17 year old Geelong teenager, Shaun, committed suicide in January 2009. His mum, Lisa Castle, vowed his death would not be in vain. She formed SPAN (Suicide Prevention Awareness Network) made up of people affected by suicide, concerned community members and health professionals who decided to work together to try to reduce the number of lives lost.
SPAN’s annual SUICIDE AWARENESS WALK, now in its 8th year, will be held on Australia Day, Jan 26, from Johnstone Park, Gheringhap St Geelong at 9.30. http://www.spangeelong.com It is a positive, active community event where people can come together and pay tribute to lost loved ones, offer support to those hurting and ultimately embrace the gift of life.
‘Shaun grew up in Geelong and went to Oberon High,’ explains Lisa. ‘He had a great network of friends. We didn’t see it coming, it came with no warning, no mental illness. It was a spur of moment of thing. The worst part is never knowing why and the “what if’s”. They do your head in. That is where counselling is helpful.
‘The walk has no stigma attached. Names are read out as a mark of respect and everyone comments on what a nice feeling and closeness there is. We have people coming back every year. If we can save one life it’s worth it. Our message is, you might be having a tough time but it will pass, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is okay to ask for help, it is a strength.
‘SPAN is a suicide bereavement support group that aims to create suicide awareness in the community so those faced with loss, or feeling they have nowhere to turn, get the support they need. SPAN members believe suicide awareness is everyone’s responsibility and is a subject that must be talked about openly and sensitively.
‘SPAN also produces a bereavement pack made by those who have been affected. It contains things that helped us. What you go through is different to normal grief. It’s hard to explain.
‘At the time having SPAN kept me going. It was heartbreaking and something that you never get over. The Geelong Advertiser did an interview with me the day we were picking out Shaun’s plot. I vowed that day that we would hold an awareness walk. The number of people who turned out was mind-blowing.’
SPAN’s sponsors help them realise their aims. Woolworths, Hope Bereavement Care, Barry Plant – Geelong, Fleetwood Print Group, Endless Doves – white dove releases, Falcon Signs, WorkItWear Clothing, Nardi Produce, Julie Roddy Face Painting, Geraldine’s Go A Coffee, Rutland Merchandise and ‘This Month in Geelong’. They also welcome any donations, no matter how small, with thanks.