The company bdvibez (which stands for “Beat Depression through Positive Vibes”) is the brainchild of the owner by Bryan Derrickson – a man who’s experienced depression both internally and through the loss of his best friend, Rich.
“I saw him battle a series of events that took a toll on him,” Bryan says. “Rich never said anything to anybody. I asked him point blank if he was having negative thoughts. His response was, ‘Bryan, you’re crazy. I would never do anything like (commit suicide).’ Three weeks go by and that’s exactly what happened. It’s scary.”
Bryan, also a sufferer of depression, works tirelessly to help others to not feel alone in this battle. For example, he’s donated almost $20,000 to mental health foundations since the launch of his company.
And this isn’t even his day job.
Bryan also works full-time in Biotechnology sales and his supportive wife Lauren runs a gymnastics/cheerleading gym. On top of that, they are raising a family of four kids, ages five to eight-years-old.
Love and a whole lot of dedication is the fuel to this fire.
Bryan took time out of his busy schedule to share more about his experience with depression and the message of bdvibez.
Your best friend Rich was an inspiration to start bdvibez. Tell us about him.
My best friend Rich and I met when I was about 12 or so. We established an amazing connection right away and, later in life, I saw him battle a series of events that took a toll on him.
Rich and I had talked and I knew he had gone through a series of events that would be hard for anyone to overcome. He lost his job, got divorced, was re-engaged to another woman and that fell apart, and that was just the end for him.
I knew he was going down a bad path. He, in particular, turned to drugs and alcohol and that compounded things.
I remember talking with his father that he needed to go into rehab. It was a team effort with his parents. And he did, he went into rehab.
But Rich was a good looking guy and unfortunately, he used that charm to get out of rehab early.
Later, he succumbed to depression.
Rich never said anything to anybody. I asked him point blank if he was having negative thoughts.
His response was, “Bryan, you’re crazy. I would never do anything like (commit suicide)!”
Three weeks go by and that’s exactly what happened. It’s scary.
I was absolutely transparent with him in trying to understand where his mind was.
I didn’t know it then but after battling depression myself, you’re not going to just come out and openly say you’re having problems.
It’s so interesting because one day you could be fine and the next you could be in the darkest place ever.
Had you ever experienced anything like that before?
His suicide was my first experience with depression. I asked myself, what is depression? What is suicide? It had never touched me at all.
I lived a pretty picture perfect life, no real adversity. I come from a family where my mother and father are still married. I have a sister and everything was pretty much rosy. My grandparents were the only deaths I dealt with growing up.
What feelings did you experience when Rich passed away?
When it happened, I had times of anger towards him, you know?
I didn’t understand it, honestly. And I don’t think a lot of people do until it happens to you. I had gone through all these different emotions regarding him. A lot of unanswered questions.
Then I had a relational fallout and that’s when all these feelings that he was feeling, I started to have them.
What did depression look like to you?
It’s the feeling of being lost, the unknown, and no self-worth.
To me, it’s tunnel vision. There’s no light, all you see is darkness. It’s really negative thoughts.
And I had thoughts that situations would be better if I were not around. Like, I was the biggest problem. It’s a really scary feeling. I call it a slippery slope.
Once you have that tunnel of darkness, it’s very hard to switch course and come out of that.
Now, looking back, that’s how Rich felt. He felt like he was a burden.
He left a note to his parents and explained that he was a burden.
He said he was sorry and that his parents had nothing to do with this, that he loved everybody.
And these are all signs that if you see someone with erratic behavior, drug or alcohol use is on the rise, constantly saying “I love you.” Looking back, those are all little tip-offs that someone may not be doing well.
Depression affects everyone. There’s no discrimination. All ages, races, body types.
People can perceive to have it all but you don’t know what people are battling with.
That’s why it’s so important on a friend level that you get them help.
Reach out to them, talk to their parents.
How did you find your way out of depression?
Friends. Friends have to speak up.
Too many times, friends turn the other direction.
I always tell people if you know someone is going through a hardship, pick up the phone, call them, send them a text, make an effort, do something to let them know they can trust you and you are there for them.
When you’re going through these hard times, it’s amazing how many people will abandon you.
All my quote-unquote friends, they never called me. They never reached out.
All I had left at that time was my mom, my dad, and my sister.
I was in such a dark place that my parents would drive eight-hours from Virginia just to be with me. They got me through it.
