23 April 2019
Spreading hope and understanding Canterbury DHB Referral Centre Manager Karen Hawke lost her much-loved son Shannon to suicide 18 years ago and since then her goal has been to do her bit to help end the stigma of mental illness. In September last year, on World Suicide Prevention Day, she began to forge a plan to tick something off her ‘bucket list’ while at the same time raising awareness of mental health and funds for the Mental Health Foundation. Karen decided to walk the Inca Trail in Peru, an adventure she had wanted to experience since high school, and do it with Inspired Adventures, an organisation that arranges treks while helping people fundraise for the charity of their choice. Karen says her colleagues from the Referral Centre team are giving her tremendous support, helping her make beaded lanyards (500 so far) as well as crocheting, knitting and baking.
Karen at one of her craft stalls
It’s at her cake and craft stalls at Christchurch and Burwood hospitals that Karen gets across the mental health messages that are close to her heart. “I have lots of signs and information about mental health and that ‘it is okay not to be okay’. I just love the conversations that have opened up as a result.” She has also organised raffles and does sausage sizzles at The Warehouse with similar information. So far she has raised $10,000. Mental health and suicide is still a taboo subject in society, Karen says. “I’m doing this challenge because many New Zealanders will experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime, and I don’t want them to have to face it on their own. Not everyone has an easy journey through life. Mental health issues are major throughout my family. After years of dealing with trauma I want to do what I can to help.
Karen out exercising
“Already, the process of preparing for the trip has been an amazing journey, and one I didn’t know I needed. I am also blown away by the people who have jumped in behind me. I couldn’t have done it without them.” To prepare for the trip Karen is undergoing high altitude training at a centre in Christchurch and walking up and down six flights of stairs in the Riverside building each lunch time, as well as walking in the gardens. “I’m managing 10,000 steps a day, some days over 20,000 and it’s really benefiting me mentally and physically,” she says.
The beaded lanyards Karen and her Referrals Centre colleagues create to sell