Seasonal Affective Disorder, but medication and family helps with this,” says Lewis.
The injection of colour and style into the serious matter of mental health is a welcome ray of hope. Despite the recent drop of suicide rates across Scotland, there is still has a higher suicide rate than England – 14 per 100,000.
Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide – a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. And it is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds.
Lewis is a human face and ray of sunshine among the bleak stats, who has had his demons to battle too. After attending school, Lewis went on to college to pursue Graphic Design. It was, he says, a very stressful course with loads of assessments and constant pressure to do better than his peers. But the creative skills learned at college seems to have stood Lewis in good stead.
“The idea of the Fandabby T-shirt range came to me whilst I was in inpatient at Royal Cornhill Hospital in 2013. I do not know if it was the medication or my own brain wanting some creativity, but I am really glad I did it. It has taken 3 years, but I know myself that I need to take my own time in approaching such things, as to not overdo it,” he says.
“The main reason I decided to start up my Fandabby T-shirt range was due to seeing the stigma of mental health on people online, including to myself. I wanted to make a positive change to an often dull and less-talked about subject. Since starting my clothing line in 2013 I have seen a gradual decrease in stigma, but it very much still exists – this is where I set up the #RemoveTheLabel movement hashtag.”
Today, Lewis juggles plates like a true multi-tasker. He’s involved in all the stages of production – including design. His T-shirts are a fruit cocktail of colours that make people smile, with slogans that make people talk. In fact encouraging people to talk is one of the key messages of his brand.
“If you’re suffering from mental illness do not be afraid to chat about it. This is 2017 and we should be able to talk about anything we wish. You may think it might burden a person but in reality you do not know how the other person is doing – a broken arm is visible and mental health is not!”
It’s not just talking that Lewis tackles. “Outside of design I deal with Customer Care, which is really important to me, and is a part of the things I enjoy. Plus, I take care of all shipping and sales – plus marketing!
Lewis’ has also teamed with two mental health charities who he donates profits too – YoungMindsUK, who offer help to young people and offer a hotline for parents needing advice on how to deal with juvenile mental health issues. And Rethink Mental Illness, who support adults with all types of mental health issues. “All profits are donated in April equally between the two charities.”
You can buy Lewis’ Fandabby T-shirts at Fandabby.net or get involved in the conversation on twitter using the #Removethelabel hashtag – hopefully they’ll make your smile turn from bleak to chic in the time it takes to change into your new favourite T-shirt.
If you’re feeling suicidal you can call the Samaritans anonymously and completely free on 116 123 and don’t forget to seek advice from your GP as soon as possible.