North Carolina native Kay Selwyn Layton is a woman on a mental health mission. The 28-year-old has created #EndTheStigma, a social media campaign that employs concise and colorful mental illness badges to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues and shed some much-needed light on invisible illnesses. As both an advocate for mental health awareness and an individual with her own disorders, Layton hopes to normalize such struggles and eradicate the harmful societal shame that surrounds them.
Each badge is composed of bold, white text against a simple and colorful background. Most declarations open with the words, “I have,” which are followed by the names of myriad mental illnesses, including depression, forms of anxiety, various personality disorders, and body image issues. Beneath each proclamation are three hashtags: #EndTheStigma, #1in5 (a statistic that describes the number of American adults who suffer from mental illness in a given year), and #YouAreNotAlone. Layton invites those with mental health issues to use the badges—either individually or as a collage if more than one applies—as profile pictures on Facebook to prove the prevalence of each illness and create an open dialog about mental health.
Layton was inspired to create the End The Stigma campaign following the tragic death of beloved actress Carrie Fisher in December 2016. Fisher openly struggled with mental illness, and has long been admired for her advocacy in addition to her acting. “When Carrie Fisher passed, I was heartbroken,” Layton explained on Facebook. “Leia was my childhood hero, and Carrie's outspokenness about her own struggles with Bipolar made her my adult hero as well. I decided it was my turn to step up, and make any increase I could in mental health advocacy.”
Recently, Layton has also created badges for other conditions shrouded in stigma, including invisible illnesses, self harm and suicide, and neurodiversity. You can see each eye-opening album on the #EndTheStigma Facebook page, and you can follow the #EndTheStigma hashtag as it trends on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.