Drive along Hindmarsh Drive in Lyons and you’d be forgiven for thinking you had entered a Dr Suess book.
A large dead tree along the arterial road in Canberra’s south was painted a vibrant blue this week as part of the ‘Blue Tree Project’.
Founded in Western Australia in 2019, the project has become a national initiative to ease conversations around mental health. The blue trees symbolise “standing strong” and “being able to branch out to someone you trust”.
This year, the ACT Government agreed to join in and create the city’s second blue tree – the other is at the University of Canberra (UC) in Bruce.
On 22 May, ACT General Mental Health coordinator Dr Elizabeth Moore and Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson helped paint the tree, located on Hindmarsh Drive next to the off-ramp from the Tuggeranong Parkway.
Ms Davidson said it was particularly important, given the past three years.
“We know the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, and continues to impact, the mental health of the Canberra community,” she said.
“By painting a tree blue, we’re giving Canberrans a visual reminder to have those difficult conversations about mental health, to reach out when they’re experiencing mental health concerns, and to access the supports which are available.”
The government assures this particular tree is “not living” and does “not contain significant habitat elements”. An ecological survey of the trees in the area made certain no birds or other wild animals were using it for nesting. The paint itself is non-toxic, too.
“By spreading the blue paint, we’re spreading the message that help and support are available when Canberrans are experiencing a mental health challenge,” Ms Davidson said.
“Accessing early intervention mental health support can help people before they reach a crisis point and allows them to continue to stay engaged and connected with their community.”
Blue Tree Project CEO Kendall Whyte described the tree as “an exciting step … as we push into the east coast”.
“There are just under 1000 trees painted as part of the project, and many of them are now popping up on the east coast,” she said.
“It’s terrific to see our growing symbols spreading the importance of mental health … We hope the prominent location of the tree helps start many conversations around individuals’ wellbeing.”
More ACT trees will be painted blue in the coming years.