Teen suicide is considered New Zealand's shame, so tomorrow Tauranga woman Irene Carmichael will hold the first Walk for Life to bring attention to the issue and raise money for suicide prevention charities.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24.
Irene has undertaken the charity event as part of her Landmark Education Self Expression and Leadership course.
"I had to set up a community programme of my choice that would make a difference," Irene said.
"I have lost a lot of friends to suicide and thought if I could raise funds for the prevention of teenage suicide, I could make a difference, even if it was for only one family.
"I lost my father as a 9-year-old to a heart attack. Part of me died with him and I've gone through life not feeling good enough, tending to be a low achiever and feeling I was unloved, even though this was only in my head.
"My mum loved me to bits but because my dad wasn't around I didn't feel loved.
"Landmark Education gave me my life back by transforming my thinking. It's been truly amazing."
Irene says because of the programme she feels she can now do anything.
"My 92-year-old mum flew from Wellington to shake the hand of forum leader Paul Berry who gave me my life back. Mum and I have an awesome relationship, it was a huge effort for her at this age but she said she had waited 46 years to see this moment," Irene said.
Finding sponsorship has been difficult. Irene has rung organisations throughout New Zealand and found people haven't wanted to talk to her about suicide, even though they would be recipients of the proceeds.
However, she found locals supportive, gaining sponsorship from SureSlim, Brookfield Pharmacy, Brookfield New World, Staples Rodway, McKenzie Elvin and Publicity Printing.
Walkers are asked to wear gold for the one-hour walk to highlight the need for more mental health support in New Zealand.
Irene challenges other communities to do the same, as World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10.
She hopes Walk for Life will become an annual event.
* Volunteers are needed to help staff road crossings, park cars and give directions. The walk will be held in Gordon Carmichael Reserve near Bethlehem, by the playground at Westmoreland Rise and Carmichael Rd at 1pm.
A $5 registration fee will be donated to benefit the New Zealand Prevention of Suicide Trust and Casper. * For more information phone Irene Carmichael (07) 578 8306, 0274 985 791 or go to facebook.com/pages/Walk-for-Life-Tauranga/207839609251577.
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