Walk of hope

Fo­cus on sui­cide pre­ven­tion, aware­ness

The Cobram Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Tansey

Strength for to­day, hope for to­mor­row.

They are pow­er­ful words and painfully ap­pro­pri­ate for a par­ent who has lived through the sui­cide of her child.

They also form the name of a walk ded­i­cated to the mem­ory of a life lost far too young.

Melissa Ven­tre is one of those peo­ple who has ex­pe­ri­enced the unimag­in­able grief of los­ing a child un­ex­pect­edly.

Her daugh­ter April passed away in Novem­ber 2016, aged just 22.

For the past year, Melissa and her fam­ily have been work­ing on a way they could best cel­e­brate April’s life — and per­haps just as im­por­tantly, how they could im­pact the lives of oth­ers to pre­vent fam­i­lies be­ing dragged through a sim­i­lar tsunami of grief.

That led the fam­ily to start a sui­cide aware­ness and pre­ven­tion walk.

‘‘My daugh­ters wanted to do some­thing but we weren’t ex­actly sure what it should be,’’ Melissa said.

‘‘It has been in the works for 12 months and we even­tu­ally came up with this idea. My sis­ter is an event or­gan­iser, so she has done a lot of the leg work and helped us out im­mensely.’’

Melissa said the fact her daugh­ter’s death was not an iso­lated in­ci­dent had helped fuel the fire for this event, which it is hoped will touch and en­gage the en­tire com­mu­nity.

‘‘There have been a cou­ple in­ci­dents of sui­cide in this area, but that’s the thing, it is all kept very hush-hush and a cou­ple of them were around the same time April died,’’ Melissa said.

‘‘I know three other mums who have lost a child to sui­cide as well. One of April’s friends from Fin­ley took his life.’’

For Melissa and her fam­ily, the time to act was now. The time for si­lence was over.

‘‘A big thing this walk is try­ing to en­cour­age is to get peo­ple to go and seek help or ad­vice if they feel a friend or rel­a­tive is go­ing through a tough time or is in a bad state of mind,’’ Melissa said.

‘‘We want peo­ple to speak up, we don’t want peo­ple keep­ing these things to them­selves be­cause then it can be too late.

‘‘It is such a big is­sue and it just seems to be get­ting worse, so that’s why we thought we would try and do some­thing as a com­mu­nity.

‘‘The stigma around men­tal health is still pretty preva­lent, I be­lieve. I sup­pose it’s just a num­ber of things with young ones.’’

For April, one of those things was a con­di­tion she lived with ev­ery day — mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, more com­monly known as MS.

‘‘April’s death wasn’t to do with bul­ly­ing or any­thing like that, it was prob­a­bly more be­cause of de­pres­sion. She suf­fered from MS, which had a huge im­pact on her life,’’ Melissa said.

The fam­ily used to do the MS Walk and Fun Run each year in Mel­bourne with April and even raised $40 000 for the MS So­ci­ety through a gala ball the fam­ily or­gan­ised.

Now April will be re­mem­bered not for her strug­gle with the crip­pling dis­ease, but for the joy she pro­vided to those around her.

The walk, which will go from Thomp­sons Beach to Quinn Is­land, will be held Sun­day, Septem­ber 9.

The Ven­tre fam­ily has de­cided that all the money ac­quired from the bar­be­cue lunch on the day will go to­wards the com­mu­nity cinema project which is still in the fundrais­ing stage.

‘‘Not that we will raise much this time, but what­ever we do raise we will put back into the com­mu­nity which then helps get kids off the street and gives them some­thing to do,’’ Melissa said.

Steve Matthews will be the guest speaker.

The event has been aus­piced by Co­bram Ba­rooga Apex Club, while headspace Shep­par­ton is also on board.

Reg­is­tra­tion is at 10.30 am, with the walk to be­gin at 11 am. There will be live mu­sic from MP2, a headspace in­for­ma­tion stand, and all walk­ers will go into a draw to win a well­ness prod­uct ham­per.

More in­for­ma­tion can be found on the event’s Face­book page ‘Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Walk’.

‘‘If it does do well, we will hope­fully do it as a yearly thing and then maybe do an en­try fee and that money can go back into the com­mu­nity as well,’’ Melissa said.

Life will never be the same for the Ven­tres, but they can find so­lace in the fact they are pro­vid­ing other fam­i­lies with strength and hope for to­mor­row.

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