SCHOOL students will play a more active role Walking Off the War Within on Saturday morning as the event aims to step up awareness for mental health issues.
The event, while led by military and emergency services personnel, is increasingly shifting to a family-friendly community focus in a bid to get more people talking about mental health support.
Event co-founder John Shanahan has encouraged at-risk you he has met in school visits to take part in the Ballarat challenge to help improve their understanding of post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety so they too, can help break the stigma of mental health.
St Patrick's College boarders also play a support role in the event, which is based at their school grounds.
Participants can walk as much or as little of the 20-kilometre Ballarat challenge as they want. The ultimate challenge is for those who want to carry a 20-kilogram pack the whole journey, a gesture of sharing the burden.
This year's course is a 2km circuit so children and supporters can more easily join walkers for a lap along the way.
Walking Off the War Within started in the footsteps of Ballarat's Nathan Shanahan, a former soldier and firefighter, who died in December 2016 with PTS and depression. Nathan had walked 400km to raise awareness in the year before his death.
Warrnambool is hosting an event for the first time on Sunday while Canberra will once again be based at the Australian War Memorial simultaneously to the Ballarat event.
Nathan's wife and children will walk in a show of support for event in their hometown Mildura while his mates in Kalgoorlie are launching a walk next weekend. A Northern Territory challenge - in Darwin, Alice Springs and Yulara - will be on May 4.
AT A GLANCE
Walking Off the War Within Ballarat challenge
at St Patrick's College, 9am muster for 9.30am start with a family walk at 11am
Course: a 2km circuit. No new walkers to start after 1.30pm
More details: walkingoffww.com