People living across Stockton-on-Tees are being invited to join a One Red Sunflower walk to raise awareness about mental ill health, alcohol addiction and substance misuse, and in doing so give something back to their community.
Last year, as part of the 1,245 Sunflower Project, thousands of people living across the whole Borough grew sunflowers in memory of those who fought during the First World War.
This summer residents are being asked to come together again - this time to support a series of walks which will celebrate recovery from substance misuse, alcohol addictions and mental health problems as well as challenging the stigma that can surround dependence and mental health issues.
The project is funded by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and will see Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman, Mike McGrother, lead a series of recovery walks between Monday 15 June and Saturday 20 June. Mike will be joined by representatives from local support services and their clients, students from Stockton Sixth Form College and guest musicians. During the week musicians will pen original songs to support the Red Sunflower Army, focusing on the experiences that people share with them during the walks.
The walks will range in length from 8 to 12 miles. Places on the recovery walks are fully booked but there is an opportunity for members of the public to 'walk a mile' by joining the end of each walk.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Services and Health and Chair of Stockton’s Health and Well-being Board, Councillor Jim Beall, said: “One in four of us will suffer from a mental illness in our lifetime – that equates to 49,000 people across our Borough.
“Within Stockton Borough there are excellent services available to support people with mental ill health but sadly, we know residents continue to suffer alone as there is still a stigma attached to it. The Council and the Health and Well-being Board hope the One Red Sunflower Project will go some way towards breaking down this stigma so people feel they can speak openly about mental ill health and addiction.
“We all know the physical benefits of exercise but it can also help improve emotional well being. It is highly appropriate to raise awareness through a series of recovery walks. I’ll be showing my support by taking part in the walks and encourage residents living right across the Borough to do the same.”
Organiser of the One Red Sunflower Project, Mike McGrother, added: “Few people who were involved in the 1,245 Sunflowers events last year will ever forget what happened over an extraordinary few days. I have reflected on stories I was told in relation to the First World War. How many of those who returned were scarred for life. They suffered terrible mental illnesses. They turned to drink. They lived a living hell. And society didn’t know what to do. They weren't talked about – they became a hidden, stigmatized community fighting ongoing battles with an enemy no one knew how to fight.
“100 years on mental illness, addiction and all of the related debilitating, crippling conditions are still dealt with as a stigma, as something we don’t really talk about. So, for the first year of the 1,245 Sunflowers legacy, we are looking at how the community of Stockton-on-Tees can create change.
“Between the 15 and 20 June I’m going to walk. I’m going to walk from the top to the bottom, from the west to the east of our Borough. Each day I will be joined by people in recovery, people who help and people who want to show their support.”
To book a place on the last mile of any of the walks visit http://arconline.co.uk/whats-on/music-community/one-red-sunflower-walk-a-mile