The University of New England has thrown its weight behind the launch of Walking Feat 2011, an event that aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise money for charities that assist people affected by mental illness.
Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry will be the keynote speaker at the launch, which will take place at UNE’s Lazenby Hall this Saturday, November 5. Professor McGorry is Australia’s leading expert in mental health early intervention.
Also speaking will be Dr Paul Morgan, the deputy director of SANE Australia, a national charity that aims to improve the quality of life for all affected by mental illness, and Sarah McFarlane-Eagle, the founder of Walking Feat, who will talk about her reasons for starting the project and how Walking Feat aims to assist the community.
In 2001, Sarah’s brother Ben, who suffered from mental illness, went missing in the Australian bush during his final psychotic episode. His body was never found, although a death certificate was issued. Since then Sarah has been actively and passionately raising awareness of the complex and emotive issues surrounding mental illness.
Her projects involve asking the community for support by joining her to raise awareness of the impact of mental illness. In conjunction with her efforts to inform, empower and improve the quality of life for all people impacted on by mental illness, Sarah uses long distance walks as a tool to help realise the vision of Australians walking forward together. To this end, she will shortly begin a 2400km walking trek across Japan.
“The night is for all community members,” Sarah said, “Students, lecturers, mental health workers, mental health service providers, people who suffer from mental illness, family and friends of people with mental illness, academics and the general community.
“The main objective for Walking Feat in holding this event is to bring the community together for this very important issue that affects 45 per cent of all adults.
“We hope it will be an informative and inspiring night. ”
UNE is supporting the event in a number of ways, including offering Walking Feat the free use of its Lazenby Hall, and financial support from its School of Rural Medicine, School of Health and School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, including paying for the flights and accommodation of Dr Morgan.
“Dr Tanya Hanstock, from the School of BCSS has been instrumental in assisting to make the Walking Feat Launch come together,” Sarah said.
Free return bus services will be available from Inverell, Tamworth and Walcha. And an Auslan interpreter is being sought to accommodate the profoundly deaf community.
More information about the event is available at: http://www.walkingfeat.com/.