Share the burden, march as one

February 13, 2019 BY

Walking for talking: Carlee Grant, Glenn Manton, Lesley and John Shanahan, Josh Martin and Felicity Preston hope their walk will encourage talks about mental health and save lives. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

OVER 185 people gathered in solidarity at a luncheon last Friday to launch this year’s Walking off the War Within campaign.

At the North Ballarat Sports Club, emergency services personnel, defence force groups and the broader Ballarat community came together ahead of this year’s walking event, to be held around the perimeter of St Patrick’s College on Saturday, 23 March.

The initiative started two years ago in memory of returned solider and firefighter, Nathan Shanahan and other fallen service people who have taken their own lives after battling mental health issues.

In 2015, Nathan travelled over 400 kilometres on foot from Mildura to Adelaide with a 20kg backpack to raise awareness and funds for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

He was a fierce advocate for mental health, but sadly lost his own battle in 2016. Walking Off the War Within continues Nathan’s legacy.

Participants of Ballarat’s 2019 walk are challenged to complete 20km carrying 20kg of weight to ‘share the burden and march as one.’

Nathan’s father, John Shanahan welcomed sponsors and supporters of the walk to Friday’s function and thanked them.

“It’s something that I’m extremely proud of and I know Nath would be looking down and saying these people are all on the same journey as what he was, in trying to get reform for mental health,” Mr Shanahan said.

Josh Martin worked with Nathan, knew him for 20 years and is honoured to continue his legacy.

He hopes the walk will bring together a broad spread of the community, reminding people that it’s always OK to talk about how you feel and it’s important for those listening to follow up.

“We’re going forward and ahead… there’s a lot more people involved which generates a lot more awareness about it,” Mr Martin said.

He was grateful to have the support of AFL personalities Danny Frawley and Glenn Manton, and Beyond Blue’s Kym Frost who were all speakers at Friday’s lunch. Mr Manton said it was a pleasure to be involved.

“I’m very, very impressed with the level of commitment and infrastructure that’s gone into this particular luncheon and cause itself,” he said.

“These are people that are playing for keeps. They really want to invite and maintain change.”

The event’s driving force, Carlee Grant said the lunch was an opportunity six weeks out from the walk to encourage people to register and tell 10 friends.

All ages and fitness levels will come together to walk and talk about ending the stigma, and participants are asked to wear their group’s colours or uniform, if applicable, to display a united front in tackling depression and PTSD head on.

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