Author: Hannah Hamilton
Photographer: Hannah Hamilton
Styled by: Jeanie Borremans
Bella Maas is all about supporting local women. We want to empower them, support their causes, and make every woman feel like her best self. Every month we will introduce you to a new incredible woman making a difference in our community. By sharing their stories, wisdom, and advice for other women, we hope you too will feel compelled to be your best self and make community connections.
mental health advocate + wife + dog lover + photographer + community changemaker
Mental Health Awareness Week: May 7 - 13th
We sat down with Blake Loates, an Edmonton based photographer and mental health advocate. Blake’s personal journey with mental health and unwavering passion for de-stigmatizing mental illness inspired her to start We All Believe In You, a rapid growing movement that aims to put a face to an often face-less struggle of mental illness.
Blake is exactly the type of woman we love to spend time with; she is passionate, kind, making waves in her community and has a unique sense of style. We hope that you enjoy getting to know Blake as much as we did!
Why did you start We All Believe In You?
Because of my own struggles with mental health. I went through periods in my life where I felt really alone and that no one cared about me. I felt like no one understood and that I was unlovable. It was through all those experiences that I began to realize that the biggest way I could help people and make an impact was by helping them feel loved, heard, accepted and understood. I want to be a model of what it looks like to treat people well, with love and openness. All these reasons are the driving force of why I started We All Believe in You.
What are your dreams for We All Believe in You?
The possibilities are endless and limitless. I have a lot of projects that I want to do and a lot of things that I've been dreaming about. I want to make strides surrounding mental health education, specifically seeing curriculum changes. I want to see mental health more included in the elementary, junior high and high school levels. I have plans for peer support groups and helping people navigate the mental health system and resources that are available for them. I’d love to get more involved in legislative change; it’s a dream of mine to see therapy become more subsidized and funded by the provincial government.
What’s your advice for someone who doesn’t know how to help people who struggle with mental illness?
Everyone knows someone who struggles or has struggled with mental illness. It all comes down to being a non-judgmental, safe place for people to come and express their struggles. You’re never going to have all the answers and you’re probably not going to know what to do, and that is totally normal. What you can do is be a place for them to land; to feel safe and loved. Listening is so important because when people feel uncomfortable, they often start to suggest things that the person can do or change and chances are the person who is struggling has already tried those things or thought of those resources. What people really need is for someone to listen to them and tell them that they are loved and accepted.
Why is giving back important to you?
That's a tricky question because I feel like this is what I'm supposed to do. It's not a calculated action, it just naturally comes from within. I've been through the isolation and I want people to feel less alone.
Tell us about your personal style!
I like to rock cute. I love scarves in my hair, wearing cute dresses while I'm biking and accessorizing with the dog. That's just me. My fashion sense is comfortability as well as evoking a feeling of welcoming. I find if you really dress up there's an air of untouchability; whereas I'm fairly casual because I want people feel like they can talk to me. That's what is important to me in terms of fashion, to be approachable and be true to who I am.
What's your ideal night out?
Hanging out with a close group of girlfriends and doing something to give back to the community. When we go to social events that have a purpose, but we also have a lot of fun together, that’s my favourite! I also love just sitting around in a favourite coffee shop and talking for hours. I love leaving a conversation and feeling better and more enlightened than when I went in.
If Blake’s story inspired you, we encourage you to check out her website www.blakeloates.com. Blake currently has a fundraiser happening to raise money for We All Believe In You, you can find details about that, here. Thank you, Blake for coming to visit us and sharing your passion!
A portion of sales at Bella Maas for the month of May, will be donated to We All Believe in You.
Leather Jacket by BB Dakota (select sizes available in store)
Lauren Moshi Lightening Eye Tee (Select sizes available in store)