John Shanahan becomes staunch mental health advocate after death of veteran son Nathan

Brian Maher, John Tuddenham with Paddy, John Shanahan and Stephen Crane

Brian Maher, John Tuddenham with Paddy, John Shanahan and Stephen Crane

Nathan Shanahan had made it his life mission to increase the community’s awareness of mental health.  

An ex-Australian solider who spent six years serving his country, Nathan walked more than 400 kilometres in 2015 to raise funds for his favourite charity Soldier On, supporting physically and psychologically wounded veterans.

Nathan took his own life in December 2016 after a long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Less than one year on since Nathan died, his father John Shanahan has stepped into the role of staunch mental health advocate. 

“Before he left and after he returned from his walk, he did a lot of public talking about his demons,” he said. 

“He discussed his mental health in order to raise the community’s awareness of suicide and PTSD.

There should be no stigma with suicide, and society needs to face up to the fact that we have to be responsible as a whole.

John Shanahan

“When he did take his own life, I felt very compelled to carry on his legacy, and it’s something I’m very proud of being able to do.” 

The pain of losing his son will always be raw for John, but he’s now advocating for society to be more proactive as a whole.

“The way mental health is funded is you only get 10 sessions a year, and after that 10 sessions, they consider that you must be alright,” he said. 

“Imagine if they did that with cancer.

“Better funding is something society needs to get behind, because it is a growing and major concern.

“Corporates also need to step up, they have a duty of care to their workers.

“We all need to be more aware than ever to be able to tackle this insidious disease.”

The Elders Insurance Old Sniff Classic sheepdog trials raised $730, donated to Soldier On in Nathan’s memory. 

Soldier On provides support for physically and psychologically wounded Australian veterans.

Dean Recreation Reserve President Brian Maher said the community was proud to raise funds for the cause. 

“I’ve known John since before the event of Nathan taking his own life,” he said. 

“Raising money was really about helping out a mate who was struggling big time after the death of his son. I could see it in his eyes.”

John said he expected the Walking Off The War Within event would take place again next year, with hopes it would continue to increase mental health awareness.