While most garden gnomes are designated to a life amongst plants, Laura had a better idea. She uses these familiar creatures as a symbol for her mental health project, Gnomebody Is Alone. We had a chance to interview Laura to learn more about her background and her project.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Laura and I am a single mom of two amazing young girls. Having my Dad reject me since birth has always given me insecurities and subsequently led to depression. I grew up in the GTA (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada). My mom was also a single Mom, so I am always inspired by her and how strong she was. I studied History and Political Science at York University then transferred to Sheridan College to pursue Medical Office Administration. I am hoping to continue schooling further and study nursing. Other than being a mom, I enjoy playing hockey and soccer, and shopping. After having children, I have reprioritized my life and now focus on spending a great deal of my time doing what I love. My goal is to not get caught up in the rat race of life, but rather live a life of minimalism. Placing emphasis on experiences, people, and places, rather than on ‘things’.
You’ve also created a unique mental health awareness project as well. What inspired you?
I started Gnomebody Is Alone out of my desire to make a difference if even a small one. The idea of using gnomes came from having a large bin of them in the garage. Anytime we went visiting or got new neighbors, we would randomly place the gnomes on their lawns. I noticed that it brought joy to people, even if only momentary. Mixing this simple gesture and my desire to do good, I came up with making small clay gnomes and placing them around the community for people to find. I directed my cause towards mental illness because I believe everyone will face a mental illness in their life. Whether it be a small bout of depression or a full blown mental illness that completely engulfs their entire being. I think society needs to shift in the direction of openly discussing how we feel. If you have a bad day – it isn’t taboo to talk about it. Humans feel emotions and are impacted by the things around them, they should embrace their feelings and find an outlet to help deal with them. My hope with the gnomes is that people realize that they aren’t alone, that what they are going through is completely normal and that if they feel they need help, they should get it. I have started doing local fundraising events in hopes of raising money to help organizations devoted to ending the negative stigma associated with mental illness.
Was it difficult to think of a name?
I knew I wanted it to pertain to the whole concept of Gnomes, but I also wanted it to be catchy… to draw people in. I started playing around with the word gnome and came to the conclusion of Gnomebody is Alone. I was really happy with the name because my goal is to help people realize that they are not alone in their illness. In my opinion, I feel like so many people suffer in silence because they are too ashamed or afraid to speak about mental illness. Once people start talking about it, they suddenly realize that in fact, they are not alone, but what they are experiencing is quite common.
How have people reacted to your project?
I have had mixed reviews at fundraising events. In no way have I had any negative feedback, I have just noticed that people are hesitant to approach the table. They give me an awkward smile and walk by. Others that I have had the opportunity to talk to have been quite happy to share their personal stories. It is really humbling to have such a profound conversation with a complete stranger. I love watching people walk away with the feeling that someone understands what they are going through. We live in a society where a lot of people are still extremely hesitant to discuss mental illnesses, my goal is to just make it ok to talk about. Mental illness is such a large component of who people are, they should not be ashamed.
Has creating this project had a significant impact on your own mental health?
I began this project initially because I wanted to do something small that could impact people in their daily lives. As I have received messages of where people have found my gnomes or spoke to people face to face about their personal experiences, it makes me feel stronger. I have always struggled with self-worth and this makes me realize that I do have a purpose. Even if it is just making clay gnomes, the message is getting out there; people are talking, realizing they aren’t alone. This brings a smile to my face.
How can other people help support Gnomebody Is Alone?
Of course, a follow on Instagram means a lot. You can also purchase gnomes from my Etsy store. I would love for people to share my initiative… let people know about the gnomes, buy one. I love leaving them around the community for people to find but I want my gnomes to travel far and wide. I gladly work with schools and mental health organizations to help incorporate the gnomes into their already existent projects/messages. Individuals can feel free to PM me on Instagram if they have any questions, requests, etc.