Sometime this past Tuesday morning, cheerful messages mysteriously began appearing on the sidewalks outside some of Bell’s mental health program locations. As the day advanced, staff and residents were delighted to open the door and step outside to see yellow suns, rainbows, flowers, and balloons drawn with sidewalk chalk.
As word spread from one residential home and apartment building to the next, everyone was wondering how these happy greetings got to be there. Even the sidewalk at Oasis House was decorated, cheering staff who have been coming in to create engaging online content for clubhouse members while they are unable to meet in person.
Arriving early in the mornings and working quietly, the ‘mystery chalker’ had escaped being found out but was sending photos by email to members of Bell’s community engagement team. Not to gain attention, but to share some of the joy. And they found out that the artist-in-question was going to strike again bright and early on Thursday morning.
So it was that Kris Stroup, director of Bell’s mental health services department was literally caught in the act – at ACT (the Assertive Community Treatment program office) – mask on her face and a bucket of sidewalk chalk in her hand.
Kris and her family had been cleaning out the garage over the weekend, she said, when she came across the tub of chalk, leftover from when her kids were little. Remembering how much fun it was, and thinking about all the posts she’s seen on Facebook recently of people decorating sidewalks, the idea soon came to mind that she would translate her feelings of love and support for the MH staff and service users into something they could see.
“I wanted to do something to lift their spirits and give them something to smile about,” she said. “And, truth be told, it ended up making me feel good, too.”
What a perfect way to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month.