Diocesan News

Lighting the Way Toward Better Mental Health

Andrea McGrath says she loved shopping for candles over the years, and eventually “wanted to try my hand at doing it myself and using all natural ingredients.” (Photo: Courtesy of Andrea McGrath)

BAY RIDGE — “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness” as the old saying goes. Andrea McGrath believes in lighting a lot of candles. Not only that, she makes them.

McGrath, a St. Ephrem Church parishioner, is the founder and owner of a candle company she operates out of her Bay Ridge home. 

Out of Darkness, which generated approximately $10,000 in revenue its first year, is a company with a mission. McGrath donates 10% of her proceeds to The Youth Mental Health Project, a non-profit organization that provides support groups and other programs for young people coping with mental health issues.

“I started this because I love candles and I always found they brought this sense of peace to my house. At the end of a long day, you can sit on your couch, light a candle, and just feel the stress — excuse the pun — melting away,” McGrath said.

According to Mental Health America, depression is the most common mental health problem in the U.S. Their statistics show that in 2021, 15.08% of people between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced a major episode of depression — a 1.2% increase from the year before. The nonprofit organization states that more than 2.5 million young people suffer from severe depression, which is defined as depression that impacts their ability to function in day-to-day life.

McGrath discovered The Youth Mental Health Project on Instagram, read about their work, and was impressed. She decided to donate. 

“I just felt they were the right fit for me. I had a Catholic upbringing. I went to Catholic school. I’ve always had this sense of wanting to give back,” said McGrath, a graduate of St. Ephrem’s School and Fontbonne Hall Academy.

She also has personal experience as a caregiver to relatives with mental health issues. 

“You see the pain they are in. You’re trying to help and you’re doing what you can,”  she said. “At the same time, it’s kind of breaking your heart as well. It’s stressful.”

McGrath sells the candles, which she makes in her kitchen using all-natural ingredients, on Etsy and at craft fairs. They come in two sizes — 7 oz. and 12 oz. — and give off scents like lavender and pine. She started making them three years ago to occupy her mind.

“It was just a hobby, but it grew,” she said, adding that she started selling the candles in 2020. She decided to call her company Out of Darkness for two reasons. 

“It was literal because you’re literally lighting yourself out of darkness with a candle. But it’s also figurative,” she explained. “People who suffer from mental illness have these dark days. I wanted the name to have a double meaning.”

McGrath puts a great deal of thought into the presentation of her products. The jars the candles come in are inscribed with words like “breathe,” “sanctuary,” and “gratitude.” 

The 12 oz. candles are affirmation candles and come with cards bearing positive messages. There is also a QR code on the card that the buyer can use to link to a site with meditation music: “It’s almost like this little care package.”