With the support of Lions Australia, the kids of Busselton, WA, have been able to explore mindfulness and mental health with a sprinkle of magic.
It’s tough enough for adults to sit still and practice mindfulness, let alone convince kids to do the same. But Paula Farley, youth program manager for the mental health support organisation Lamp Inc in Busselton, WA, came up with an ingenuous idea: the Unicorn Project.
“Young people need creativity and imagination to be able to function well and kick in the endorphins that allow good mental health,” says the 47-year-old. “We decided on the unicorn as the means to open up conversations around what is good mental health and allow the children to decorate the unicorn with positive messages, strategies and skills.”
In March, with a one metre-high wooden unicorn made by members of the local Men’s Shed in tow, she visited two local Year 5 classes to teach the children practices that would help them deal with anxiety. This included learning about the calming effects of deep breathing – practised by blowing bubbles around the unicorn, which they’d decorated in brightly-coloured drawings.
The 30 kids involved were also taught how to shift their awareness from the thoughts whirling around their heads to the present moment, by focusing on their physical senses. They did this by doing breathing exercises as they popped bubble wrap, also known – to the students’ delight – as “frozen unicorn farts”.
“Mindfulness is meant to be fun as far as I’m concerned!” says Paula with a laugh. Kids now call her the “Unicorn Lady”, a title she says means she’s getting through to them.
The project was made possible by a $1000 grant in October from the 42 members of the Busselton Lions Club as part of last year’s Community 100 Initiative. “As the project was targeted at the mental health in younger people, I thought this was something that needed looking at,” says club secretary Philip Caunt.
“Children as young as seven were being referred to Lamp for help,” he says. “Parents are becoming increasingly supportive of their children when they suffer mental health issues. This is where the Unicorn Project is used in seven-to-12 year olds.”
Busselton Lions continues to work with Lamp Inc and, “They’ve been very generous with their donations,” says Paula, who has lived in Busselton for almost eight years since moving to Australia from the UK.
She hopes this project will one-day be nationwide. “It’s been quite magical in its ability to be able to bring lots of different people together,” she says. “I’d like to be able to get it out to as many schools as possible.”
To find out more about Lamp Inc, visit https://lampinc.org.au/. To contact the Busselton Lions Club, visit http://busselton.wa.lions.org.au/
Story courtesy of Country Style Magazine