‘OUT OF THE SHADOWS’ walk will take place on Saturday 12th September to commemorate the International Day of Suicide Prevention. The International Day of Suicide Prevention falls on the 10th September annually but the Ballarat & District Suicide Prevention Network holds the walk on the closest Saturday to that date.
The reason for the walk being conducted so early and in darkness is symbolic of the dark place that people suffering with mental illness or suicidal ideology often find themselves in a dark place.
The Ballarat walk has been going for 3 years and continues to grow with more than 160 persons participating last year.
The walk was shortened from the inaugural year which was a walk around the lake, to allow greater participation by all members of the community. The current walk is a very moving event with three reflection points where families can remember loved ones who have completed suicide.
Commencing at 5.30am from the rotunda beside Pipers on the Parade it is a 2.5km walk through the Ballarat Botanical Gardens (lit with tea light candles at that hour of the morning). Current Chairperson of the Ballarat & District Suicide Prevention Network is Des Hudson who is in the position through his role as the Ballarat Police Youth Resource Officer. He is aptly supported by Vice Chair Kellie Dunn, Manager Lifeline Ballarat. “The Out of The Shadows is probably one of our more significant events that we hold each year in order to allow the community, for those people who have had a family member complete suicide, to come out to a very therapeutic environment to share their story, participate in the walk and reflect,” Des said. Kellie added, “One of the things we do is we mention peoples’ names who have passed away by suicide, so they are not hidden and that’s part of reducing the stigma and creating more awareness.
“I’ll never forget the first year we did it – I remember walking alongside a gentleman and I said to him ‘who are you walking for today?’ and he said ‘me’. I asked if he wanted to share a little of his story and he said ‘every day I contemplate suicide, every day’. “I just felt so humbled and privileged to walk by his side and I often think of him, I’ve never seen him again and I don’t know if I ever will but that is what that walk is about, so that we can be with each other, shoulder to shoulder, side by side, to celebrate and remember those people but also to save the lives of people like that gentleman that I walked alongside that day.”
“When you think of asking people to turn up at the Lake at 5am, and we are normally there much earlier setting up, but it’s almost like that field of dreams and you just see cars and cars and headlights appearing and suddenly you have almost 200 people there at 5am, such is the issue,” Des continued.
The statistics are that 7 people in Australia will die from suicide every day; we lose more people who commit suicide every year than the combined road toll of every state put together. That’s a significant amount and it’s not talked about and often not addressed that is why the work of groups such as the Ballarat & District Suicide Prevention Network is vital. At the conclusion of the walk a complimentary BBQ breakfast is offered, cooked by the Rotary Club of Ballarat South. A coffee van will also be available if people would like to purchase coffee after the event.
People can register to participate in the walk via web site; www.outoftheshadows.org.au and click on the Find a Walk near you. Locate the Ballarat Walk and follow the directions.
People who register for the event will receive a wrist band but registering prior to the event is not compulsory but Kellie adds that people may not necessarily want to walk where they live and the website will direct them to the most appropriate place.