On Sunday May 27, Jack Levitt and 450 others walked the 10km route along Williamstown’s foreshore in a fundraising effort for suicide prevention.
Flynn’s Walk raised more than $26,000 with friends, family and the extended community dressing up in honour of Flynn Hargreaves.
Flynn Hargreaves – a 27 year old veterinarian – took his own life in March 2018 while practicing in the UK.
He was known by friends and family to be a larger than life character, with a scientific and creative side.
“He was just someone who got along with everyone really easily, adaptable, friendly and quirky in his own way,” Levitt said.
“Best known for his party dress ups, you never ever knew what he was coming as but you knew it was going to be the best dress up regardless.”
Flynn enjoyed running and was registered to run the Bristol 10km on the May 13. Friends still living in the UK signed up to run the event in his honour.
Flynn’s Walk was set up so friends and family in Australia could pay tribute in a similar way.
“He used to love doing marathons and the like, so we thought let’s do a walk in his honour,” Levitt said.
All of the proceeds from Flynn’s Walk have been donated to suicide prevention charity R U OK?.
RUOK is a suicide prevention not-for-profit, whose primary message is to remind people that having meaningful conversations with mates and loved ones could save lives.
“The nature of their shorthand slogan speaks to our younger generation, that clear and simple one message target which is that one conversation can change your life, it was really visible what that can do, so we felt it was a good fit,” Levitt said.
Flynn had been working in the UK as a veterinarian over the past two years, having previously traveled the world to pursue his passion of veterinary sciences.
Flynn’s death came as a surprise for many of his friends and family, having last seen him at Christmas time in his usual high spirits.
“We knew his work was tiring, we knew it was demanding and we knew it was exhausting, but he was passionate about the career path he had chosen,” Levitt said.
“I thought he was in a good place, we would catch up and he would tell me how tired he was from work and I would tell him how tired I was from work, and we would just have a beer and get on with it.”
An Australian Veterinarians Association study has shown vets are four times more likely to fall victim to suicide than the general population.
“I never wanted to think that the vet work would have gotten the better of him, but it must have contributed in the end,” Levitt said.
“I hope now that if I see someone in that circumstance I will be able to identify it, and that is the key to what the walk was about.
“We all have our antennas up now, it’s just sad that something like this had to happen to get us to this stage.”
Flynn’s Walk aimed to break down the barriers of conversation about mental health and share his story for awareness.
“Everyone knows Flynn’s story now and that’s what’s important,” Levitt said.
Jack, who admits he is “probably one of the first ones to make a joke of things”, broke down during the fundraiser at the weekend, receiving praise from other attendees for expressing his emotions.
“I never thought about how much of an impact that would have,” Levitt said.
“I think definitely that men are not as good at expressing emotion.
“Traditionally people have avoided the ‘S’ word, and I think we have to say it, because it is a real thing.”
In the future Jack and the others close to Flynn would like to sit with RUOK to discuss a sub-organisation for vets, with an aim to provide a free support network specific to veterinarians.
“A lot of people said thank you for organising the event, but I said ‘without anyone coming it wouldn’t be an event’, every single person that came gave it more of an impact,” he said.
“Williamstown in particular is such a close knit community, it’s like a small country town and there is no doubt the close community here is special.”
The message Jack wants everyone to take home from Flynn’s Walk is not to hesitate about opening up, and create awareness about the consequences of going on that journey alone.
“Say it and get it out, the hardest thing will be starting that conversation,” he said.
Kristina Lawrence, Community engagement Manager from R U OK? has praised the organisers of Flynn’s Walk for putting together such a successful event in a short amount of time.
“Funding from these kinds of events go directly towards free online resources and into developing specific campaigns for workplaces, schools and industry sectors,” she said.
“The aim of our campaigns are to make people more connected within their community environment, so that they don’t seem so alone and their issues don’t seem so large.”
Donations for the Flynn’s Walk campaign can be made online at https://give.everydayhero.com/au/flynn-s-walk
To visit the R U OK? website go to https://www.ruok.org.au/