Our Suicide Prevention Walk – a self-reflection and recap
This blog is an opportunity to recap and reflect on another successful Suicide Prevention Walk. We wanted to take the time to give a brief overview of how the event went, what it included, what went well and what we learnt from this event.
2019 saw the Chasing Change Suicide Prevention Walk become the largest event we have run. The walk, which was run in September to align with the national suicide prevention week attracted over 1400 community members to come together to support each other in reflection and grief. The latest instalment of our annual event saw an increase in size of attendance, but also in what we could offer to the community. We had more entertainment, more food and coffee offerings and more presence from other local members which showcased the great collaborative effort from everyone involved.
For those who have not attended one of our annual walks, the event consists of both formal and informal proceedings. The event has been held in Mornington Park for the first three years and begins with an informal yet vibrant atmosphere of coffee, food, local stalls of support services and entertainment. This continues for the first part of the morning before more formal proceedings commence. At approximately 10am, the crowd is gathered as speeches are made by various community members. At this latest event we had Chasing Change members speak of their own personal loss to suicide, as well as other community members give speeches on various topics surrounding suicide, grief, loss, and the celebration of life. We then had a period of silence in which the names of loved ones who had been lost were read aloud. Immediately after this the walk was led by Chasing Change member Kate, in which a gentle walking lap of the park is made before participants are encouraged to tie a ribbon with the name of their lost loved one, around a memorial-like fence.
Our motivation and justification of why we run this specific event was clearer than ever after the 2019 event. We run this event because we see a real need in the community to give people the opportunity to come together and support each other at a local event, supported by other local members and groups.
What went well
The 2019 walk was a success on many fronts. It was our biggest attendance yet, and we were able to collaborate with more people and groups within the local community. There were two new things we implemented that stood out.
Firstly, the increase in collaboration with other community initiatives was a welcome and exciting development. We were lucky enough to have some great entertainment and the presence of a local business offering personalised candles. It was great to see our event grow and have the opportunity to collaborate with more like-minded people.
Secondly, the inclusion of a period of silence and the reading of lost loved one’s names provided a moving and reflective mood to the formalities. We received much anecdotal feedback that this was a welcome addition and really added to the feelings of support and grief that people experienced during the event. It was very validating to hear this feedback as we were uncertain how it would be received by the attendees.
What we learnt
As with any event it is important to recognise areas for growth and opportunity moving forward. The increased collaboration proved a successful strategy, something which we were pleased to learn. This provides evidence to us that this is a direction to pursue moving forward. We have always wanted the event to be bigger and better with more people involved and we learnt this year that getting the right people involved will only help connect with a larger and more diverse array of people.
We also learnt that logistics may hamper the growth of the event at the current location. We have had feedback over the years to expand the length of the walk, which we were excited by. But after looking into the specifics of doing so, we learnt that it would hamper the accessibility for attendees based on the physical layout of where we would have to extend the walk to. We took from this the possibility that the Mornington venue may have a limited capacity and if we wish to expand the walk, it may have to involve moving locations or alternatively having several simultaneous locations.
All in all, the 2019 Suicide Prevention Walk was a success. We had larger attendance than ever before, as well as great anecdotal feedback about various additions we made to both the formal and informal sections of the event. We also learnt a lot about the potential growth of the event, recognising that collaboration with more like-minded local groups is an exciting opportunity to explore, whilst also acknowledging that logistically, we may need to reconsider location options if the size of the event is to continue to grow. But importantly, we are all still very motivated to deliver a meaningful event in 2020 – in whatever means that may be!