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Mental Health Understanding – Green Poppies

This aspect of the project aims to progress understanding of mental health, ill and well, and promote conversations across our community about mental health. Participants will be supported in making poppies by our dedicated team of staff and volunteers, and encouraged to embellish a leaf with a story or an experience related to mental health.

We will work with translucent green fabrics and plastics, like organza, soda bottles, and treated shopping bags, to create delicate poppies on a realistic scale. Stems will be formed from coated wire; blossoms and leaves from plastics and sheer fabrics. These poppies will symbolize both the delicacy of the human mind and its toughness.

WWI and Mental Health

Although post-traumatic stress disorder was first identified in the Crimean War (1853-6), it was not widely accepted until World War I. The ordeal of trench warfare and the effects of mustard, phosgene and Chlorine gas left soldiers with a dazed thousand-yard stare, recurrent nightmares, tremors, sense of panic and hypersensitivity to sound. By the end of the war, 80,000 officers and ordinary soldiers had experienced “a mental disability which rendered the individual temporarily, at any rate, incapable of further service”.

WWI sparked the beginning of meaningful research into mental health, and ways of supporting those suffering from mental ill health. Mental ill health affects us all. 1 in 4 people will experience clinical depression, and yet, as a society, mental health is little understood. Stigma is sufficiently prevalent to obstruct many people from seeking support when they could benefit from it. Lessons learned from the traumas of WWI survivors have been relearned and progressed amongst more recent generations of soldiers and increased our understanding of ourselves and each other.

During the war, in psychiatric hospitals such as Craiglockhart in Edinburgh, where war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were patients, the recuperation process encouraged activities like gardening and sewing. Research was later to show that the repetitive motion of sewing and knitting leads to the release of a “happy hormone” that flushes toxic trauma hormones from the body, allowing for emotional healing.