Mhairi Thompson said the Mental Health Wellness Walk this Saturday was the perfect opportunity for community members to come together to celebrate mental wellness.
Ms Thompson is a volunteer with ARAFMI Hunter, a not-for-profit family support service for carers of people with mental illness, and is helping organise the walk from Pacific Park to Civic Park.
Each year around 500 members of the community come together for the event but organisers were anticipating a larger crowd this year.
“The walk is for anyone,” Ms Thompson said. “It is a good place for the community to come together, whether they are someone living with mental illness, a family member or friend of someone or if they are not touched at all by mental illness.
“It is just about raising support and the profile of mental wellness in the community.”
The walk will start from Pacific Park at 10am and head down Hunter Street before finishing in Civic Park, where there will be a festival celebrating mental wellness through music, art and exercise.
“There will be a well-being tent, sound healing, a yoga session and a kids area where a local author will be doing book readings and there will be arts and crafts,” Ms Thompson said.
“It will be a real celebration of bringing the community together to help stomp out the stigma and show support for mental wellness.”
There will also be food stalls, live music and various workshops, including a didgeridoo workshop.
“People can just turn up on the day and join in for the walk, which represents the community coming together and walking together, or just come along to Civic Park and help celebrate mental wellness,” Ms Thompson said.
There will be also be information on the support services available in the Hunter for carers of the mentally ill.
Formerly known as the Walk of Pride, the event is celebrating its 12th year.
Event organisers said the change of name was to reflect the focus on improving the community’s resilience in a rapidly changing world and hoped the community would turn out to walk together.
They said the stigma surrounding mental illness can be extremely debilitating, isolating and often prevents people from seeking the help and support they need.
The patron of this year’s event is Dr Martin Cohen, the former executive director of Mental Health for Hunter New England Local Health District and lead researcher on National Mental Health studies.
He has a passion for serving community needs through the development of mental health services.