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Mental health mural painted in Tonbridge by young people alongside NCS

A poignant mural encouraging young people to speak about mental health has been painted in a town centre.

The artwork was designed by Tonbridge residents alongside charity National Citizen Service (NCS).

Handprints of everyone from children to the elderly decorate a painted tree at the centre of the Priory Road mural.

Tonbridge charity's striking paintings brighten the town

Each hand represents someone who wants to see mental health problems in young people eradicated.

Motivational quotes including "You're amazing" and "Nobody needs smothering, everyone needs space to grow." feature on the 20m commission.

There is also a list of helplines for anyone in need of support.

One young lady involved in the project, Rose Boniface said: "I never really thought we could make this sort of impact when we first started.

The striking mural has handprints of everyone from toddlers to dogs
The striking mural has handprints of everyone from toddlers to dogs

"It was just a chance to do something for the summer and get me out the house.

"But we have actually had people come up to us while we were painting it saying how it has impacted them.

"It is really nice to know it will be there for a while instead of being a one-time thing."

The idea was to give young people a platform to speak out, and through this, encourage passers-by to be more open about their problems.

Johnny Soutan, NCS programme manager
Johnny Soutan, NCS programme manager

Johnny Soutan, NCS programme manager, said: "I think there is lots more mental health awareness now compared to a few years ago.

"Youngsters are more open to stepping forward and saying they have a problem which is great."

Another who worked on the mural, Annabel Overy, said: "It is wonderful seeing everyone come together - we have even got some dogs paw-prints on the mural.

Rose Boniface
Rose Boniface

"People passing by are opening up about their mental health issues which is really lovely."

The team had to get permission from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Southeastern and Network Rail before starting the mural.

NCS and the young people who worked so hard to get it up in the first place are hoping it will go towards helping those in need of some support.

The charity runs a voluntary programme for 15 to 17-year-olds funded largely by money from the government, to help them get engaged with their local community.

Read more: All the latest news from Tonbridge

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