Early on Saturday morning, as the rest of Ballarat slept and clouds rumbled in, hundreds met at Lake Wendouree to remember friends, family, and colleagues lost to suicide.
At the Out of the Shadows Walk, lanterns were lit, tears were shed - a particularly poignant part of the morning was throwing pebbles into the lake, each with a name scrawled - and all with the aim of not just reflecting on lives lost, but also making connections and strengthening the community.
This will help people reach out if they are struggling, according to Leading Senior Constable Des Hudson.
As chairman of the Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network, he helped organise the event - now in its seventh year, he said it's growing every time, and that was a positive sign.
"Talking to some of the participants, there were some first timers who were recently bereaved following a suicide," he said.
"You can't help but become part of it when you see people come to grips with the choices being made in someone's darkest hour and the lives that have been shattered, it's a moving experience."
While Ballarat is unfortunately a city that deals with suicide and its ripple effects too often, Leading Senior Constable Hudson said events like Out of the Shadows helped build positive momentum and understanding, as it continued the conversation from other grassroots initiatives like Walking Off the War Within.
"From the point of looking at national movements, there's a one day focus but other 364 days, what then?" he said.
"The fact we have a number of different groups (in Ballarat) who want to be telling the story throughout the year, there's more opportunities for the community to talk about the issue.
"That's what we want, not just talking but for those people who might be more vulnerable, who are at risk of suicide, to reach out and know it's okay to not be okay."
If you or someone you know needs support, help is available:
- headspace Ballarat 5304 4777
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Mensline Australia Line 1300 789 978
- Kids Help 1800 55 1800
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
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