ANNE Petrie says her son James would be so proud to know his students were rallying support for mental health and a grassroots campaign he valued, Walking Off the War Within.
The Ballarat High School teacher died by suicide in late February. The loss creates ongoing devastation in the Ballarat High, Waubra Football Club and St Patrick's College communities, of which James was a strong and vibrant member.
His students were determined to try and find a way forward. So, they poured their efforts into baking a legacy.
James Petrie had been a strong advocate for Walking Off the War Within, encouraging his students to volunteer in the annual Ballarat event that champions awareness for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
The Ballarat walk was put on pause this year in a bid to ease pressure on sponsors and supporter two years into the pandemic.
Ballarat High, led by VCAL students, got baking to sell sweet treats in an effort to raise money for the cause, to keep people talking about mental health and to create a lasting awareness in the school community.
Anne Petrie was honoured.
I know how proud James would be of their efforts.- Anne Petrie
"He loved [Walking Off the War Within] and getting the kids involved in knowing what goes on behind the scenes in volunteering," Mrs Petrie said. "I know how proud James would be of their efforts."
Ballarat High year 12 Charli Jones said one of her family members would participate in the Ballarat walk and she would always see her teacher out on course giving his all in attempting to complete 20 laps, the equivalent to 20 kilometres.
James was the first to organise a Kokoda Track camp for Ballarat High School in 2009. He had been bringing Walking Off the War Within leaders John Shanahan and Josh Martin into the school to speak with students for four years.
The students also raised almost $3000 in a school bake-off with all proceeds to go to Walking Off the War Within.
Ballarat High year 12 Riva Springbett said it felt good to give back.
"Our year was very close to Mr Petrie and to do this in his honour means a lot," Ms Springbett said. "It's nice to be able to give our tribute in some way to raise awareness for men's mental health with our loss."
Ms Springbett and Ms Jones said they hoped to promote Walking Off the War Within more about the school before they graduated so other students could pick up and passionately build a legacy.
IN OTHER NEWS
Walking off the War Within started when former special forces soldier and fire fighter Nathan Shanahan launched a solo trek from his home in Mildura to Adelaide in April 2015, carrying a 20-kilogram pack, to take a stand for post-traumatic stress.
Mr Shanahan died by suicide in December 2016. His friends and family continued what has grown into a national, multi-city event focusing on - but not limited to - defence force and emergency services personnel and their families.
While the Ballarat event is in hiatus, the Brisbane event continued amid pouring rain on Saturday with more than 100 participants. Mildura is set to host a walk in September.
Walking Off the War Within's Josh Martin, a Ballarat City firefigther, said it was fantastic to still see Ballarat getting behind a movement Nathan Shanahan had started - particularly given the Ballarat walk was on hold this year.
"The kids have made a great effort and are really invested in it," Mr Martin said. "I think it's great the teachers, students and the wider Ballarat High School community have been so supportive."
Walking Off the War Within donates to community service providers that work directly with people living with mental health struggles.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.