They have a launched a new clothing brand called Untold Courage with the aim of “saving lives, one garment at a time”.
“It is a men’s collection of simple logo designs which can be worn every day,” says Mark who lives in Cannock.
Creating a clothing brand was a natural step for Mark because he already had experience of the retail industry.
And raising awareness of mental health is also a cause close to the couple’s heart as Mark suffers with cyclothemia, a type of bipolar disorder.
“I’ve worked in retail management all of my working life. As I went through my 20s, I lost my dad and my sister and had some bad times personally. A few years ago I was diagnosed with cyclothemia. It’s more commonly known as rapid cycling bi-polar. Usually with bi-polar you are for up for a few days and down for a few days. With cyclothemia the highs and lows come and go quickly. It was like being on a rollercoaster,” he tells Weekend.
It took a while for Mark to be diagnosed and he says that unfortunately this is also the case for a lot of sufferers and for some it can have tragic consequences.
“It can take an average of four months to get an appointment and treatment. Unfortunately we lose a lot of people in the meantime,” he says.
During lockdown, Mark decided he wanted to do something to help the charities that were doing so much to support people faced with a mental health illness.
“I wanted to set up a clothing brand because I understand the market a bit. My wife Stacie looks after the visual side and I’m the marketing side,” he tells Weekend.
At the start of May the couple launched a men’s clothing line with 22 items including branded T-shirts and hoodies, with more to follow, and are looking at also launching a women’s line in the future.
“We’ve had a positive reaction from people in all four home nations and the local community of Norton Canes where we live,” he says.
The logo, which the couple created together, depicts two hands holding each other which he says is a sign of strength and brotherhood.
“It’s about getting people to hold on. Through lockdown it’s been so awful for a lot of people,” says Mark.
“Our idea is that with subtle designs anyone can show their support for the issue of mental ill health and then a sufferer will recognise that support when they see someone else wearing our clothing,” he explains.
Mark says the vast majority of their customers have been people who want to show their support for people struggling with mental health illnesses.
The couple will donate 12 per cent of the profits to their charity partner the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).
“It’s 12 per cent because 12 men die every day by suicide. That is 12 too many,” says Mark, aged 34.
“We want our customers not just to buy a T-shirt, but to buy into a movement. Our tagline is: saving lives, one garment at a time,” he tells Weekend.
CALM was originally launched as a service for 15 to 35 year-old men, but by 2011 it has become clear that the volume of male callers aged over 35 was growing and suicide among older men was increasing, so it expanded its remit to cover all men in the UK.
Today, CALM provides support for anyone who needs it. The charity runs a free and confidential helpline and webchat – seven hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems and also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).
It is one of the biggest mental health charities in the UK and Mark says they operate at a time when people can be at their lowest and the traditional support services may not be open.
Speaking about the partnership, he says: “The majority of CALM’s income comes through charity donations, and that is why it’s so important to us to help keep them going.
“I’ve referred to mental ill health as the pandemic within the pandemic. The implications of Covid around jobs, finances and relationships may still worsen. All these things are key factors in suicides in males around the UK. So essentially we need services like CALM as much as ever.”
For more information about the Untold Courage clothing range and its charity work see www.untoldcourage.com