A RAYLEIGH shop owner is using her premises to encourage random acts of kindness this Christmas.

Feathering Your Nest, a gift shop in Rayleigh High Street, is displaying hand painted angel wings, designed by Claire Louise, with the hope that visitors will stop to take photos with them.

Lesley Dunne, campaign organiser and shop owner, hopes these pictures will be posted to social media alongside the hashtags #MentalHealthAwareness to spread awareness of the issue as we approach the loneliest time of the year for many people.

The campaign is also encouraging random acts of kindness from locals, hoping they will also use the hashtag #RAOK with their pictures.

Ms Dunne, 55, from Thundersley, said: “You see on adverts people enjoying themselves, doing their shopping, things like that but for so many in reality it is a different story.

“Lots of kids are in poverty, people become separated and are spending time alone, some suffer with drug and alcohol addictions, people really are wrestling with their demons.

“So many suffer silently with the issue of mental health, some of my friends and family have suffered with anxiety.

“Around Christmas, more people are stressed and worried. I saw this happening and had the idea that a small simple act of kindness could turn someone’s day, or life, around. A kind word or gesture can make all the difference when someone is feeling down or suffering in some way.”

To inspire random acts of kindness, each day the store is giving a free gift to two lucky customers with a kind note, saying they can either keep the gift or pass it on to someone in need. They are also posting a random acts of kindness advent calendar on their social media, to encourage kind acts every day.

The shop’s Facebook page also encourages donations to the charity Samaritans, who provide emotional support for those with emotional distress.

Lesley said: “We are really passionate about this cause. The staff love doing it, it’s all about giving back. Having been planned for such a long time, it’s a dream to see it all in real life. If we all do our bit to help, listen to a friend, let someone out in a traffic queue, pay for a stranger’s coffee, we can be supportive as a society.”

Shop assistant at Feathering Your Nest, Joanne Quille, 43, from Rayleigh, said: “This is something that is important to all of our staff. There’s not anyone around that doesn’t know someone who has suffered with mental health issues, or have even suffered themselves.

“After working in the field of social work for 16 years, it is something I have seen a lot, particularly in adolescence.

“I think this campaign is a brilliant idea and hope we encourage people to stop and look around for those who may be having a hard time.”

The campaign will be running until December 25.