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From personal struggle to mental health awareness brand

Community alum Mackenzie Nelson’s ‘Stay Another Day’ journey
In an effort to end the stigma around mental health, Community alum Mackenzie Nelson launched the brand Stay Another Day, a clothing brand that donates a portion of its proceeds to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Photo Courtesy of: Stay Another Day, LLC
In an effort to end the stigma around mental health, Community alum Mackenzie Nelson launched the brand Stay Another Day, a clothing brand that donates a portion of its proceeds to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Photo Courtesy of: Stay Another Day, LLC

“Another day,” she told herself, pulling into the Community parking lot every morning. 

“Another day,” she thought, sitting alone at the back of the classroom. 

“Another day,” she said, crying in her bedroom after softball practice. 

Stay another day, just one more day. The phrase was Mackenzie Nelson’s mantra as she struggled through high school. 

Today, it’s the name of the 21-year-old CEO’s brand. 

No longer hanging on by a thread, Nelson now threads the ‘stay another day’ message into her locally ubiquitous merchandise: the sweatshirts, T-shirts and even hats that spread her three-word lifeline. 

A three-word lifeline—and a three-digit one.

Nelson also includes 988, the number for a suicide and crisis hotline, on each of her products as a reminder: Someone is always willing to listen.

A reminder, Nelson said, that she could have used during her high school career, when it felt like her depression, her well-being was being ignored. 

As a high school senior, Nelson walked into second period with tears streaming down her face. Stress about her signing day, committing to play softball at Rockford’s Rock Valley College, had escalated into a full-fledged breakdown—but she was forced to take a test, a teacher offering a few minutes in the bathroom as the only consolation for Nelson’s life-inhibiting pain.

After graduation, playing for the Golden Eagles, Nelson said, the apathy didn’t go away. 

“There was a practice [where] I was hyperventilating,” Nelson said. 

Despite spending that entire practice crying, Nelson said, “none of the coaches said a single word” to her. 

On days like those—for months like those—it was easy to feel like no one cared. 

“I truly felt so alone and that nobody [else] in the world [was] struggl[ing] with mental health,” Nelson said. 

In a country where suicide kills more people than car accidents, though, that feeling is far from unique. 

Suicide was the second leading cause of death among Americans ages 10-14 and 20-34 in 2021—a fact unsurprising to Bloomington’s nonprofit PATH, which fields hundreds of calls a day, often over 300 to its 988 hotline.

But when Nelson threaded those three, potentially life-saving digits into her first Stay Another Day product, she wasn’t just trying to rescue struggling community members like PATH’s recent callers.

Because Nelson’s mental health struggles didn’t end with her school career. 

Every time she creates a new Stay Another Day product, she continues to rescue herself with a long-term coping mechanism: crafting. 

Throughout Nelson’s childhood, making crafts with her grandma had always been an escape—a reason to stay more days despite adversity. 

“I never really noticed my parents arguing or the problems they were having,” Nelson said, “because I was just so consumed with crafting.” 

That creative outlet paired with inspiration from her entrepreneur dad turned a small moment—the realization that her high school mantra produced “sad” when acronymized—into the big initiative customers see today. 

Customers of all ages. 

Nelson remembers witnessing a conversation on the importance of the 988 lifeline last year—and how, when asked for the hotline number, an eight-year-old wearing a Stay Another Day hoodie shot his hand in the air immediately. 

“That was the coolest thing ever,” Nelson said. “It made me want to cry. It was awesome.” 

Nelson measures success by moments like these—moments proving she is no longer just making crafts, but crafting opportunities for conversations. 

Crafting an opportunity for kids as young as eight to learn they are never alone. 

An opportunity to talk about Emily Spinks, the former softball teammate Nelson lost to suicide when she was an eighth grader and whose picture Ms. Baker still displays in her classroom. 

An opportunity to raise awareness within the walls of her high school gym, her merchandise on basketball players’ backs, on coaches and teachers, before the second annual Stay Another Day game. 

The doubleheader is important not just for the crowd, but the players themselves: It’s often the athletes, the people who appear most happy, Nelson said—people like Spinks, “an upbeat, energetic person”—who are struggling the most. 

“You’re put in this mindset,” Nelson said, “where you need to be mentally tough.” 

But Nelson is committed to disproving that misconception. 

“It’s okay to not be okay,” read some of her designs.

“It’s okay to be sad,” say others. 

But the common thread between each unique design is the semicolon: a reminder that anywhere a life could end, it could also keep going. 

Because there’s always a reason to stay another day. 

 

Stay Another Day is located at 3006 Gill Street, Suite B in Bloomington. More information about the brand and store hours can be found at the company’s website.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out for help. Call or text 988 to get connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

 

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About the Contributors
Abby Ruebush, Editor-in-Chief
Abby Ruebush is a senior at Normal Community High School and serves as president of Student Council and the Community Best Buddies chapter. This is her third year working with the Inkspot, where she is Editor-in-Chief.  I like dance, ice cream and thoughtful conversation. A slogan to live by is that every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
Ruth Oliveros-Gallardo, Staff Writer
Ruth Oliveros-Gallardo is a senior at Normal Community High School and is on the track and field team. This is her first year working with the Inkspot, and she is staff writer. After school and on the weekends, I enjoy working and spending time with my friends. My biggest pet peeve is people chewing with their mouths open. I am most comfortable when I am with my sisters or by myself.
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