Undiagnosed Tees: Bringing Visibility to the Invisible Epidemic (INTERVIEW)

Undiagnosed Tees, a student-founded, student-run organization with an empowering mission of opening dialogue about mental health, inspiringly exemplifies the intersection between design, community, and purpose. We had a conversation with Undiagnosed Founder Katie Crager and Ambassador Baili Park in which they shared the story behind their growing company, the importance of community in their work, and their personal wellness essentials!

So tell us a bit about yourselves - where are you from? What are you studying?

B: Hi, I’m Baili Park. I’m a sophomore at Georgetown University probably majoring in Government with a minor in Justice and Peace Studies, but we’ll see how that goes. And I’m from Memphis, Tennessee (love the South!)

K: I’m Katie, I’m a sophomore as well. I’m planning on majoring in Psychology because I’m very passionate about mental health and mental health awareness. I’m from outside of Philadelphia in Villanova, PA!

Can you give an introduction to Undiagnosed Tees and your mission?

K: So Undiagnosed is something that I came to Georgetown with and is something that I’ve been able to collaborate on with Baili and other people here. But prior to coming to Georgetown I worked a lot with my sisters. I have twin sisters, and the three of us are very into graphic design and have personal experience with mental health. My sister is in recovery from an eating disorder and in my family in general, mental health is pretty prevalent. So we brought those things together to create Undiagnosed and it was really exciting to do something with my sisters relating to our personal experiences.

We are also very interested and passionate about graphic design so seeing that come together with a cause we are passionate about was cool.

We started as a t-shirt company and our big idea was to bring visibility to the invisible epidemic in an unconventional way.

We combined bold color with interesting design so it is eye-catching and starts conversation. I can honestly say that there have been times when I was wearing my Undiagnosed t-shirt and people have asked, “What is that about?” and that led into a more important conversation I wanted to have about mental health.

Now we’re focusing on our digital presence where we can engage with people and make mental health resources accessible to them. Our approach to mental health at large is proactive and engaging because everyone feels things and can relate to this, so we're incorporating this twist where it is about personal expression.

You spoke a bit about working both with your sisters at home and with friends at school, how does Undiagnosed fit into your different communities?

K: Community is huge. Baili is actually an ambassador for Undiagnosed and she has helped cultivate the ambassador connections that we have. We’re for students, by students so that’s where we find the real community with Undiagnosed. We’re not some giant organization coming and talking about mental health where it isn’t personal and doesn’t resonate. We really try to have a genuine personal connection whether it’s with the content we’re sharing with the community or with our designs. In everything we do, we try to bring community with us.

It’s exciting to see the Ambassador Program grow - we have a few on Georgetown’s campus, at the University of Maryland and some other schools. To see the mission and message of Undiagnosed go beyond this campus is very exciting because ultimately mental health isn’t subject to one community or one identity or one type of person. We all feel it. It’s literally like one of our shirts, “We are all the same!” *gets really excited*

B: It’s literally my favorite shirt, I wear it all the time!

K: I know! I mean it’s so true. On the shirt there are a bunch of different faces and different people. They come from different places but under the surface, we can all feel or relate to some mental condition on some level. So I think that’s where community is universal and we can bring people together in this way.

B: Yeah, and connecting to that, as you were talking about our communities, we’re actually going to different campuses and talking about Undiagnosed, not just on Georgetown. You guys just went to Maryland right?

K: Yes! And this weekend we’re actually going to University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and William & Mary. And my sisters are at Villanova University and Fairfield University. So we are definitely going to different campuses and connecting with different communities which is really awesome.

I’m so impressed, how do you make it all work?

K: It’s very much a grassroots effort - I’m not too concerned with over-legitimizing it. Like my mom and my sisters are literally just coming down on Friday and we’re going. I reached out to different people on these campuses who are either involved with Active Minds, which is a mental health organization, or different student leaders and they were very receptive when I reached out. They were like, “Sure, we can have a pop-up on our campus and we’d love to talk about mental health.” They see the brand and are very receptive to it, I think because we are students. I think that’s where that community can be created because people want to talk about it, I just don’t think there’s a community out there yet for it to be talked about so we’re trying to create that.

B: We are very, very grassroots - last year we were going to table at the Georgetown Farmers Market on Wednesdays and we needed a table, you know just a Lifetime table you could pull out, 4 feet, and we didn’t have one. We looked all over campus but we couldn’t find anything. So we ended up using this really ugly, small table that we had to tape books around and put a blanket over.

K: *laughs* We basically made that table ourselves.

B: But later that night I was like, “You know we can’t use this tomorrow,” so I go inside the athletic center (ps they’re both D1 student athletes) and I find a room full of Lifetime tables, so I grabbed one and I never gave it back. Like I don’t even know where that table is now but yeah, that’s how we tabled for the first time.

What do you hope people take away from your project?

K: I think the main thing with Undiagnosed and why it’s different from other mental health blogs or companies or brands is that our approach is proactively addressing it on a consistent daily basis. To compare it to something like physical health, you also need to do something for yourself everyday to have good mental health and it shouldn’t get to the point where it becomes so unmanageable where it gets to a full-fledged place where you feel paralyzed and can’t function.

