Walk of hope
Focus on suicide prevention, awareness
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.