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Hopes ‘happy to chat’ bench trail in memory of Blairgowrie teen will tackle mental health stigma

A bench trail will be launched in Blairgowrie in memory of Jordan Hart.
A bench trail will be launched in Blairgowrie in memory of Jordan Hart.

A trail of benches in memory of a Blairgowrie teenager will create safe spaces for people to open up to each other, it is hoped.

The Happy to Chat trail will be launched next month, to honour Jordan Hart, who committed suicide in 2020 at just 16 years old.

Since the death of the former Blairgowrie High School pupil, his family have been working to share his story to raise awareness of mental health issues and create a legacy for Jordan.

Jordan Hart.

The Happy to Chat benches will span three trails of 50 uniquely designed benches across Blairgowrie, Rattray and the Cateran Trail.

It was initially supposed to be much smaller but after a wave of support from the Blairgowrie community and mental health charities, the trail was expanded.

Speaking to The Courier, Jordan’s sister Bethany, 21, said the Happy to Chat Bench Trail will launch next month.

Sit, chat and listen in memory of Jordan Hart

Bethany said: “These benches will be placed around our community in the hope that they encourage people to sit, chat and listen.

“The response we’ve had has been absolutely phenomenal.

“My mum, Susan, started a challenge in Jordan’s name to keep him living through us.

“She walked five kilometres every day for six months.

“Jordan was really sporty and my mum knew she wanted to do something with that in mind.”

‘We wanted to do something bigger’

Last year, a 24-hour “walkathon” was held in Jordan’s memory, raising £10,000 for mental health groups.

It was the amazing response which inspired the family to launch their trail.

This year, the second Wellmeadow Walkathon will be held on July 23, the same day as the bench trail is launched.

Bethany said: “Given the incredible turnout we knew we wanted to do something bigger in Jordan’s memory.

“What has happened though has far exceeded our expectations.

“Without the support of the groups the bench trail wouldn’t be possible.”

Sam Stewart and Bethany Hart on one of the benches, which is yet to be decorated.
Sam Stewart and Bethany Hart on one of the benches, which is yet to be decorated.

Sam Stewart, community engagement coordinator for Proactive Communities in  Blairgowrie and Rattray, said the community rallied together to support the Hart family after their loss.

She said: “We’ve had 42 groups helping to design the benches and get this trail off the ground.

“The Wellmeadow Walkathon raised almost £10,000 last year and that will be taking place on the same day we unveil the trail.

Participant in last year’s Wellmeadow Walkathon.
Walkers putting their best foot forward during Jordan’s Challenge.

“What struck me was how the community rallied during the walkathon last year.

“There was a solidarity that we had to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Proceeds from the walkathon will go towards the maintenance of the benches and also to create a mental health hub in town.”

‘Message for change’

Sam hopes the trail, and eventually a hub, will allow people to access mental health support locally.

She said: “One of the issues we have as a community is people are offered support after a waiting list for mental health services.

“They are told they need to travel to Perth or Dundee and if you’re struggling as it is people don’t travel to these appointments.

“As part of the fundraising efforts we wanted to fund free space so these services can come to the people.

“It’s a huge project and we want it to be a message for change.

“While on the trail people can find out about Jordan’s story.”

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