Let’s face it, at one point or another we’ve all dreamed of moving to the Big Apple. Four years ago, Hannah Brencher – then a 22-year-old, fresh-out-of-college graduate – packed her bags and headed there with the hopes of landing her dream job at the United Nations. But almost instantly, reality struck.
“It’s not easy to move to the city of your dreams and then feel like everything around you isn’t adding up anymore,” Brencher said, speaking to The Loop.
Struggling with anxiety and depression, Hannah felt like she couldn’t talk to her family or friends because she just wanted to hold it all together and be happy for everyone. And so, she took to writing down her thoughts into a notebook, which she always carried around.
“I would try to write on the train, but I would get so distracted by the people sitting around me. That’s when I started to write to people,” she said. “I would pluck them out from the crowd and it didn’t matter that I didn’t know them. I felt like I could relate and share a part of myself. I was able to write the words for other people that I could not give myself.”
Soon it became a habit of hers to leave the handwritten letters around the city. Coffee shops, libraries and coat pockets in department stores – nothing was off limits. She was a one-woman love letter army, but that all changed when she wrote a blog post about it three years ago. People took notice and started to tell her about their daily struggles, and before Brencher knew it, everything blew up (in a good way).
Now, at 26 years old, Hannah is the founder of More Love Letters (MLL). It’s an organization that helps people ship thousands of beautiful, handwritten letters to strangers around the world.
“It flipped my life upside-down completely. When it was just me writing letters…I was alone. I was by myself. It could have stopped at any moment and that would have been fine because it was just me,” she said. “I realized then that other people are the golden ticket. That’s when things got interesting and exciting.”
So, how exactly does MLL work? It’s simple, really. Anyone can nominate a friend they think deserves to receive a bundle of letters. They e-mail MLL a short description about what their buddy is going through and a mailing address. Hannah posts it on the site and then the rest is up to you and hundreds of other strangers.
Currently the organization has sent out over 50,000 letters, but Hannah says many more could have been mailed out by people who were simply inspired by her story.
“It’s hard to get the number right when there are more and more letters being left and written outside of our own grips and on college campuses. There could be thousands of letters we don’t even know about, which is the awesome and exciting part,” she said. “This letter writing and leaving has blessed me so much in the last few years.”
If you want to send a letter to Hannah to tell her how wonderful this project is, you can do that, too.
It’s time we started talking openly about our mental health. Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 27, and help end the stigma around mental illness. For every text message sent and mobile or long-distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs. The same goes for anyone sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk or sharing the Bell Let’s Talk image on Facebook. But talking about it is just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.