Recycling old jeans to soothe souls

Out-of-work anthropologist Vickie Hartland has found her groove recycling old jeans to create bears that bring comfort to people around the globe. 

“Making Comfort Bears is my accidental business,” Vickie said when I met her recently at the Cairns Esplanade Markets.

“When found myself out of work, I made a bear for my grandson and put a picture on Facebook then suddenly got orders from all over the world.”

jeansVickie said her Comfort Bears were often used as Grief Bears.  

“People grieving the loss of loved ones have got something they can cuddle.

“When my brother died, his youngest son started sleep walking and we’d find him curled up in a wardrobe or under his dad’s clothes until he got a Comfort Bear.

“For years after my sister lost her husband, she still had his pillow and uniform in a zip lock bag so she could still smell him.

“Another lady whose dad had passed away 10 years earlier still had all of his clothes until she got one of my bears and was able to let go.

Vickie said the Comfort Bears were also ideal for children with autism because they liked a sense of everything the same every day.

“While a child sleeps, you can pop the bear in the washing machine and dryer, then take it back into them and the child never knows it’s gone.”

Vickie’s handmade bears are created from up-cycled denim jeans.

“It’s ridiculous how many jeans end up as landfill. We don’t wear jeans all year round and every season people get new jeans and the old ones end up either in op shops or as landfill.

“My first trade was an upholsterer. I haven’t done it for many years but I’ve gone back to my original skill set.”

You can meet Vickie at the Cairns Esplanade Markets every Saturday, 8am to 4pm by the Lagoon.

Banishing the ‘C’ word from suicide

“SUICIDE is not a sin and is no longer a crime, so we should stop saying that people ‘commit’ suicide.”

That message from Beyond Blue advisers was explored by Fraser Coast expert Dr Dorothy Ratnarajah when she presented a counselling workshop at USQ Fraser Coast in July 2013.

Dr Ratnarajah, a clinical counsellor with 14 years’ higher degree research experience in suicide bereavement, said suicide was a cause of death yet people never said someone “committed cancer” or “committed heart failure”, even when those affected may have lived lifestyles that contributed to such diseases (for example, smoking or having a high fat diet).suicide

“Even suggesting they ‘committed’ such diseases sounds ludicrous and yet every day we see such examples in relation to suicide. So, let us commit to being vigilant and challenge the use of stigmatising language whenever we hear it used in connection with suicide.”

Instead of “committed suicide,” people should say  “died by suicide.”

USQ Lecturer and counsellor Nathan Beel said banishing the ‘C’ word was discussed along with myths and truths when Ms Ratnarajah presented the workshop for Fraser Coast human service providers and university students.

“Attendees gained increased awareness of the risk factors and prevention strategies based on the research of leading expert Professor Thomas Joiner,” Mr Beel said.

For help with emotional difficulties, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or

For help with depression, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 or at

The SANE Helpline is 1800 18 SANE (7263) or at 


FEATURE PHOTO: Eleasha Mitchell (left), Marianne Lawson, Rhiannon Beard attend a workshop run by Dr Dorothy Ratnarajah and USQ lecturer and counsellor Nathan Beel.