Sarah McFarlane-Eagle has been committed to raising awareness for mental health since her brother Ben went missing 10 years ago during his final psychotic episode. Following up on plans she and Ben had to walk together, Sarah has been undertaking and planning walks and talks around awareness and fund raising for this complex and often emotive issue.
Ten months after Ben died Sarah and Ben’s best mate walked 600km along the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia. The walk was in memory of Ben and to raise awareness of mental illness, for SANE Australia. In the last 36km of this walk, Sarah pledged to herself and Ben that she would walk the Pilgrimage in France and Spain.
Sarah walked 1750km solo from Le Puy (middle of France) to Finisterre (western-most point of Spain). In the last 7km Sarah heard about another pilgrimage in Japan- and made her third pledge to walk for Ben and for all people affected by mental health issues. At the end of this walk Sarah felt she needed to increase her credibility and make her voice louder and stronger. When Sarah subsequently returned to Australia, she enrolled full time at the University of New England, in a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours. Sarah graduated in April 2011. Another change Sarah felt she needed to make, was to increase community support and involvement. It seemed evident to her that one person can only make a small difference- while many people working together can have a much bigger impact. Community involvement is a large focus for Walking Feat Inc.
In February 2012 Sarah will begin a 1400km walk around the island of Shikoku in Japan. Japan is an apt choice as it has the second highest suicide rate in the world (after Russia). Sarah is training in preparation for the work, and has recently been given gym sponsorship from Sports UNE. Part of the training is managing stress! It's a large project she has undertaken and taking care of her own mental health is a priority.
Click here to see the Japan Walking Feat Itinerary
On the 29th of May Sarah will begin walking from Armidale to Melbourne. The purpose of this walk is to raise awareness of mental health issues along the route. Sarah will arrive in Melbourne on international Suicide Prevention Day in September 2012.