And I think that when mental health isn’t talked about enough, that’s how we get to that point where a lot of the conversations that are had about mental health and mental illness at-large are centered around tragedy and over-sensitized and very difficult. Like it is hard to have those conversations.

So I think the whole hope is just to make it more accessible and something that people talk about more and doing that, like what you guys are doing, in a creative medium, where it is interesting and engaging. I appreciate big clinical and medical efforts but you want it to meet people where they’re at in an exciting, engaging way where people want to get this content and get these resources. Wear their truth, have it as a shirt, have it be a part of their identity. So I think again it’s about doing something interesting but also doing something important for all people.

How can students at other universities get involved in your work?

K: We’re so open.Just be a part of the community. We’re actually working on building our ambassador program and trying to have a lot of the content be aligned with ambassador narratives and real stories or experiences that they have. We want to use our student voices to connect with students because that’s what resonates. So if anyone were to want to get involved, we’re very open - join the ambassador program, just follow the brand, subscribe to the Daily Dose. That’s our daily newsletter.

B: Yes! Subscribe!

K: We send out proactive mental health content every single day. And we’re open to doing events with people, even if it is with another student organization on campus. Last year we did an open mic night with The Corp* here and just doing different collaborations around expression. I think art and creative outlets in general are one way to express and work through mental health issues. If anyone has a certain passion or interest, that can be paired in some way with what we’re doing about mental health, we’d love to get them involved. We’re also on social media and we’re working on developing that presence more.

B: Follow us @undiagnosedtees!!

*The Corp is Georgetown’s student-run, non-profit corporation

What has been your proudest achievement since starting Undiagnosed Tees?

B: Well I just started last year, so last year I was the first one at the Farmers Market so I set up the table and was just sitting there playing my music really loud on my ~JBL~ speaker and someone came up to me and asked me what Undiagnosed was about. I told her and afterwards, she wanted to buy a shirt! So I think selling my first shirt was my proudest moment. It was so fun, so wholesome.

K: I think for me, one of the most powerful moments, it was a small moment like it was really, really small *laughs*

B: No, any proud moment is big!

K: I was walking to class and then I was walking by someone that I didn’t even recognize but they were wearing an Undiagnosed t-shirt and I was like I don’t even know how this person got this shirt but I know I made it and the story behind it and just to see that on someone else and what it represents and what it means to me, it was just a really cool thing to see. I didn’t even say anything to the person - I just gave them a really big smile and they were probably like “Why is this person staring at me with this weird happy face?” but I think that moment for me was a boost for what I was doing and what I hope to continue to do.

What are your hopes for Undiagnosed in the future? Short term? Long term?

K: So we started as a t-shirt company and now we are expanding and doing more stuff with content. So right now we are primarily doing curated content, which is the Daily Dose newsletter, and the goal is for us to have complete agency and voice over what we’re putting out. We even have students who do guest blog posts or guest video shoots for the content we share with the community and having that really come together and be one hub, essentially, is the long-term vision. With Undiagnosed, we don’t claim to be experts, we just know what we are and so as students being on college campuses, we have that firsthand access to what we’re trying to share.

But mental health - it’s all ages and it’s all people.

Even in my family, me doing this, it brings up stuff for my parents and that’s refreshing because our generation is even challenging other generations to reflect and bring these things to the forefront.

For this semester, we definitely want to do more events on other college campuses and that’s what the Fall Tour will be about. Also doing more Georgetown events and collaborations - we want to try to work with some bands and musicians on campus. And just continue to grow.

Your company ethos is all about prioritizing your mental health! What are some of your favorite ways of doing so?

B: I never take naps. But on my off days I try to take a nap and then quickly get all of my work done so I can rest at night and just watch Netflix. I watch Our Planet - it’s a docuseries kind of like Planet Earth. I just watched the fourth episode and it’s about the oceans that kind of made me sad because the coral reefs are dying but now I’m informed and it makes me feel like, “Wow, I’m about to change the world now, I’m gonna use less water and eat less meat.” It’s kind of random but it’s what helps me relax and taking care of our world makes me relax I guess *laughs*.

K: Aw I like that! For me, I have a lot of different routines I like to do to keep up with self care. One thing I do when I wake up in the morning, I’ll make a voice memo on my phone and I actually send it to my mom everyday, because it’s a good way for us to stay in touch too! I’ll do a 30 second recording of what I’m going to do that day and one thing that I’m grateful for that is actually relevant to that day. Like today I was super grateful because it was the Farmer’s Market. I think when people talk about gratitude - like of course I’m grateful for my mom and my family, but it makes me really think and then once that thing happens that day I really am appreciative and I get excited about it. For me, that just puts purpose behind what I’m doing because if not, I just get so caught up in the loop of things.

Join Undiagnosed Tees on their creative mission to spark mental health dialogue at www.undiagnosedtees.com !!

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