The inspiration for this event is a very personal one for Margaret Hajdinjak, a Thunder Bay mother who lost her son to suicide caused by depression at only 26 years old. Margaret’s goal behind this walk was to increase awareness, reduce stigma behind suicide and mental health issues, celebrate the lives of those who have been lost and create a sense of community among those who are left behind.
Using Margaret’s vision, a memorial and awareness walk was developed. Sub-committee teams were created to work on the specifics including Engagement, Marketing, Budget and Logistics. Because this walk was not a fundraiser, revenue to cover the costs of the event were generated through community members and organizations who generously donated both resources and funds.
The walk was held at Confederation College where community organizations set up booths to provide resources, information and support on the topic of mental health issues. There was also a memory wall where people posted photos of those they lost as a way to celebrate and honour them that day. The event provided support and a place for anyone affected by suicide to meet others facing the same tragedy, and the opportunity to connect, share stories and provide support and understanding.
Although this was its first year, the walk drew 300 participants which is testament to the fact that this issue is very real and these people are not alone. The group has paired with other community agencies including the Canadian Mental Health Association and St. Joseph’s Care Group to ensure the event will continue to grow well into the future.