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contributors – Derrek Mooney & Rob Middaugh

Awareone – Interview

Meet the Awareone Founders. Derrek Mooney and Rob Middaugh have been busy since launching their company. Their excitement is fueled by a passion to share their message and to continue spreading awareness about mental health.

Derrek, originally from Ottawa, has a personal connection with the term mental health. And he discovered it at a time where he felt he was at his lowest. In 2018, having just lost his stepfather in a car accident, he was met with a tremendous amount of confusion, helplessness, anger and sadness. Months after his family’s tragedy, he made the choice to get better. While searching for ways to get out of the negative headspace he was dealing with, it was then he discovered the term mental health. Through his research he realized that the term needed to be discussed more. 

Not only did he need to talk about it more, but he believed that the rest of his family, community and even country weren’t talking about it the way he felt they should be. He decided he was going to take action by promoting this message through apparel. And so he asked his business partner Rob Middaugh from London Ontario to help build a company centred around changing the way we view mental health. 

Rob being an obvious choice to partner with for their mission, having dedicated the majority of his life to helping children and young adults realize their dreams, but more importantly, unlocking their potential and seeing their value. Rob’s experience proved useful volunteering many years working with special needs youth, working for one of the top sports camps in North America, and the Boys and Girls Club of Canada/Okanagan.

How does your brand support your mission to spread awareness?

Derrek: Being Aware. The term mental health for me is very vague. Most people I believe confuse the term with mental illness. Though mental illness is extremely important to mention when talking about the mind itself, mental health is in its own category. I want people to look at it with a positive perspective. There are many things that we can discuss when learning how to get our mental state to a healthy place. There is nutrition, exercise, mediation, mindfulness, reading, walking, running, breathing, conversation, music, stretching etc. These are all part of the list to help grow a healthy mind and I am continuously discovering new ways to practice and test out what works for me. This is how I believe I can change the way we view the term. 

Rob: Our mission is to spread awareness in regards to how many people are struggling with mental health issues every single day. We want people to connect with Awareone and understand that we are not bound by what we are going through. Working through these issues and identifying them is a key part of the process and the more people start to do this daily, it becomes easier and easier to get through it together.

What makes promoting awareness through apparel one of the best vehicles?

Derrek: Apparel is a great way to express yourself without using words. I think it’s also a great way to start a conversation. This is key for us when promoting mental health. This is the number one thing I believe people are lacking in their life and that is by simply just talking. By wearing Awarone Apparel, you are letting people know that mental health needs to be noticed and even discussed. One of our goals is for people to spark a conversation when seeing someone wear our brand. It gives people a chance to talk about it, even if it’s just a quick conversation. It’s putting the term “mental health” in their mouth and that’s what is important to us. Getting the term normalized and making it easy to talk about it is one of our personal goals. Wearing the apparel makes someone a walking target to talk about mental health, even just for a second.

Rob: I believe promoting Mental health awareness through apparel allows you to visibly see something every single day that reminds you to take care of your mental health. Seeing someone wearing Awareone Apparel gives people the chance to identify that someone out there is not only going through something themselves, but is an advocate for anyone who may be going through something as well. It sends a message that either I, or someone I know may be struggling and we are not ashamed or afraid to show that vulnerable side of ourselves.

How do you measure success and what challenges have you had to overcome on your journey?

Derrek: For me personally, measuring success is by hearing the word’s “mental health” spoken out of someone’s mouth. That can be as little as someone making a social media post or even approaching me in public asking about the apparel. 

Rob: I measure success for Awareone not by the amount of apparel that we see people wearing but by the dozens of people who have reached out to us to either give us their kind words or tell us their story. We have had so many people whether it be friends, family members or complete strangers who will thank us for trying to help people and in turn they share their own personal stories with us. It’s amazing to know that we are doing a small part in trying to change the way we view mental health. 

In terms of challenges, I think we have had more than a few so far but it’s just part of the process for us. We are not mental health professionals by any means so there is always that doubt in our mind as to whether people would respond well to something like this simply because it’s not something you see everyday, especially from two males. Being able to understand where that doubt comes from and move past it is definitely a challenge.

Do you think practicing gratitude is important in regard to success, why or why not?

Derrek: Gratitude has been one of the biggest keys to success for me. When I realize where I am in this world, I begin to appreciate everything around me. I start to think of all the small things and how fortunate I am to be where I am today. We can get caught up in life sometimes with the number of “things” we have on our plate, but gratitude makes me take a few steps back and this gives me a sense of peace. I am grateful for so many things in my life and by speaking that out into the universe daily reminds me of how great my life has been. This keeps me level headed and grounded.

Rob: Practicing gratitude is extremely important! It starts with the day to day things that we sometimes take for granted like our friends and family. Remembering to realize that we have people to talk to and share our stories, whether they are triumphs or struggles. Thanking the people around us as much as possible, telling them that you love them and appreciate them just knowing that they are there to listen if you need them. Especially for guys, we need to be better at this not only when relating to the women in our lives, but the men as well. Our fathers, brothers and friends need to hear that we love, appreciate and value them as well.

What kind of blessings or positives have come from your work, and how did they come about?

Derrek: In the last year there have been many blessings. The number one blessing I believe is the overwhelming amount of people that have reached out to me since launching Awareone. People that I haven’t talked to in years have made an effort to reach out. Most of them I have met with in person and it has opened the door to start the conversation about their personal mental health. I have made myself more approachable for people that want to talk to someone. People now look at me and know that I am comfortable to talk with them and that is a blessing. For me, this has changed the way I look at many things in life.

Rob: So many blessings come from the work we do with Awareone. The biggest for me are the stories people share and knowing they are comfortable doing so with us. Some people know us really well and some don’t know us at all so the amount of support and love that has been shown so far has been incredible and I hope that continues in the future. I believe this stems from us just putting ourselves out there letting people know we’re here, we’re going through things too and we’re willing to listen. More often than not that’s all it takes for someone to open up and discuss what they’re going through.

© 2021 Merrymen.

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