A big old dead tree on the Dungog Common is about to get a "blue lease of life" this week.
The Dungog Shire Youth Service is leading the way for R U OK? Day on Thursday, September 10.
R U OK? Day is the national day of action when we remind Australians that every day is the day to ask, "Are you OK?" if someone in your world is struggling with life's ups and downs.
Because of current COVID-19 restrictions the day will be marked a little differently in Dungog than in previous years . There will be a mindfullness activity and information and advice available at The Common from around 10am.
But there will also be a permanent reminder left after the day to spark the conversation about mental health with the town's participation in the Blue Tree Project.
On Thursday, September 10, residents are invited to come along to The Common where an old dead tree which is visible from the road will be painted blue.
The Blue Tree Project's mission is to help spark difficult conversations and encourage people to speak up when battling mental health concerns.
The Blue Tree project started when a young man and a friend mischievously painted a dead tree on his parents' property blue as a prank. Years later it was discovered by the farmer and became a powerful symbol of the need to talk about suicide in regional communities. The man's son went on to die by suicide.
Community member Nick Helyer wanted Dungog to be one of the more than 500 communities which has a dead tree painted blue, to remind people to check in on friends and family if they are having a "blue" day.
When My Helyer approached the board which manages The Common, the board members had no problem giving the go ahead for the project. Lisa Dyer, Adolescent and Family Counsellor/Caseworker at Dungog Shire Community Centre also came on board as part of the centre's R U OK? Day event.
My Helyer is involved in numerous organisations in the Dungog shire such as Legacy, the RSL Sub-Branch, Vietnam Veterans among others but more personally, a good friend of his experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disroder (PTSD).
He said while the project may not be finalised on Thursday, it will be a great start.
The tree has been identified and only the trunk will be painted so as not to interfere with any wildlife.
"It will act as a focus for all types of mental health and mental illness and starts the conversation," he said.
"Someone asks 'why is that tree blue?' and you explain why it's blue. It gets us talking.
"There's still huge tracts of the community that don't want to talk about it because it's too difficult."