ON September 8, students from Eaton Community College took part in creating a visual reminder that is hoped will encourage them to continue to check in on their mental health.
As part of the College's Wellness Week activities from September 6 to 10, Blue Tree Project chief executive officer Kendall Whyte visited the College and invited students to paint one of the College's trees blue.
Ms Whyte said painting the tree gave it a 'blue lease on life' and helped transform it into a symbol that was intended to remind everyone that they were never alone.
"The idea of the tree is that it is a conversation starter. They're visual reminders for people to check in on themselves and loved ones, or on a mate who may be going through a rough time," Ms Whyte said.
The Blue Tree Project was inspired by Ms Whyte losing her brother to suicide in 2018.
She said her brother would paint trees in the paddock on her families property, which a friend replicated shortly after her brother passed.
After a picture of the original painted tree went viral on social media, Ms Whyte said the charity now had 700 registered blue trees across Australia.
"Today I'll be doing a talk with the year ten students all about the project which I'm hoping will help further open up the conversation about mental health.
"Painting a tree blue is a really special way of bringing the topic of mental health into schools and educating our youth on mental wellbeing.
"Young people need to know what services are available to help if they're feeling particularly sad, anxious or overwhelmed," Ms Whyte said.
Eaton Community College year 12 student Olivia Greathead eagerly awaited in line to help paint the tree with her peers.
Painting a tree blue is a really special way of bringing the topic of mental health into schools and educating our youth on mental wellbeing.Blue Tree Project CEO Kendall Whyte
She said it was important the school had the blue tree as a starting point in talking about mental health, especially now as students felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Obviously a lot of kids don't know what the blue tree is about and they might at first think cool, a funny looking blue tree. But the more curious they get, the more they ask questions and then the conversation starts about what the tree represents," Ms Greathead said.
"Once you Google the project you immediately realise that you're not alone. It's great knowing that there's always someone to talk to, especially at the moment."
Other blue trees in the region can be found at Bunbury Regional Hospital, Dalyellup College and in Eaton, Capel, Donnybrook, Boyanup and Australind.
If you are interested in registering to be part of the Blue Tree Project, visit https://www.bluetreeproject.com.au/.
Students will take part in further Wellness Week activities this week, including R U Ok Day activities on Thursday, September 9.
"I definitely think having good mental health puts you in the best position to enjoy life as it is, rather than always wanting better. Being in the right mental state means you can accept where you're at in life which I think is really important," Ms Greathead said.
If anything in this story has raised issues for you, contact Lifeline on 131114.