COMMUNITY AWARENESS: Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith and Liz O'Keefe, from Grow, at a workshop creating birds to be tagged with details of mental health services.
COMMUNITY AWARENESS: Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith and Liz O'Keefe, from Grow, at a workshop creating birds to be tagged with details of mental health services. Central Coast Council

Spread your wings in support of mental health

BE on the lookout out for lost birds on the Central Coast this October.

No, not the feathered kind but individually crafted pieces prepared in Central Coast Council community workshops last month, to be hidden around the Coast as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mayor Jane Smith said it was the first time the Lost Bird Found project had taken place on the Coast, in partnership with North Sydney Council, where it began six years ago.

Each bird symbolises freedom from mental illness and will be tagged with a mental health information card publicising local contacts before its "release".

With statistics showing that 50 per cent of Australians will experience some form of mental health issue during their lifetime, the mayor said it was important to break down stigmas and spread the word about services available locally.

"Most people are touched by mental illness in one way or another," she said.

Cr Smith said the project, from start to finish, was a great way to engage the community, providing an activity in which all ages and all abilities could take part.

Wooden birds were cut out at local Men's Sheds for people to paint at the Woy Woy and Entrance workshops, giving Shed members a special purpose.

The workshops in turn brought people together to focus on helping others in a friendly, positive atmosphere, either painting existing birds, crafting them from fabric or knitting and crocheting them.

"One of the great benefits of something like this is having people around to share your experience, to connect and be part of something bigger than yourself," Cr Smith said.

Many of those who took part were Seniors, and with loneliness one of the greatest mental health problems these days, she said getting people out and involved was a positive result in itself.

"It's incredible how many Seniors contribute in different ways to their community and connect, and you could see that dynamic in the room," she said.

However, the larger idea is for the birds to be found across the Central Coast, raising awareness of available services, how to contact them, and starting conversations about mental health.

"It provides a first step," the mayor said.

"Most people today, if they don't have a personal mental health issue themselves, they know someone who has."

Council will publish hints online as to where the birds can be found closer to the time, and finders will be encouraged to photograph their discoveries, share them on social media, and perhaps tell their

stories.

"This project is a great example of councils working with communities to help solve social and health issues that impact wellbeing and community connections," Cr Smith said.

"I really encourage people to be part of this because the great thing with these sort of initiatives is that they do grow and they do make a difference."

Details council on 1300 463954, for support, phone Lifeline on 131 114.


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