FRIENDS and family members of those lost to suicide have shared a message of hope and a determination that tough times will pass.
About 500 people gathered for a sombre ceremony at the Chinese precinct on Sunday before walking through central Bendigo.
Those who gathered leant on each other for support in trying times, with several shedding tears during the moving service.
Despite the sadness surrounding the Suicide Awareness Walk – which aims to bring the issue into the open – organiser Rod Flavell said the gathering was positive.
“The message is for people to look out for each other,” he said.
While there’s that demonstrated need, we will keep doing this.
“There are a lot of people out there with a lot of issues, issues around depression.
“The message really is for people to keep an eye on people and for people to talk about these issues.
“Since we’ve been running this event the number of contacts with Lifeline in this region has increased signifcantly.
“So that’s just one benefit, that people are prepared to approach Lifeline and other support agencies to seek help.”
In the most moving moment, messages were pinned to a net in Dai Gum San bearing the names of those lost.
Attendees felt the area was a comfortable space where they could share their experiences, Mr Flavell said.
“I think people are more comfortable now to be more public and share their feelings,” he said.
“There are quite a few people in this crowd who have lost family members or friends.
“We have people who are affected by depression and mental health issues.
“There is a sense of a relaxation and people being more open and talking about the issue.”
Despite increased efforts to address suicide, it continues to be a major problem.
Lifeline chief executive Jane Harden said about 2300 people died from suicide each year.
Mr Flavell said Bendigo was regularly touched by the issue.
“From the number of registered people who have taken their own lives, it’s actually higher than the incidence of road accidents in Australia,” he said.
“It is relatively common.
“The support from the media for this event and the community support is what sustains this (event).
“While there’s that demonstrated need, we will keep doing this.”
Mayor Barry Lyons noted the support services available to those in need.
“Today’s walk will not only continue to raise awareness of the issue of suicide but also provide an opportunity for everyone who has been touched by suicide to remember their loved ones, family friends, work or school mates,” he said.
The event was held in conjunction with the Black Dog Ride for the first time, with about 200 riders travelling between Bendigo and Puckapunyal.