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Group commemorate suicide victims in awareness walk

NONDUMISO MBUYAZI

more than 50 people met at Durban View Park yesterday morning and made their way to the Umhlanga lighthouse to commemorate family and friends who died through suicide.

In its second year now, the Suicide Remembrance and Awareness Walk was the brainchild of Mandy Murphy, who lost her brother to suicide.

Her brother, 27 at the time, hanged himself on January 14 last year.

After the funeral, Murphy''s sister told her about a walk that is held in New York to commemorate people who die from suicide.

"I thought it was a great idea, so I searched the internet to try and find something similar, but there was nothing in this country," she said.

Murphy was then prompted to start the group after she realised that there were no support systems available to people in her situation.

With the help of Joy Chiang, a counsellor from the Durban North Umhlanga Crisis Team, Murphy contacted the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) which put her in contact with other people who had lost loved ones through suicide.

Less then 20 people took part in the first walk, but this number has more than doubled this year and an optimistic Murphy is expecting an even larger crowd next year.

Route

Explaining the route of the walk, Murphy said the group met at View Park, Umhlanga Rocks, where they wrote messages to their loved ones. The messages were put in balloons and the group then proceeded to the lighthouse.

All the balloons are joined and then released after everyone observed a minute of silence.

Murphy said the group enjoyed the annual event because they were able to console each other because they understood the pain felt in the wake of the suicide. She added that the walk was a turning point for many of the participants and they hoped that by creating awareness, a life might be spared.

"Once you talk to other people who have been through the same thing as you, you start to realise that you are not alone," she said.

Chiang said the walk provided an opportunity for the bereaved families to create awareness in the community about suicide.

She said it was also an opportunity to meet and find comfort with those who walk the same path of healing.

"It helps focus public attention on understanding suicide and highlight prevention activities," she said.

Murphy said that because of the overwhelming response from people all over the country, she, Chiang and Sadag were trying to arrange a similar walk in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

According to Sadag, 22 people commit suicide in South Africa every day and there are 220 attempts to commit suicide.

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