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Two men who suffered from debilitating depression and mental health struggles throughout their lives after being bullied at school have revealed how they plan to help save other kids from the same fate.
Dads Chris Glebatsas and Anthony McDonough have launched ‘Unlabelled’ a skincare company whose profits go directly to support youth-focused mental-health initiatives.
They told FEMAIL they’re on track to raise $300,000 for their chosen charities in their first 12 months and plan to be making a million a year for them by 2024.
Chris, left, Grace, centre, and Anthony, right – the family have launched a skincare company to tackle mental health for kids
Chris and Anthony were both bullied at school and understand how it can have a long term effect on mental health
‘We have had a hectic few weeks getting an order of 23,000 bottles of our body and face wash to Chemist Warehouse stores around the country,’ Anthony said.
‘And hopefully that is just the start of it, it is already looking like a monthly order but we are hoping to get into a supermarket as well.’
The product is a ‘luxury-style’ skincare product but costs $8.99 so that it is accessible to everyone, the dads, who have experience building top-shelf skincare brands, explained.
‘The only difference is ours is better because those brands are still using formulas from 20 years ago and ours is much more up to date,’ they said.
And while much of the incentive to create the business stemmed from their own trauma as teenagers they also consulted their daughter, Grace, 18, on the project.
In fact eye opening conversations with their daughter lead them to choose the name of the product.
‘We talk to her about how she identifies or her friends identify and she told us kids hate labels. They just want to experiment. If they want to kiss a girl they do and if they want to kiss a boy they do,’ Chris said.
The dads have launched Unlabelled – a skincare body wash where all profits go toward mental health charities for youth
The dads are now proud to embrace themselves but for years they suppressed their sexuality and had low self esteem after bullies had mocked their appearance for years
In fact the young woman said four out of five of her closest friends wouldn’t identify as straight or gay.
‘Labels put too much pressure on kids, we finally got that after talking to Grace and that’s why we have called it Unlabelled.
‘We know first-hand the struggles these kids are going through now are just the tip of the iceberg and they are going to be working them out for the rest of their lives.’
Chris revealed he has only just processed most of the trauma he experienced at the hands of his classmates decades ago.
Between Year 7 and 12 he says the bullying was ‘relentless’ and he would feel sick at the thought of going to school and avoid using the bathroom so he didn’t have to be alone with his tormentors.
Chris was mocked for being overweight, for having a dead father and for being gay
‘The same group of boys bullied me every day, for the way I looked and the way I spoke,’ he said.
He attended a Catholic boys school and knew his mum had the best intentions when she saved up so she could afford to send him there.
‘I was the fat kid and apparently everyone knew was gay well before I knew,’ he said.
But the bullies were always trying to find out more about Chris so they could make the taunts hurt even more.
‘One day they found out my dad had died before I was born and they used to tell me he died because of me,’ he said.
One day Chris could no longer ‘grin and bear it’ and decided the only way out was to end his life.
Chris, left, said his bullies left him thinking death was his only option – before he finally told his mum what was going on
He spoke to his mum who took him away from the situation as a ‘band-aid fix’ before taking him to doctors for help.
These doctors told him to ‘pray the gay away’ and forced Chris to suppress his sexuality until he was 30 years old.
Anthony was also taunted over his sexuality, long before he realised he was gay.
He also had a back brace for his scoliosis which made him even more ‘different’.
‘As a kid you feel embarrassed and like it is your fault so you keep it to yourself,’ he said.
‘At the time I had never even met a gay person, I lived in a small country town, but they knew,’ he said.
Anthony went on to get get married, to Grace’s mother, it wasn’t until after they broke up and his father died that he came out to his family.
Anthony said he was a nerd in a country town and had to wear a back brace. His peers taunted him for being gay before he realised he was
‘At dad’s funeral my family saw the person I had brought for support was more than a friend,’ he said.
Weeks after Anthony broke up with the man from the funeral Chris came back from his tour of self-discovery in Europe where at 30 he finally embraced his sexuality.
They met by chance and have been together ever since, raising Grace alongside Anthony’s ex-wife and her partner.
Grace has always been proud of her identity – and never been afraid to own who she is, her dads said
Chris said ‘kids find vulnerabilities’ which is why they have worked hard to make sure their daughter has a stable environment and the tools she needs to thrive.
‘She embraced being an individual which was a relief after all we didn’t fit in the box when it came to parents,’ Anthony said.
The dads hope they will be able to raise awareness for youth mental health and the importance of ’embracing yourself’ instead of trying to ‘fit the label’.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 24 at any time of the day, seven days a week for anonymous support and guidance.