Bega Valley SPAN hosts 2017 Walk With Us event

The Bega Valley Suicide Prevention Action Network’s Walk With Us event fit perfectly with Mental Health Month’s theme, ‘share the journey’.

SPAN invited the community to walk together around the Old Bega Racecourse track on Saturday.

The weekend event drew a smaller crowd than expected, but created a more intimate atmosphere among attendees.

Bonnie Hull attended the event with parents Jane and Peter in memory of her sister, Courtney. Bonnie said the Walk With Us event helped to break down the stigma of suicide, especially among young people. 

“I was only 15 when Courtney died, and at the time there was nothing like this for me to turn to,” she said.

“I think for teens, it’s not easy to find people in a similar situation, so it becomes really hard to talk about.”

Bonnie saw first hand how her friends and schoolmates struggled to come to terms with the death of her sister.

“When I went back to school after Courtney’s death, I thought I would be overwhelmed with condolences, but I found the opposite, people actually avoided and bullied me,” she said.  

Bonnie now understands the negative reaction from her schoolmates was because of the stigma that still looms around suicide. 

“They didn’t know how to react, it made me embarrassed to talk about what happened, and I know people were embarrassed to talk to me as well,” she said. 

Bonnie believes the stigma of suicide stands in the way of prevention and healing, but with the development of SPAN and the rollout of Headspace mid next year, she said young people have better resources to deal with mental health issues.