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Freshman Strings Her Way to a Stigma Free World

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Freshman Strings Her Way to a Stigma Free World

Freshman, Camille de Carbonnel shows off some of her friendship bracelets. (Facebook).

Freshman, Camille de Carbonnel shows off some of her friendship bracelets. (Facebook).

Freshman, Camille de Carbonnel shows off some of her friendship bracelets. (Facebook).

Freshman, Camille de Carbonnel shows off some of her friendship bracelets. (Facebook).


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By Rachel Gow

Most college students have neglected their friendship bracelets, leaving them to fray in the bottom of drawers buried under old summer camp photos and American Girl doll instruction manuals. For Camille de Carbonnel, FRCH ’22, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The tri-lingual humanitarian studies major from Sharon, Mass., runs the Instagram account @mindfulstring. Here, she displays the intricate threaded bracelets she makes and links a Google Form where people can order their own. The bracelets cost between five and 10 dollars, and all of the proceeds are donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

While now fairly popular around campus with the majority of de Carbonnel’s friends sporting at least one of her designs, the freshman explains that she began to string for far more personal reasons.

De Carbonnel was hospitalized her senior year of high school in a psychiatric clinic, and it was here that her passion for making bracelets took shape. She explains that the hospital encouraged art therapy and that string became a way for her to manage mental health struggles. “While in the hospital I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and acute anxiety disorder,” she said. “It was a little bit of a hard time for me… and so [with] the hospital kind of helping me cope with that, I started making bracelets.”

Like many kids, she learned basic friendship bracelet designs in summer camps while growing up but started learning far more complex stitches as time went on. While some might assume that simpler bracelets are better for stress relief, de Carbonnel explains that for her this is not the case. “I started getting more and more into intricate and complicated designs because the more complicated, the more focus it took for me and the better it was for me to calm down,” she said.

It did not occur to de Carbonnel to sell the bracelets until later on in high school when people started offering her money for them. She contributed all the funds to mental health organizations. “I think it just kind of came naturally to donate the money to charity because of the nature of why I started making bracelets,” de Carbonnel said. “I wanted to give back and raise awareness and do what I could to help a community I felt really connected [to] and passionate about.”

De Carbonnel was introduced to the nonprofit organization NAMI, now the recipient of her bracelet earnings, while in the hospital. She decided to donate to it because of its commitment to battling mental health stigma.“Their motto is ‘Stigma Free’ so they’re very much aligned with the philosophy I feel strongly about [which is] fostering a society and world that views mental health struggles as seriously as physical ones,” de Carbonnel said.

De Carbonnel uses diabetes as an example to simplify the similarities between mental and physical ailments. She says that just as someone with diabetes needs to take insulin to function, someone with a mental illness may require medication or other forms of treatment to operate day to day. “The goal is to avoid people being shamed or feeling shame within themselves for asking for help,” she said.

While de Carbonnel plans to continue making bracelets for people into the foreseeable future, she does not allow it to interfere with her school work.

“My philosophy is that I don’t let people pay me for the bracelets until I’ve made it for them because I don’t want to feel like I owe them anything,” de Carbonnel said. “Then it just becomes a stressor and it’s the opposite of what it’s supposed to be.”

As much as the bracelet business has assisted others, it has also helped de Carbonnel decide what she wants to do with her life. Her dream job after college is to be a UN ambassador, applying the same passion for humanitarian work that started @mindfulstring on a national scale.

Until then, she continues to string along, always sporting a bright smile and at least four friendship bracelets on each wrist.

 

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