Take A Seat Whanganui, Let’s Chat About Big Things!

The creators of the Chatterbox Seat, Emily Turnbull and Whanganui-based company Urban Effects are on a mission to get people talking about the big things this Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 September 2023).  

Designed to build awareness and help remove the stigma around mental health, the first Chatterbox Seat was installed at Point Chevallier beach in Auckland in time for last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, with the support of the Auckland Council and the Albert-Eden Board. .

For this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Emily and Urban Effects are calling on other local communities to follow Auckland Council’s lead and take the simple, easy step of installing their own New Zealand made Chatterbox Seats to foster healthier and more connected communities.

For every Chatterbox Seat installed, Urban Effects will donate one I Am Hope youth counselling session, Mike King’s mental health charity that provides counselling and mental health education for young people nationwide.

When Emily’s husband Darryl Paton died by suicide in 2019, there was only a handful of people who knew he had bipolar.  Darryl felt deep self-stigma, believing that he would be treated differently or judged if people knew of his diagnosis, so he kept it a secret from friends and family.  Emily’s now on a mission to get Aotearoa more comfortable ‘chatting about the big things’.

“As a community, we must get more comfy having chatter that matters,” Ms Turnbull said.

“We need to make sure it feels as normal to chat about the big things, as it does to sit down on a bench in a park.

“Every chat is an opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life,” she said.

Urban Effects CEO, Simon Filleul, said the Chatterbox Seat is not just any ordinary, everyday piece of street furniture, it’s a symbol of a community’s support of wellbeing and mental health.

“The Chatterbox Seat provides an open invitation to pause, sit down, and truly connect with others. Whether those people are friends, family or strangers passing by – by sitting here, it means you’re keen to chat,” Mr Filleuel said.

“In a world where it’s often difficult to talk about how we’re feeling, the Chatterbox Seat reminds us that it’s perfectly okay not to be okay – and chatting about it really helps,“ Mr Filleul said.

A Ministry of Health survey revealed that in 2021/22, the number of young people (15-24 years) experiencing high or very high psychological distressed had doubled in little more than a year, as had the number who had attempted suicide.

Connection is one of the simple, proven ways to boost wellbeing highlighted in Five Ways, Five Days, this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, run annually by the Mental Health Foundation since 1993.

Designed and manufactured in New Zealand by Urban Effects, the bright and beautiful Chatterbox Seat features wide, platform-style seating with a comfortable backrest, making it the perfect spot to stop, breathe, relax and strike up a conversation. Signage on the seat provides people with a number to call to talk to a trained counsellor if they need support.

For more than 30 years, award-winning street furniture specialists Urban Effects – which has manufacturing centres in Whanganui and Rangoira – has been helping shape and update spaces that enrich daily lives across New Zealand and Australia.

Contact Urban Effects on Freephone: 0508 487 226 to order a Chatterbox Seat for your community.

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