Illness · Relationships

A Mental Health Gift Guide

Olivia Epley

Founder of Millennial Girl, Interrupted, a senior in a small Connecticut high school. I've been through many treatments and recoveries and am eager to share the lessons I've learned!

Latest posts by Olivia Epley (see all)

Gift giving usually needn’t be much different for those with mental health issues. The essentials- paying close attention to their likes, dislikes, being appropriate, making it personalized and meaningful- all still apply. If you follow those rules, you’ll likely create a great gift experience for your recipient who is struggling with their mental health. However, if you want to make your gift a bit more geared towards their current struggles, I have a guide for you! Gift giving is kinda my thing, so I’d like to share with you a few ideas I’ve cooked up.

For recipients with depression

 1.) A coupon book of favors
Coupon favor books are excellent for people who have trouble conjuring motivation to do things and may feel lonely and isolated. Essentially, they’re little books of redeemable coupons that say something like “This coupon is good for one mall trip!” The recipient can give it to you whenever they want, and when they do, the two of you (or whoever is participating) have to do it together. This way, the depressed recipient can avoid feeling burdensome by asking for activities, and has an extra motivation to get out of bed and get re-involved with their own life, as well as an easy opportunity to spend time with those they love.

This is one you really have the opportunity to personalize as much as you want. Etsy offers some printable designs (here and here) that can help you with the visual of the coupon, but you could also head to Target or Michaels and make them crafty on your own. Some ideas for coupons include…

One mall trip
One head/foot rub
One photoshoot
One afternoon cookie baking
One zoo trip
One yoga class/session
One trip to the city
One nail spa visit
One local hike

 2.) Microwavable, fragrant stuffed animals
I also thought this sounded bizarre when I first heard of it, but there exists a stuffed animal that when you microwave it, it retains its warmth and emits a soothing fragrance. I liked to put my purple bunny rabbit underneath my neck and let the lavender waft up into my nostrils while I laid down. It’s magically soothing and perfect for comforting folks who spend an inordinate amount of time in bed, such as the depressed.

Purchase here or here.


For recipients with anxiety

1.) A personalized journal
One of my dearest friends used to decorate little mini journals with tiny crafty pieces like paper flowers, stickers, and quotes from Harry Potter, a series we shared mutual love for. I love writing poetry in the little books she made for me, and I still cherish them to this day. Not only were they meaningful for the personalization she added to them, but I was able to release my high intensity emotions within them, something an anxious person is often eager to do.

You can also collage on your journal, which is a skill frequently enforced in mental hospitals. Locate a handful of junk magazines and cut out pictures, words, and phrases that may be meaningful to the recipient. Glue them to the book, give it a nice coat of Mod Podge, and voila!

If you’re looking for a pre-made journal kit, this may be of interest.
If you’re looking for materials to make the custom journal with, then this, this, this, this, and this may interest you!

 2.) A tea sampling
A goal of anxiety treatment is often riding the wave of anxious feelings. There are lots of ways to do this, and a common one (one endorsed by the hospitals I’ve been at, too) is tea drinking. It’s warm and soothes your body accordingly, tasty, healthy, and makes you feel as if you’re practicing self care (because you are!). If you know your recipient is a tea drinker, this could be the perfect addition to their collection; especially if you pick out teas specific to their preferences.

For the bibliophile.
For the citrus lover.
For the merry.
For the insomniac.
For the bubbly…

For recipients with an eating disorder

1.) Recovery jewelry
Eating disorders are lifelong battles. Even if you think you’re as recovered as can be, there may never be a point in your life at which you don’t have to consider eating differently than others would, and you will never be someone who has never had a disorder. Especially in the early stages of recovery, a constant reminder of how far someone in recovery has come can be a comforting presence.

There is a universal symbol for ED recovery, piloted by NEDA, or the National Eating Disorders Association. If you Google it you’ll find it; it’s a curved, tear drop looking sort of thing. You can use the symbol to create your own necklace, friendship bracelet, ring, or similar, or you can purchase one pre-made.

Here, here and here are some places you can find related jewelry for those in recovery to keep on them, always.

Bonus: here is a pin for folks in anorexia recovery that I treated myself to.

The spoon I personalized for my sister and her chocolatey habits.

2.) Custom cutlery
A few years ago, when I hadn’t undergone nearly the eating disorder treatment that I have now, I was lying in bed thinking about what to get for my siblings. It was always a sore spot of mine that I am allergic to Nutella, and I knew my sister loves it, so I ordered her a custom “Nutella spoon” that night. I simply had the words “Lil’s Nutella Spoon” printed into the nape of the instrument. Cute, inexpensive, practical. (May I suggest “___’s Recovery Spoon”?)

For someone with an eating disorder, eating is a daunting, difficult, and exhausting task. In treatment, mealtime was a fraught half hour that involved a lot of silence, distraction, tears, bickering and table games. Having a little bit of encouragement on the instrument used to perform the difficult task may add a spoonful of sugar to the bitterness of it all.

Here and here are some places for you to order such cutlery!

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