Ben Donnelly pledged to walk thousands of kilometres from Lake Eyre in South Australia to Mt Kosciuszko in NSW in two months on a mission to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Trekking through parts of northern Victoria with nothing but a tent and a push-cart, Mr Donnelly started on March 25 and crossed the finish line on May 18.
Mr Donnelly said the aim of the walk was to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention, as well as being kind to one another for a better world.
His journey aimed to capture the analogy of the highs and lows people go through in life and the fact that people can continue to move forward, even if it is just one step at a time.
Mr Donnelly taught at St Joseph’s Primary School in Cobram for five years, and played cricket for Cobram United and football at Yarroweyah.
He reached Avenel on May 7, walked through Euroa, Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga, looking to tap into the minds of those in the towns and communities he visited.
Mr Donnelly said he was really pleased with the response to the walk along the way.
‘‘It was amazing how common issues were for people, either personally or directly through family members or friends,’’ he said.
‘‘This highlighted for me the importance of being able to have supportive and honest conversations with each other.
‘‘When people realise they are not the only one in difficult situations, it can be a liberating experience for them.’’
He thanked family and friends for their support, as well as support from people he’d never met before.
He said the continual response to the walk showed how important highlighting the issue was, and the challenge to keep the message going.
Coming from a background in primary education in country Victoria, Mr Donnelly said it was his experience of seeing more children coming to school with anxieties and parents having trouble finding assistance that motivated his walk, as well as the need for people to show kindness to each other.
‘‘Something that I have learnt is that while we help our children learn to speak, we aren’t so good at teaching them how to talk,’’ he said.
‘‘Talking about mental health issues is important in helping people recognise that it impacts many people in our lives.
‘‘One of the best acts of kindness we can make is simply to reach out to those around us and check that they are okay.
‘‘People deal with different situations in different ways and a supportive and non-judgmental ear can be a great starting point.’’
●To donate to the cause, go to: www.pittopeak.com