‘Wesley the elephant’ raises awareness about mental health
It’s time we talk about elephant in the room and remove the stigma surrounding mental illness once and for all.
On Tuesday morning, Wesley Mission took to the streets of Sydney’s CBD to invite Sydneysiders to talk openly and honestly about mental health. But they didn’t go alone. They were accompanied by Wesley, a giant inflatable elephant. While in previous years, this eye-catching mascot remained in our head office on Pitt Street, this year, Wesley has been given the chance to take the message of mental health out into the city.
“The decision to take Wesley out of the office for the first time was a ‘no brainer’,” said Event Officer, Edel. “Mental illness is a public issue, and the point we’re trying to make is that it shouldn’t be hidden away.”
As people passed by, they couldn’t help but be drawn to the visual pun. Yet it was the underlying message that really captured their attention. As Edel and her team handed out little Wesley ‘stress elephants’, not only did they have the chance to raise awareness around mental health, they were also able to start conversations with those who could be helped by our internationally recognised mental health services at Wesley Hospitals in Kogarah and Ashfield. While some Sydneysiders simply congratulated the team on the campaign, one woman wanted to learn more about the services offered at Wesley Hospitals for a friend. Another was looking for help to deal with her addiction.
Edel said through her field research with patients, she’s found that Wesley Hospitals offer a level of care that can be found at few other private providers.
“I think it’s the genuine care and compassion that our patients receive that makes all the difference,” she said. “The girls from the eating disorder units—they’ve said that they feel they have a voice there and feel they are being genuinely listened to. That’s a powerful thing.”
The team handed out more than 400 ‘stress elephants’ on the day. It’s far more than they had planned to part with, but their popularity, particularly with stressed office workers, signalled the campaign's success.
You can catch Wesley the elephant again this Friday in Sydney's Hyde Park. Stop by for a chat and receive a small Wesley stress toy. Take a photo with Wesley and post your photo on social media, using #wesleymission, to help us shine a light on mental health.