Specially designed Seavees shoes for the Mental Wellness Center. (Seavees photo)

Mental health has long been an important but underrecognized aspect of a person’s overall wellness. The past couple years, however, have shone a light on it as many have reported declines in their mental health. 

In fact, 41% of adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s nearly quadruple the rate in 2019. 

With so many people impacted, local shoe company SeaVees recognized the need for more focus on mental wellness. With a background in collaborating with other organizations on important issues, the company began looking for a partnership that could bring awareness to mental health. 

“We started talking about this concept during the height of the pandemic,” said Rachel Bacal, SeaVees content manager. “So many people are living with mental health challenges, and we wanted to use our platform in the way we know best. We knew we could use our sneakers to advocate positive messaging and donate the proceeds to companies working to help folks facing challenges.” 

The search led SeaVees to the Mental Wellness Center in Santa Barbara. The non-profit, celebrating its 75th anniversary, helps thousands of people every year to improve and maintain their mental wellness. Its outreach includes three main methods: 

» Educating youth, community groups, and caregiving family members how to recognize mental health issues and how to better take care of each other and themselves. 

» Providing affordable housing for those who live with mental health disorders. 

From left to right: Evie Pazan, Gabe Munoz, Charlotte Kelly and Audrey Brecher

From left to right: Evie Pazan, Gabe Munoz, Charlotte Kelly and Audrey Brecher (Seavees photo)

» Offering social connection and support activities that strengthen individual and community wellness. 

“These shoes offer an exciting opportunity to spread a positive mental wellness message and we are so proud to collaborate with SeaVees” said Annmarie Cameron, who has been the CEO of the Mental Wellness Center. 

SeaVees collaborated with the Mental Wellness Center on a shoe design that could highlight the importance of mental health.

Working with Bay Area artist Carissa Potter Carlson, founder of the People I’ve Loved printmaking workshop, SeaVees developed a Baja-style white canvas slip-on. The words “You Got This” are printed on the side and “I Got This” on the inner sole.

The green color on the outer sole is meant to represent the international color for mental health awareness, Bacal said. 

“We commit to fighting the stigma, providing support, educating, and advocating for policies that support mental health in our communities,” according to SeaVees. 

This commitment includes a pledge by SeaVees to donate 10% of every pair of the specially designed shoes to the Mental Wellness Center. 

Spearheading the effort to raise awareness about mental health with the shoes is a youth-centered program sponsored by the Mental Wellness Center. 

The Wellness Connection Council is comprised of Santa Barbara high school students committed to becoming mental health awareness ambassadors to their peers and the community. The members of the 60-student council attend weekly meetings and monthly trainings to determine the best ways to educate the community and reduce the stigma around mental health. 

“They’re the ones who inspire us to want to work harder,” Cameron said. “They want to see practical change rather than just talking about things. These shoes give us the opportunity to reach more people. The young people who help us promote them are going to spend a whole Sunday decorating their shoes with messages about mental health and positive thoughts.” 

The shoes will be available for a limited time on seavees.com