Hundreds of people affected by suicide braved cold and gloomy weather in Mornington Park on September 15 to support one another, grieve together and share stories of loss at Mornington’s third annual World Suicide Prevention Day walk.
The Mornington Peninsula Shire hosted the event in partnership with Chasing Change, a community-led volunteer group.
Chasing Change’s Kayla Shelbourne said the event was inspired by an annual walk in Melbourne after shire residents had asked for an opportunity to honour their loved ones without travelling too far.
“While the walk itself is only one kilometre around Mornington Park, it is really about coming together as a community,” said Shelbourne.
“Attendees can tie ribbons on the chain-link fence on The Esplanade to represent their loved ones and this [provides] a huge visual impact.
Between 2013 and 2017, there has been an average of 2,918 deaths by suicide per annum in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This equates to an average of eight people per day.
“While we want to provide a safe space for those who are bereaved to come together, it is also about education and awareness,” said Shelbourne.
The morning started with a number of events including a sausage sizzle, children’s games, a communal art piece and information stalls.
Before the walk began at 10am, a sea of people huddled together to hear several guest speakers tell of their experiences of dealing with suicide. The speakers offered words of encouragement and support to the gathering before reading out names of loved ones lost to suicide.
Many attendees found the morning extremely emotional, with people often seen embracing in tears and comforting each other.
Andrew Joseph, the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Youth Services Team Leader, said the feedback since the walk’s inception in 2017 had been “incredibly positive”.
“For us to allow a space and a time for people to come together to communicate, share stories, grieve together, talk about hope…that’s a really positive thing. There’s also opportunities to look at how we can work better together to address these issues,” Joseph said.
“It’s important for everyone to take part in these sorts of events to raise the awareness around mental health and how we all need to support each other and address these concerns.”
Lifeline statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, and according to a new report Turning Points: Imagine a World Without Suicide, if current trends continue, the rate of suicide is likely to increase by 40 per cent by 2029.
Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4646.