He was fighting for his life

INNER BATTLE: Nathan Shanahan, who served with the Australian Defence Force in the Solomon Islands, was a fierce mental health advocate before taking his own life in 2016.
INNER BATTLE: Nathan Shanahan, who served with the Australian Defence Force in the Solomon Islands, was a fierce mental health advocate before taking his own life in 2016.

Ballarat veteran Nathan Shanahan's tragic suicide reminded us even mental health advocates can succumb to what they campaign so hard against.

But the sudden death of the soldier turned firefighter in December was not in vain.

A crowd of more than 1500 will flock to Victoria Park at 9am on Saturday for a walk to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder.

And there is still room for people to sign up.

John Shanahan, Nathan’s father, has made an impassioned plea for anyone in Ballarat to come down if they have spare time.

“There’s a lot of very kind and charitable people in Ballarat that have come on board with us, and it’s amazing how much awareness we’ve brought to light,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of heartbreak, there’s been a lot of disappointment. But the first year doing this is always going to be the hardest."

John, who works at Bakery Hill’s IGA, said many had approached him in recent weeks and confided their problems in the hope of normalising mental illness.

His only son Nathan did just that, setting off on a 400-kilometre walk in 2015 to Adelaide from Mildura, where he was working with the CFA.

But it was not just to raise awareness around PTSD – it is now clear he was fighting for his life.

Nathan’s health started spiraling out of control in the last few months of 2016 after he had trouble dealing with memories of his military service.

John Shanahan and granddaughter Harriette Preston, 7.

John Shanahan and granddaughter Harriette Preston, 7.

It was a struggle he lost out to in December, leaving behind his two young children.

But the Ballarat community has rallied to their support.

The entire day will be free, with food, coffee and children’s activities catered for.

Nathan’s favourite mental health service will be on site called Soldier On, which John reserved special praise for.

For more details, head to facebook.com/walkingoffthewarwithin/.

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Soldier On 1300 620 380 
  • Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service 1800 011 046