I also had a work acquaintance, David. He knew I was going through a rough time.
One day, he invited me to lunch at R.B.’s Seafood Restaurant in Shem Creek.
I’ll never forget it.
It was a cold, windy, cloudy day and as he talked to me and something triggered inside of me and I started to get out of it.
And that’s why you never know. It goes back to common courtesy.
Like, when you’re at the gas pump and just say, “Hey, how are you?” Or just smile.
Through bdvibez, I’ve talked to so many people with stories of how they got out of their depression.
And a lot of the stories begin with someone just walking by and saying hello to them.
It just triggered something.
Now, I go out of my way to say hi to people and show others that I care.
And bdvibez helps keep me out of depression.
It’s like therapy for me.
Helping others is the most rewarding thing ever. Way more than any job has ever paid me.
So, what is bdvibez?
The purpose of bdvibez is to start a conversation.
What is bdvibez? “Beat Depression through Positive Vibes.”
That’s all it is.
It’s that first layer that can get people to start talking about depression and opening up.
There’s still a stigma to mental health and that’s the issue.
People are ashamed of it. Nobody wants to talk about it. People don’t want to be perceived as weak if they are depressed.
I never shared my depression when I was going through it. It was confusing. It was a dark time.
My focus for bdvibez is to highlight positive things – how you can come out of depression and how you can beat it.
For me, one of the greatest opportunities is to have people share their experience and how they overcame depression.
Tell us about how bdvibez helps mental health awareness.
bdvibes is barely profitable but we’ve now donated close to $20,000 dollars to different foundations.
The main two are College of Charleston’s Counseling Center and University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Counseling Center. We have and will continue to support and raise money for other charities such as the Medical University of South Carolina’s Department of Psychiatry and NourishNC (which provides food for hungry children in New Hanover County).
It is a for-profit company because one day, hopefully, it will become profitable.
But it’s about the message and I think all that will come if it’s done right.
Some people are turned off because bdvibez is a for-profit company.
If I was a non-profit, I’d be waving a non-profit flag around.
But transparency is important.
There are a lot of non-profit companies where the CEO’s are making millions of dollars a year.
So, in an effort to be transparent and for tax purposes, I set myself up as a for-profit company.
For 2017, we were profitable by a very small margin.
But we give so much back. I’m not going to get the tax breaks that non-profits get, but I want to be transparent and that’s more important to me than anything.
bdvibez is going to be 100% transparent at all times.
So why make hats instead of another type of apparel or product?
Five or six years earlier, I had sketches and plans to make these hats.
And when I finally came out of this depression, I wanted to do something. I wanted to follow this passion that was shoved in the corner.
I thought, yeah, I’ll get to it one day and I had never gotten to it.
And then one day, that was it. I thought, what better way to spread mental health awareness than these hats.
That’s so true. It just clicked for me. Mental health is in your head. You wear a hat on your head. Genius.
Exactly! Like mental health awareness…hat.
To me, there’s no better tool to spread mental health awareness than a hat.
The cornerstone of the company will always be hats.
And not everyone is a hat person, so we’ve branched out to t-shirts for those who want to support the brand.
This is a great transition to talk about your iLM Strong T-shirts. (iLM is the airport code for Wilmington, NC.) What’s your relationship to the Wilmington area?
This is another story with Rich and me, my best friend who passed away.
We were very fortunate in our careers and found success early.
So we bought together a duplex on Carolina Beach in 2005. Carolina Beach is my personal heaven on Earth.
The thought was as we grew older and had kids, we would always go back there.
After he passed away, half the duplex went into other ownership and I still have mine.
I love Wilmington. It’s my second favorite city, behind Charleston. It’s close. But there are certain things I really love about Wilmington.
Actually, you can quote me on this: I love Charleston, but the beaches in Wilmington are better.
Look at the sand, look at the watercolor, look at the waves.
People may hate that I said that.
How did you link up with NourishNC, an organization that feeds hungry children in New Hanover County?
I’ve done business with Redix Store (a one-stop beach shop) in Wilmington and they told me about NourishNC.
I contacted NourishNC to learn more about what they do. And Hurricane Florence…while it’s long gone now, it’s really not. It’s just the beginning for so many people. There’s still a lot of displaced families and kids.
NourishNC will feed these victims until they have normalcy back in their lives.
Our goal is $2,500 and we’ve got a ways to go.
But we sold out of the first round of shirts and we’re making more.
