Donna’s walk for suicide

Donna’s walk for suicide

Donna Bowman wonʼt forget March 18, 2018 when she woke to find her husband hanging in a tree.

He’d left no note, no clues, no hint of even contemplating suicide.

The former policeman had retired from the force eight years earlier and had displayed no signs that anything was amiss.

Mrs Bowman and the couple’s four adult children were shattered.

“I can take a guess as to what may have been the cause, but they’re just guesses, I’ll never really know,” she said.

Mrs Bowman remains adamant he didn’t have a mental illness.

“I had known him for 28 years and he was still the same as when I first met him.”

Anthony Bowman had spent three years with the Federal Police before joining Victoria Police and serving in a variety of locations, namely, Horsham, Camperdown and Hamilton.

On the first anniversary of his death, Mrs Bowman hit the road to walk around Victoria to raise awareness about the need for people to talk to one another and not feel shame about seeking professional help if they feel they are not coping with life.

She believes suicide is ‘more prevalent’ saying “it’s an option that is taken up more often now”.

A former psychologist, Mrs Bowman says people are reluctant to talk about their issues but shouldn’t be.

“There is still a major stigma in regards to mental illness,” she said.

Mrs Bowman believes the situation is worse in regional Australia.

“One lady rang me who was suicidal and said she was going to have to kill herself. She said that she was too embarrassed to seek professional help,” Mrs Bowman said.

“The only way to stem the suicide rate is to remove the stigma attached to mental illness and we can only do that by talking publicly about it.

However, Mrs Bowman is keen to qualify that “there are many people who take heir own lives and it’s not all related to mental illness”.

Mrs Bowman says people in regional communities, in particular, “need to talk to one another”.

She says many people don’t like to seek help from a doctor or counsellor because “they’re afraid the whole town will know they’ve been there”.

“If you need help you shouldn’t care what people think,” she said.

Sadly, Mrs Bowman’s family has not been immune to suicide. Her father, who had mental health issues, took his life in his late 40’s when she was 23.

Mrs Bowman’s aunt and cousin also suicided.

“The reason I started the walk was because he’s (husband) the fourth in my family to have taken their life,” she said.

On Monday, Mrs Bowman walked from Omeo to Ensay and yesterday continued the journey from Ensay to Bruthen.

This morning she will walk into Bairnsdale before continuing on to Sale on Thursday.

During her journey she has met a lot of people who have opened up to her about suicidal thoughts.

Mrs Bowman encourages them to seek help and not “bottle up issues”.

“If I can save one life doing this walk, I’ll be happy,” she said.

“I’ll never know what impact I’ve had but I’m pretty sure there will be a few people alive because I’m speaking publicly.”

On May 15 the Chief Commissioner of Police will join Mrs Bowman as she walks from Mordialloc to Southbank in a bid to raise funds for the Victoria Police Welfare Unit.

Mrs Bowman has set up a go fund me page where people can donate money called “Those Left Behind”.

More than $4000 has been donated to the campaign from donations people have offered as Mrs Bowman has passed through townships.

PICTURED: Donna Bowman is walking around Victoria to raise awareness about the need for discussion around the mental health issues that lead to suicide.