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'S'hare our Hares' to promote mental health, urges NHS trust

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is urging people to "s'hare" its baby GoGoHares on social media to show their support for people living with mental health conditions.

Artwork created by the Trust's service users and staff for the GoGoCreate element of the GoGoHares art trail goes on display today (Monday, July 2).

Hope the Hare and Care Hare were decorated by people facing mental health challenges – including dementia – carers and the staff working with them.

The two sculptures have now taken up position in Castle Mall and The Forum, respectively, where it is hoped they will raise awareness of mental health issues.

People exploring the art trail are encouraged to take photographs of themselves with the two hares and post the selfies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media with a few positive words about what 'hope' and 'caring' mean to them, along with the hashtag #NSFThares.

They are also urged to retweet and share other people's positive Hope the Hare and Care Hare photos and messages to show the importance of both nurturing mental wellbeing in ourselves and in others and providing mental health services, such as those offered by NSFT, to those who need support.

The hares are two of the 164 leveret or baby hare sculptures which have been painted by a variety of organisations, schools and clubs across the county.

The GoGoCreate sculptures have gone on display at locations around Norwich until 2 September in an art trail being run by the children's charity Break and Wild in Art. There is also a large art trail of 50 hares representing the 50 years since Break was established and a further 18 around the county.

Service users and staff on the Rollesby, Waveney, Glaven and Thurne Wards at NSFT's Hellesdon Hospital spent a number of weeks decorating Hope the Hare to illustrate the power of hope in recovery.

Meanwhile, staff and patients, and their relatives, at NSFT's Hammerton Court specialist dementia unit and Sandringham Ward acute admissions unit in Norwich decorated Care Hare. The design includes a road to represent the journey that patients and their families take and incorporates messages from patients describing what care means to them.

Art Psychotherapist Jake Whitbread and Senior Occupational Therapist Debs Agar, who work in NSFT's Central Norfolk Acute Services, worked with service users on Hope the Hare.

Service users chose the name and helped to come up with the design, and enjoyed expressing their creativity and supporting one another while decorating the sculpture.

Jake said the whole experience had been very positive for everyone involved as they explored the power of hope in recovery, especially in the area of mental health.

He added: "It was designed as a jigsaw puzzle to symbolise how life does not always fit together and can, at times, require a lot of work to get each piece of the puzzle of our lives to fit, while realising some pieces don't fit together and that is okay and we can develop coping strategies to work round some of the difficult situations that life places us in.

"The project is also a practical example of how, when we work together showing mutual respect and understanding of one another's experiences, positive development and change can be achieved through having hope within ourselves and in others.

"The creation of Hope the Hare highlights the beauty that can come from working as a team and by providing hope and encouragement that things in life are in their nature imperfect but through positive development can be accomplished to a level of satisfaction."

He added: "It would mean so much to our service users if people would share their Hope the Hare selfies on social media, showing how important mental health is to them and how much they appreciate the effort that goes into recovery."

Donna Townshend, Senior Occupational Therapist at Hammerton Court, where Care Hare was created, said: "Giving older people living with dementia, depression and anxiety opportunities to take part in creative and social activities is among a number of life-enhancing treatments we offer here.

"Such activities play an important part in their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

"So, encouraging our patients to get involved in painting our very own baby GoGoHare was too good an opportunity to miss, and they have responded so well to it.

"There was such a good vibe, it was really touching to see."

She added: "It would be a great show of support to our patients, their families and our staff if people would share their selfies with our beautiful hare, to show how much they care about people living with dementia, their families and the dedicated staff who help them."

When the trail has finished, Hope the Hare and Care Hare will return to Hellesdon Hospital and Hammerton Court, respectively, where service users, visitors and staff can continue to enjoy the works of art and the messages of hope and caring that they represent.

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