A blue tree isn’t something you see every day, but thanks to Naracoorte High School students, their community just got a whole lot brighter.

The blue tree in Naracoorte joins 832 others across the globe encouraging people struggling with mental health to speak up.

Naracoorte Lucindale Engagement and Community Manager Jayne Miller said, “The Blue Tree Project was a collaboration between the Wellbeing Program and the Naracoorte Suicide Prevention Network as an opportunity to start the conversation around mental health.”

Miller said that by spreading paint on the tree, students spread the message that “it’s OK to not be OK” and stepped towards an inclusive, healthier future.

This endeavour began when the Naracoorte Lucindale Council introduced their Wellbeing Program in March 2021 to combat bleak health and lifestyle statistics showing a deterioration in their community’s mental health throughout the pandemic – particularly amongst high school students.

These statistics also revealed 69 per cent of the community were physically inactive, 37.4 per cent of adults were obese, 11.1 per cent of children were obese, and 24.6 per cent of adults consumed more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day – all of which were higher than the state average.

To improve this, Miller said the council collaborated with Wellbeing SA to create a program to support and inspire locals to live healthier with an emphasis on physical activity, food education, social connectedness and mental health.

Miller said the first step was increasing opportunities to be active with things like the Good Life Project.

The project included an eight-week active ageing program for people over 50, running and walking groups, free yoga every Sunday, and the development of Playground Detectives and Naracoorte Trails Pocket Maps that showcase local open spaces to explore.

Miller said Playground Detectives received incredible feedback and was her favourite initiative because it was a great opportunity for families to get out and discover new playgrounds in a scavenger hunt style.

“We created a brochure with a map of all the playgrounds in the council region and a series of simple questions for each site,” she said.

“The initiative was low cost and used minimal resources but received great reach and outcomes.”

To improve welfare through food education the program provided supermarket tours with dieticians and incorporated healthy eating messages in the library’s programming.

The council also teamed up with a local nursery for a recent education session on how to grow food at home.

Miller said there will be a stronger emphasis on improving wellbeing through food over the next twelve months.

She said Pom Pom Power was one of the initiatives that brought a group of unlikely friends together for a craft activity that turned into a social shindig.

It was so successful, Miller said they’ve recreated the activity for a new initiative called What’s Growing On? – a garden inspired art project for the Wonambi Gallery.Bottom of Form

Besides the programs and events there are free meditation apps available in the library, regular theatre performances that tackle the stigma around mental health, and hard copy resources to help families identify local mental health support services.

“Through the Wellbeing Program, we are able to support residents to be a healthy, active, safe and connected community that offers opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to participate in community life,” Miller said.

“The program has created a positive atmosphere around the townships and has contributed to an increased vibrancy in the council area – a particularly important outcome for regional towns.”

Words: Alison Hall
Image: The Pom Pom Power group strengthened community engagement and social connectedness.