Shining a light on mental health with suncatchers

A Mindfulness Month fundraiser that shone light around the motu
Found in: Stories

Content warning: This article includes references to suicide.

This July marked the second year of Mindfulness Month. In collaboration with The Kindness Institute and Pause Breathe Smile, Mindfulness Month is an opportunity for tangata to discover the magic of mindfulness while fundraising to advocate for a better mental health system.  

In total, nearly 3,000 people across the motu took part, raising over $55,000. These funds will support our Policy & Advocacy team as they continue to influence and advise decision makers, make submissions on laws that promote and enable positive mental health and wellbeing, and more. 

To learn about this area of our mahi, click here. 

 Content warning: This article includes references to suicide.

Sarah-Jane Bell, based in Palmerston North, was our top individual fundraiser for the month, raising an incredible total of $2,664. To achieve this, she handmade and sold 188 suncatchers, 49 dangles, 43 earrings, 11 keychains, and 2 necklaces.  

We sat down with her to learn more about what inspired this creative feat, and what Mindfulness Month meant to her.  

What made you want to take part in Mindfulness Month this year? 

“I have my own mental health challenges, so when I saw Mindfulness Month advertised, it resonated. I try and complete a fundraiser for a different charity/organisation each year, but this is the first time that I've fundraised for something that I have personal lived experience with.” 

“It's been pretty special to be able to fundraise for a cause that's really close to my heart, that I know not only I, but others, have needed to find tools for our wellbeing.” 

Mental Health Foundation

How did the idea of making suncatchers come about? 

“My husband purchased me a suncatcher for my birthday back in June. All the suncatchers in my window have silver string on them, but the newest addition had brown. I decided to re-string it to match the others. It was then that I had the thought "I wonder how hard it would be to make suncatchers of my own?" It just so happened to coincide with the start of Mindfulness Month. So, I took a leap of faith, going from never having made them before, feeling unsure if anyone would want them, to making and selling them.” 

What do they symbolise for you? 

“My aunty passed away from heart failure in 2020. She was, and still is, a bright light in my life. She had suncatchers in her home which she loved. At a gypsy fair several months after she passed away, I saw a tree of life suncatcher and decided to buy it in remembrance of her. It hangs in my office window at home, where I get to admire it each day as I work at my desk.”  

“So, to begin with, suncatchers symbolised a way of remembering a loved one who was no longer with me. However, over time, they have become a symbol of hope for me, and a tool I use to remind me that even in times of darkness, there is always hope that the light will shine again, but in order to see that happen I need to keep moving forward on my own journey.” 

Mental Health Foundation

What about the butterfly suncatchers? 

“My friend Ness died by suicide last year. She also inspires me and continues to be a light in my life. The butterfly suncatchers I made as part of my fundraiser were in honour of her. The one that hangs in my window also adorns an artificial flower she wore in her hair at my wedding as my bridesmaid. Ness loved butterflies. They were a symbol of hope and transformation for her. In recent years, I too have found great comfort in the symbolism that we can transform from one thing into another.” 

Can you share some stories about the suncatchers you’ve made? 

💗 A suncatcher made for a terminally ill family member's room, whilst having palliative care
💗 Suncatchers made in honour of a wee girl who only made it to just over a month old
💗 Suncatcher competitions with siblings to see who could make the most rainbows
💗 A friend purchasing a suncatcher for someone who had just had a miscarriage
💗 The toddler that insisted Mum moved the suncatcher to wherever they were in the house
💗 The child who couldn't sleep and kept asking Mum to see the suncatcher
💗 Creating a suncatcher and being told I managed to embody that person's entire personality
💗 Suncatchers purchased in remembrance of a loved one no longer earth side 

Mental Health Foundation

What was your Mindfulness Month and fundraising experience like? What did you learn? 

“I’m still blown away by how many people got behind my fundraising. I made 25 suncatchers or so on my first day alone. I’ve also been really open about my own mental health journey and my grieving process around Ness’ suicide. So many people have reached out and shared their stories with me. It’s been a very humbling experience, and one of the most rewarding. Completing Mindfulness Month has also reminded me how important it is to practice gratitude, and that what we focus on grows.” 

For anyone wanting to make a difference and fundraise for the Mental Health Foundation, or any other cause close to their heart, what advice do you have?

“For me, this was one of the most daunting fundraisers I've participated in. I felt hugely out of my comfort zone. But I underestimated the power of my own and Ness' story, which people felt connected to by their own stories. So, if you can, share with people a piece of your own journey (even if it's not the whole story), as they will likely connect with that part of your story, and want to support you.”

Mental Health Foundation

Sarah-Jane continues to make and sell her creations in support of the Mental Health Foundation’s kaupapa.
To make a purchase, check out her Instagram:
If you’d like to register your interest in Mindfulness Month 2024, click here.
Otherwise, you can start your own fundraiser here

Mental Health Foundation