Mental Health Awareness Week – Connecting with Nature

Our Fun Palaces Ambassador in Northern Ireland, Siobhan Kearney, has been involved in the area of mental health and wellbeing for over ten years. Today sees the end of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 and Siobhan reflects on her work and how Fun Palaces supports the mental health and wellbeing of communities.

I became FP Ambassador for Northern Ireland back in October 2019. I was so attracted to this role as I could see the huge potential it would have on mental health and wellbeing. Having worked as CEO of a mental health charity, before going on to set up my own wellbeing business, I know that being creative, being connected, being active and being part of something, is good for your mental health.

In my business, I have developed programmes using the 5 Steps to Wellbeing and this is where I can see such a clear link between the work of Fun Palaces Ambassador and wellbeing of communities – it is just such an amazing campaign with the potential to make real change. I have recently launched three initiatives for Fun Palaces 2021, and I know these have the capacity to make a difference to the lives of those who become involved. I want to tell you about just one of them and why I decided to do this as part of my role.

Rocks of Kindness is not a new concept – but it is one that gets people feeling more involved and where there is a feel good factor – especially when it also helps you connect with nature. There is a lovely feeling of taking the time to paint your own rock, with a message of kindness on it and becoming absorbed in the task means that you are focused for that time and not thinking about anything else – an opportunity to slow down and just simply be present to yourself when you are painting. Putting it on a neighbour’s doorstep, or in a public area for people to see, shares the kindness and so you are giving to others. Getting outdoors in nature and being active is good for your physical and mental health and by being creative you are keeping learning, which is again, something you can feel proud of. Connecting with others through Rocks of Kindness and seeing others joining in creates a sense of achievement and so it becomes a community connection – which is so important at this particular time.

I have started my own campaign for more kindness in my local village, Clady, by painting stones with inspirational messages and placing them along the Clady River Walk – basically to inspire people and give them a bit of a lift when they see them. I hope to encourage others to paint their rocks too and then it becomes a village activity – connecting people through creativity and bringing that kindness to everyone who sees the rocks. Soon I hope that the slogan that I am thinking about, “Clady Rocks With Kindness”, will spread to other communities and public spaces and so kindness becomes a focus and a joy for others to become immersed in.