More than 500 people have walked a combined total of more than 500 miles throughout Stockton-on-Tees to raise awareness about mental ill health, alcohol addiction and substance misuse.
Each day last week One Red Sunflower walks took place to 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 One Red Sunflower walks were organised to mark the first year of the 1,245 Sunflowers legacy. As part of last summer’s 1,245 Sunflower Project thousands of people living across the whole Borough grew sunflowers in memory of those who died during the First World War.
The year’s project was again funded by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council but this time it saw Wildcats of Kilkenny frontman, Mike McGrother joined by representatives from local support services and their clients, students from Stockton Sixth Form College and guest musicians to walk the length and breadth of the Borough.
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, was among the walkers, he said: “It has been truly heartening to see so many people come together to take part in these walks. I am sure it has gone some way towards breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness and there is no doubt that they have helped to stimulate conversation, empathy and a better understanding of mental health, alcohol dependence and substance misuse while also raising awareness about the steps everyone can take to improve their own well-being.”
Organiser of the One Red Sunflower Project, Mike McGrother, added: “Last summer people across Stockton-on-Tees planted these sunflower seeds and together we began to empathise with 1,245 boys and men who lost their lives in the First World War. This year the wonderful people of Stockton-on-Tees have come together again, this time to remember the boys and men who returned from the first world war – many of which suffered terrible mental illness, and empathise with 49,000 people who live within our Borough who battle with mental illnesses and addiction. The community spirit in Stockton-on-Tees never ceases to amaze me and this week has again proven what we can do when we come together.”