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'The best way to get hope is to give it away' | Townsend woman aims to help others heal through coffee

Six years ago, Ashley Hepperly struggled immensely with her mental health. Now, she wants to help others through their own journey to recovery.

TOWNSEND, Tenn. — Six years ago, Ashley Hepperly said she was overwhelmed. Her anxiety had become so prevalent, she said she was crumpled up in a ball most days.

"I was completely overtaken by anxiety," Hepperly said. "I'd come to a place where I didn't want to live anymore."

Hepperly said her faith played a huge part in her mental and emotional journey. Now, she said she's in a much better state of mind.

"Every day is good because I want to be alive," she said. "Not only do I want to be alive, but I want to help people that don't feel like they have hope."

From 2008 to 2017, research published by the American Psychological Association found a 71 percent increase in young adults with serious psychological distress. 

The researchers found the same trend was "weak or nonexistent among adults 26 years old and over." Hepperly said she believes social media plays a large part in that.

"We scroll through Instagram, we scroll through Facebook, and we're like, 'Why are we not like this person?'" Hepperly said. "We compare ourselves all the time.... but [we need to] step out of that comparison box and say, 'What what do I have to offer?'"

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This month, Hepperly is taking over the Artistic Bean, a Townsend classic that USA Today named Tennessee's "best coffee shop" in 2018.

She wants to transform it into a place of hope and healing for others.

"A lot of people think they have to have a massive stage or a be a huge world changer to make a difference, but you don't," she said. "The best way to get hope is to give it away."

The Artistic Bean is having their grand re-opening on March 3. Eventually, she plans to host events with various non-profits to encourage mindfulness and faith.

She also plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the Artistic Bean to start a retreat center and help fund different organizations supporting orphanages, victims of sex trafficking and more.

"Every morning that I wake up, I want to have a reason to give back," Hepperly said. "I want to have a reason to live for something that's bigger than myself and I think that my assignment in life is to love."

If you or someone you know is in crisis — whether they are considering suicide or not — please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor at any time. 

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