Hopefully, we’ll continue to drive home the iLM Strong message and the proceeds will go back to this organization.
Every dollar helps.
Circling back to the bdvibez message, how do you help a friend that is going through a hard time? Is it better to be straight-up about your concern or should you talk around the issue and simply ask, “Are you ok?”
That’s a great question.
I met Ryan Leaf on the University of South Carolina’s campus. Ryan was the former number two pick in the NFL Draft at one time. At the top of his game.
His career was short-lived and he went into heavy use drugs and alcohol. He was arrested two times in 48-hour time period and was incarcerated.
He spoke to the Greek Life at USC and that question came up.
He said: You have to be willing to lose your friend.
You have to understand that by confronting your friend, point blank, that your friend may have a negative reaction.
But you have to be willing to lose your friend because you could save that friend.
And if you beat around the bush and don’t address it head on, then you’re never uncovering it to the fullest.
And I agree with him one-hundred percent. It’s not easy, but you have to do it.
What is your advice on finding a counselor, therapist, or any mental health professional?
I went to three different counselors before I found one that I could trust.
And that’s what I tell people.
Finding a counselor should be treated as a friend relationship in a way. You’re not going to be close to every single person that you meet.
But just because you go to one counselor and you don’t have that connection or that trust and you don’t feel like you can’t open up doesn’t mean that counseling doesn’t work.
It means you haven’t met the right counselor.
That’s such a great point.
You need to keep reaching out to people until you find that relationship.
If people are looking for a counselor, where do you recommend doing that? What should be their first step?
There are a few things.
If they’re having a serious battle with depression, they need to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
If it’s counseling, just hit the Google button and start looking at reviews.
Through bdvibez, we partnered with Doctor on Demand so there’s actually free health care available.
Use the free code: NEXTGEN and, as long as you have a WiFi connection, you can literally have a live feed/chat with a medical professional whether for the flu or anxiety or depression.
And it’s free.
What an amazing service to offer!
At the same time, a counselor is not for everyone.
There are other outlets.
It’s whatever makes you happy whether it’s paddle boarding, playing basketball, working out, art, gardening…anything that brings you a sense of peace.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding not only mental health but medication for mental health. What is your stance on prescription drugs to assist with mental health?
Whatever helps that particular patient.
If they feel better by taking an anti-depressant, I think that’s a great thing.
If it’s helping them cope with their depression, that’s great.
If they want to wake up at five in the morning to jog around the block and that makes them feel better, then they should do that every day.
If that means they have to take medication to feel good, as long as it is FDA approved, then I’m all for it.
What are your views on social media in this space?
Bill Murray said it best: “Social media is training us to compare our lives, instead of appreciating everything we are. No wonder why everyone is always depressed.”
I can’t say it more clearly than that.
I love social media and there are tons of positives about social media. But there’s also a lot of negative.
A lot of it is a highlight reel, it’s not an actual depiction of reality.
And unfortunately when you’re struggling you wonder, what’s wrong with me?
Bullying, for example. When we were younger, if you were bullied in school, you could go home and get away from it.
I think what’s different now for kids is that you can’t escape it. Bullying happens online, too.
In my opinion, there need to be classes in middle school and high school.
That’s a great idea.
I feel there need to be counselors for that sort of thing.
How can people partner with bdvibez?
Recently a restaurant in Charleston (Stella’s) called up and they want to get all their hats done through bdvibez.
A construction company just did that as well and ordered 200 hats. They partnered with bdvibez because they see the mission and they want to spread the message of positive vibes.
And I would love if more companies can do that. I can be that simple.
If you have a bachelorette company or bachelor party and want to make hats? Call me up!
What do you hope is the biggest takeaway message from bdvibez?
That bdvibez is more than a brand, it’s a movement. It’s more than a hat, it’s a message.
I want bdvibez to turn into a conversation about mental health awareness.
“Beat Depression through Positive Vibes.” That’s it.
And anyone that can share bdvibez on social media, follow us, and promote positive vibes is so helpful to get the message out there.
Or just smile at someone.
A smile could be what changes that person’s life.
If you or someone you know is battling depression, help is available 24 hours a day:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Doctor on Demand: Sign up and get your free virtual visit at doctorondemand.com by using the code NEXTGEN.
Check Out Mental Health Awareness Events Near You:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention host walks called Out of the Darkness to bring awareness to suicide and mental health.