Positive mental health is a critical issue in rural and remote areas with the rate of suicides almost double the national average. Men, both young and old, are particularly at risk. However, research shows for differing reasons1:
Youth are vulnerable to isolation, loneliness, alienation due to sexual preferences, and drug & alcohol misuse.
Older generations are affected by financial insecurity, natural disasters, perceived social stigma around help seeking, and stoic individualism.
The unfortunate irony of the situation is that rural and remote communities often demonstrate higher levels of connectedness and community sprit. The question is:
How can we harness this connectivity and powerful network of support to foster positive mental health and reduce the rates of suicide?
1. Suicide in Rural Australia, 2009. (National Rural Health Alliance Inc.)
The Blue Letterbox is a “pop-up” event where rural and remote towns collectively paint their letterboxes blue as a symbolic declaration. This declaration is a commitment of two things:
As a “community franchise” model, the format of The Blue Letterbox can vary from town to town, but is typically wrapped up in a “mini-festival” (sometimes referred to as a “Blues Festival”) of live music, food, speeches, “goody bags” which contain a small tin of paint for each attendee, and the invitation for them to paint their letterbox blue. We know that mental health initiatives need to be delivered in a “subversive” way, hence the festival framework that allows locals to engage in the project in a way that casual.
The project is ultimately overseen and implemented by a community lead from each participating town - and they are, in turn, supported by Spur Projects.
Three pilot projects will take place in the 2015 financial year in order to test the model and refine the template. In 2016, the project will be available as a “template” that any community across Australia can purchase and implement.
The vision is 100 communities implementing the project by the end of 2016.
Warwick will be the first Australian town to pilot the project in October 2015.
It is a tight-knit community with a bustling township surrounded by fertile agriculture. The community and Southern Downs regional council are already significantly active in the mental health space and The Blue Letterbox is part of a suite of activities to promote positive mental health.
Stay tuned: More information on the event will be announced closer to October.
If you'd like to get involved, great! There are a number of people we're currently searching for: