by Rachel Clarke
Amy Keller Laird is out to make it OK to feel anything but A-OK. The founder and CEO of mental health lifestyle brand Mental doesn’t merely tolerate tears in the office; she’s also been known to shed a few herself.
“I’m very emotional,” Amy said. “I think it’s fine to show you’re emotional. The whole ‘bring your whole self to work’ is fine. But when I start crying, I don’t want my mascara running down my face. So…what’s the best waterproof mascara when you’re having an actual meltdown?”
It’s this kind of empathic perspective and wellness-forward question that drove the former Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health and Beauty Director of Allure to create the first Mental Health Awards for beauty and lifestyle products — with recommendations backed by the newest research in psychology and psychiatry as well as top experts in those fields, and more. The awards highlight products that help those dealing with everything from ADHD and OCD to depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, insomnia, and trichotillomania (a hair-pulling disorder), and give those suffering all the scientific background that explains how and why these products can make life just a little more manageable.
“This whole idea started with me and my issues,” Amy said about her fascination with the intersection of beauty, lifestyle, and mental health coping mechanisms. “I do like the finer things; I like fancy things, I like chic things. I also have OCD. I don’t like my shoes to touch my clothes in my luggage, for one. So, I needed to find the coolest shoe bag.”
Mental has 10 categories, including “Oh, Crap, I Have to Go Somewhere” (for those with depression and anxiety), “Help Me Stop Picking” (for anxiety, trichotillomania, OCD, and ADHD), and “It’s My Meds” (for OCD, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder). And while the categories may sound light and flip, Mental manages to use honesty and humor — text is researched and written by writers who know what life is truly like with each issue, because they have the issues themselves — to deliver not only service and knowledge, but an innovative way of speaking to the value of beauty and lifestyle products in a world with staggeringly high growth rates of those suffering through a temporary or life-long mental health crisis.
“What these awards are about are the most specific and study-backed ways to use everyday products — which include beauty products — to work as management tools for mental health,” Amy said. “These are not solutions. They are not cures. This eye shadow ain’t solving your depression. A concealer is not getting rid of your anxiety. But if you’re so depressed that you can’t shower or brush your teeth? I know many people like that, and I myself have been in places where I haven’t showered in days. Then what can you do? If you can’t even brush your teeth, if all you’re going to do is swish, what is the best mouthwash?”
Amy’s ultimate goal is to simply help everyone feel better.
“When I was a young beauty editor at Redbook, our Editor-in-Chief came in once and sat on the floor and started playing with red lipsticks because Julia Roberts wasn’t selling on the cover. It just made her feel better to be with the lipsticks. And you know what? That’s cool, too.”