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Depress Me Not Candles: Burning Down Stigma and Illuminating a Path to Better Mental Well-Being

A Light in the Dark

In a world filled with constant noise and distractions, finding moments of tranquility and peace has become a precious commodity. According to the World Health Organization, mental health struggles have become a global epidemic with over 280 million people suffering from depression. Divina Casila, owner of Depress Me Not Candles, has battled her own inner demons and found the power to create a bright and warm sanctuary for her mind and soul: candles. To Divina, a simple flickering flame can light the way toward improved mental health and nurture our inner serenity and strength. Through her handmade, personalized candles, her mission is to break down the stigmatization of mental health and share her tool for emotional healing with others—one candle at a time.

Glow of Safety & Serenity

Depress Me Not Photo 2Depress Me Not Candles makes remarkably unique, powerfully uplifting hand-poured candles, as well as home and car diffusers and company merchandise. Each custom-made candle is beautifully scented and delightfully named with products ranging from the black amber and lavender “Nose in a Book” to the McIntosh apple “It's a Beautiful Day to Love Yourself”. Depress Me Not Candles also features whimsical artwork and an empowering affirmation to celebrate and remind you of your resilience. Divina says her mission is to foster joy and support mental health through calming scents and open conversation. “I believe that people battling depression deserve a reminder of their significance. My handmade candles are designed to uplift and empower individuals struggling with depression by providing comfort and companionship while positively impacting the community.”

Divina was born and raised in the Philippines before moving to the United States at 17. Unlike her comforting candles, Divina’s journey was dark and difficult, suffering domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband. She was able to escape her marriage and take her three young children with her, but the experience left Divina emotionally scarred and without a support system. She worked multiple jobs to make ends meet but the stress led her into a deep depression. As a way of coping, Divina found herself turning to the one constant that had always brought light to her darkest moments—lighting a soothing candle.

“The soft, gentle light would almost hypnotize me, relaxing my mind, body, and soul. Certain scents had a magical effect, melting away my fears, anxiety, and stress and making me feel much better. That is when the idea for Depress Me Not Candles was born. I wanted to create a safe space where my customers could feel supported and appreciated for who they are, knowing they are not alone in their journey.”

Beacon of Hope for the Helpless

Depress Me Not Photo 3Divina eventually remarried and with a few new additions to the family, felt like all parts of her life were finally falling into place. Candle-making had always been a method of healing, and Divina wanted to share the craft that had always brought her comfort. She remembered the difficult, lonely moments she had persevered through, and recognized a deep stigma against mental health that kept so many like her disconnected and facing depression. Divina realized her lived experiences and all she had survived could be a source of inspiration for others and were proof of how empowering a candle can be.

“People battling depression and anxiety often feel like they are alone in their struggle. I believed my business could be a tangible symbol of hope and companionship to those in need and provide a meaningful and compassionate product that promotes mental health and healing.”

Depress Me Not Photo 4The major iceberg Divina faced was the overwhelming stigma against mental health. Mental health conditions frequently remain invisible, silent, and deeply complex. People often subject those who seek help to stigma and judgment. This results in ostracizing individuals who should receive acceptance and support. Divina's experience with depression instilled in her the significance of receiving validation and being valued as a person, rather than being perceived as a burden. She believed that Depress Me Not Candles was a vessel to spread awareness and inspire meaningful conversations on the path towards slowly breaking down stigma and barriers. Divina’s instincts were correct with some community members and clients calling her candles lifesavers.

“A woman who had been struggling with depression for several years visited my booth one day and bought a candle. She became overwhelmed with emotions and told me the positive messages made her feel like she wasn’t alone. She credited Depress Me Not candles with saving her life and I was amazed at how powerful my message of hope is for others who may be facing darkness in their own lives.”

Kindling Business Success

Depress Me Not Photo 5Small business ownership was a heritable trait and an inherited dream from Divina’s father who was a passionate entrepreneur. He tried his hand at multiple businesses, including a teacher, a bartender, and even a travel agent. Unfortunately, these businesses never came to fruition, but it never stopped his entrepreneurial spirit. Several years ago, after Divina's father passed away, she took ownership of that dream for business success. She remains driven to honor his legacy. She strives to make him proud, aiming for excellence, staying on top of trends, experimenting with new techniques, and networking with industry leaders. “It’s countless hours researching and experimenting with candle-making techniques, ingredients, and design. Also seeking advice from other successful business owners who generously share their expertise. I learned the importance of marketing, financial management, and taking calculated risks.”

Divina was ready to take Depress Me Not Candles to the next level. She realized she needed tailored business guidance and access to critical business resources. Divina also understood how crowded the candle market was, and needed help expanding her reach. Above all, Divina needed encouragement after overcoming so much adversity—that’s when she discovered Business Impact NW. Through Business Impact NW’s mentorship programs and workshops, she learned crucial skills and gained insights into the industry.  Divina was able to refine her business strategy, boost her marketing efforts, and improve her financial management. She also received the support for her goals and dreams she desperately needed to blaze her own trail.

“My experience working with Business Impact has been invaluable. They provided incredible resources, insightful guidance, and unwavering encouragement as I sought to grow my business. I am so grateful for their support and recommend them to any small business looking for guidance and resources.”

Supporting the Light Within

Depress Me Not Photo 6Divina says she views her business as a small part of a greater movement and donates a part of her proceeds to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting those affected by depression and suicide prevention. Divina also partners with Vision House—a transitional home for homeless families with children located in Renton, Washington. “I want my customers to feel fulfilled and satisfied with their purchase. For them to know they have contributed to a more significant cause. By supporting my business, they are helping spread awareness of mental health issues and giving back to the community.”

Depress Me Not Photo 7At its core, Depress Me Not Candles was built on Divina's desire to make a significant social impact. She hopes lighting one of her candles is the first step towards caring for their mental well-being. On a broader level, she wants to see better access to resources and a greater focus on prevention. This could include free or low-cost counseling, medication, and therapy. For education, teaching kids about positive coping mechanisms and how to handle stress, as well as coaching adults to deal with demanding situations compassionately. Most of all, she hopes others see themselves in her journey and find the strength to follow their passion and turn it into a meaningful business that can make a difference in people's lives.

“I have learned the importance of perseverance and dedication, even during challenging times. While building my business from scratch has demanded a lot of hard work and patience, seeing the positive impact that my candles have had on customers struggling with depression has made it all worth it. This journey has taught me that anything is possible by following your heart and being committed to a cause.”

About the author

Janelle is a storyteller through and through. She was raised in a family of entrepreneurs who owned and managed a series of small businesses, including a Hawaiian restaurant, a video store, and several real estate properties. Growing up in a low-income community but attending schools as a minority in affluent areas, she struggled with the inequities she faced each day.

Janelle graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, specializing in screenwriting and playwriting. She has worked for a number of nonprofits and has remained steadfast in her commitment to using her craft to support the missions of each organization, and uplift underserved communities throughout the Bay Area.

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