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Elephant on Parade for Mental Health

The elephant on parade is a community project aiming to provoke the public into thinking about mental health and well-being. ‘Ele’, the elephant postbox, has visited various spots around York to encourage the public to open up in a safe, confidential and supportive environment, by writing down their personal elephants in the room and posting them in to ‘Ele’.

For Kym Kitching, the artist behind Project Ele, creating a way for people to open up about their worries has been a real passion project.  “The saying ‘elephant in the room’ is used to describe an issue that people are aware of but choose to avoid talking about. I wanted to use this saying, prompting people to discuss their elephants, to unload their worries.”

“Most of my experience with mental health is second hand. Having both family and close friends with some form of mental illness has greatly influenced my passion for it. As a bystander to mental illness I often felt helpless, it felt as though I merely had to sit back and watch my family and friends combat this internal issue as nothing I could do would make them better. But I quickly learnt that I didn't have to make a grand gesture, it was the small things that counted. It was simply asking how their day had been, spending time with them watching a film or even just making them a cup of tea. It was in these everyday small actions that I showed my support and that my support was felt. I learnt never to underestimate the power of small acts of kindness.”

After touring the city as part of the Love Arts York festival Ele will be taking up a month long residency at The Retreat York, to give patients and visitors from across the country the chance to experience the installation and share their thoughts with ‘Ele’

David Smith, Director of Development at The Retreat said “Mental illness can be difficult to talk about. For some they shy away because they are afraid of showing their lack of knowledge, saying the wrong thing or causing offence. For others it might be through fear of exposure, shame or guilt.

Our experience over the years has shown us that once we start to talk about our fears we can begin to overcome them. This is what Project Ele aims to achieve and this is why The Retreat is proud to be one of her first stops as she begins her journey travelling across the country.”