If your daily commute takes you along Adelaide Road you’ve probably spotted, over the last few weeks, a man with a sign sharing the simple message “smile...it’s free”.
Spurred on by his own experience with mental illness, Stephen Coard wondered what would happen if he walked around with a sign telling people to smile.
“Through study and life experience I’ve noticed more needs to be done for people who suffer from mental health,” he said.
“I studied mental health for the simple reason that I was experiencing mental health issues and wanted to heal myself.
“Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t getting the support I needed, so I took matters into my own hands and gave this a go.
“People have responded really well to it, they’ll smile and wave at me or beep in approval.”
Mr Coard said the response from people had been overwhelming and that his message had even prompted people to share their own experiences with him.
“Just the other day I had a lady, who had lost her mother two days prior, tell me that the reminder had dragged her out of a ‘really dark hole’ and she asked to take a photo so she could send it to her sisters, so that they too could feel better,” he said.
“I’ve also had people tell me that they’ve had the worst day in ages and seeing that message has seemed to help them put a smile on their face.”
Mr Croad said he began his quest to share his message around a month ago to promote positive engagement with others and said he intended to continue doing so as long as people seemed to need it.
“Sometimes when I’m feeling down and I’m walking down the street and someone smiles at me or says hello, that bit of positive engagement with another person will bring me out of it,” he said.
“It’s those small things that go a long way.
“I just hope that people can pass it along to someone else and help each other out, because you never know what someone else is going through.”