Towradgi Beach was abuzz with students and walking enthusiasts who flocked to the “Share the Journey – Walking for Mental Health Awareness” event on Sunday.
Student Nurses as Professionals (UOWSNAP) was only four months old when its team decided to host this year’s event. The aim was to encourage the local community to have an open conversation about mental health and emphasise the importance of connecting with others about wellbeing.
The walk kicked off at the Towradgi Beach Hotel and continued along 4.5km of Towradgi Beach. It was held as part of 2017 Mental Health Month.
SNAP President Chris Hinder said the physical journey reflected this year’s theme “Share the Journey”.
“This is the first time our club has organised this event. As our future occupations will be in nursing and health, we hope to project new ideas and innovation from university to our local community,” Mr Hinder said.
He said it was positive to see people turn up, but have liked more community particpation.
“If it were about children or cancer, we would pack the place out. But because it’s about mental health, it received less publicity than the others,” he said.
University of Wollongong Global Challenges “Living Well, Longer” leader Professor Lorna Moxham delivered the opening speech.
“The Illawarra does have its common mental health patterns, but mental health does not discriminate to individual regions, it’s everywhere,” Prof. Moxham said.
Having lost her cousin last year due to a mental health condition, event coordinator Kristy van Duin sees mental health as a personal condition and societal mission. The second-year nursing student gathered support from her subject coordinator, UOW School of Nursing and NSW Cancer Council to run the event.
“I think not until we started to work with clients and patients did we see how stigmatised they were. That stigma really needs to be removed,” she said.
Mental Health Association NSW (WayAhead) has coordinated Mental Health Month in October since 2010.