MENTAL health advocate John Shanahan fears society is failing those who are struggling. Mr Shanahan is calling on businesses to take workplace well-being strategies for employees more seriously, including flexibility to take mental health days or to seek professional help without fear of repercussion or judgement.
The national suicide toll has risen from 2866 lives lost in 2016 to 3,128 people in the year after.
Mr Shanahan has called for more proactive measures across all sectors in society.
"We've really got to take a good look at ourselves. The message isn't getting out there, we're not halting it, the suicide rate is increasing and that's a sad indictment on society," Mr Shanahan said.
Mr Shanahan has been heartened by another addition to the Walking Off the War Within movement with an event in Warrnambool on Sunday, one day after the third annual Ballarat walk.
Returned servicemen Chris Rantall and Adam Kent will lead a walk around Lake Pertobe, carrying the 20-kilogram packs, and wanting their community to know they are ready to share the burden of post-traumatic stress.
Walking Off the War Within started in the footsteps of Ballarat's Nathan Shanahan, a former soldier and firefighter, who died in December 2015 with PTS and depression. Nathan had walked 400km to raise awareness in the year before his death.
His father and fellow firefighters kept walking and now do so with a community focus on the ripple effects on all affected by mental health.
Emergency services and military personnel unite in the 20km challenge but everyone is welcome to walk as much or as little as they like. In Ballarat, the course will be entirely based at St Patrick's College this year so supporters can see walkers en route more often.
Mr Shanahan has been working to encourage at-risk youth to get involved in the walk for support and for better understanding in mental health issues.
Walking Off the War Within will feature five events, including a new walk in Kalgoorlie where Nathan's mates and their families have pushed for awareness. The Canberra walk will be based once more at the Australian War Memorial and the Northern Territory event will be a combine effort in Darwin, Alice Springs and Yulara.
In Warrnambool, Mr Kent knew about the Ballarat event, and Nathan's story, and saw a need in his community.
"We know that we've got veterans here who get out of the military and isolate themselves," Mr Kent said. "We know they have so much to give and we want to give them a place they can go and see they are not alone."
The Ballarat challenge is at St Patrick's College on Saturday from 9am. There will also be family activities. More: walkingoffww.com.
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