Delwyn takes one foot forward

In October this year, our brilliant staff member Delwyn took on the ‘One Foot Forward’ challenge that was run by the Black Dog Institute and smashed her target by walking a whopping 186km with sidekick grand-fur baby Sophie! Making a real impact on the lives of others is what drove Delwyn in her challenge, as well as supporting the cause for a mentally healthier world.

Delwyn and her dog

"Walking together, standing together, strong together!"

1. What does the Black Dog Institute do, and how did you hear about the Institutes’ work?

The Black Dog Institute has been leading the way in Mental Health research as a not-for-profit organisation for the last 20 years. Over the course of these 20 years, the Black Dog Institute has grown from treating and researching mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder to becoming the leaders in digital mental health, workplace mental health, suicide prevention, new treatments, and early intervention to help young people.

The Black Dog Institute was founded in 2002 by the UNSW school of Psychiatry Scientia Professor Gordon Parker and is based in Sydney, Australia. The Black Dog Institute is the only medical research institute in Australia to investigate mental health across the whole lifespan.

Through science, compassion and action, the Black Dog Institute is driven to support the 60% of the community who live with mental health issues but who would not ordinarily seek help. 

The first I heard about the Black Dog Institute was when a friend signed up last year in 2021 to do the One Foot Forward walk and she posted about a fundraising page on Facebook. In the midst of COVID lockdowns in Melbourne, I thought this is something I could do, a way I could help, and in the process this experience over the last 2 years has really been life changing for me.

2. What is the 'One Foot Forward' challenge organised by the Black Dog Institute?

The One Foot Forward challenge is a community challenge that was designed to show people living with mental health that we are all in this together, you are not alone. Walking together, standing together, strong together!

The challenge is to walk, run or roll any distance you choose whether it be one of the per set amounts of 40, 60, 100 or 150km or any amount over 20kms, and to commit to raising a dollar amount over $20 in the month of October to help reduce the impact of mental illness.

This year there were 28,764 people who walked a total of 1,899,239km in solidarity across Australia.

Delwyn and her grand-fur baby SophieDelwyn and her grand-fur baby Sophie



3. What were your personal goals in this challenge?

I set myself a target to walk 150km and to raise $1200. To reach 150km meant I needed to walk at least 5km per day. To complete my 5km per day, I had to wake up at 4.45am and head out in the pitch black, mostly freezing mornings, rain, hail and definitely no sunshine. The day when we had all the flooding in Melbourne was the only weekday that I didn’t go out early in the morning as the weather was too dangerous with high winds and heavy rain, but I did still go after work. I don’t think I have ever been so wet. Everyone said why not just skip your walk for one day? I couldn’t not walk, if I didn’t walk when it was tough and only walked when it was nice and calm, how is this helping? To help sometimes we have to do the hard stuff and not just the easy stuff. 

I could not have achieved this challenge if it was not for my beautiful grand-fur baby Sophie (even though she is as big a scardy cat as I am). We would keep to the street and tried new ways everyday so we did not get bored with the scenery. Each day taking approximately 1hr 15mins, I know I hear you say that’s a long time for 5km, but when you have to stop and sniff everything or take photos for your daily challenge it takes a while longer. We were lucky enough to be blessed with some beautiful sunrises and it’s amazing what you can find when you take a different route or detour, places you never knew, things you’ve never seen.

On the weekends we didn’t have to go out in the dark so we enjoyed lovely long walks through the parks and trails throughout the area. Sophie loves to swim, so she enjoyed going down to the creek. Sophie also likes puddles and sand so luckily for her with all the rain we had, she had a delightful time each day rolling around before washing off in the creek.

Last year and this year, I wrote a story each day on my Facebook page of Sophie and Grandma’s adventures. These little stories were designed to bring a smile to whoever wanted to read them. They were filled with funny, scary, silly, sometimes sad, or emotional adventures that Sophie and Grandma got up to in the mornings.

The stories were a way of helping - helping me with my mental health and helping others by making them smile, reaching out through words to bring them joy. The stories became bigger than the walk itself and amazingly still now I find more people who love reading them and I can’t wait for next October to start up again. It just shows, we never know what impact we are having on the people around us.

Sophie and I ended up walking a total of 186km in the 31 days of October, 36kms more than planned. We also managed to raise $1,907, $707 more than our target, thanks to the generosity of family, friends and Fella Hamilton head office staff including David and Sharon Hamilton.

4. Did you take the challenge on with anyone else? 

I undertook the daily walks alone with my grand-fur baby Sophie, but in spirit we did the walk with a whole bunch of people connected on the One Foot Forward Facebook page. Last year I joined the group and for the months in between we remained in contact, supporting each other throughout the year.

A member of the group who has participated in the One Foot Forward walk for the 3 years it has been running, set us a daily challenge, something we had to look for on our walks. We had to find things or do things, like find rocks one day, take them home and paint them with positive messages and then another day drop them off on our walk. We would then take photos and then post them on the Facebook page. These daily tasks gave Sophie and I the base for each of the stories as we had to search high and low in the dark.

This year, the Black Dog Institute ran a One Foot Forward solidarity walk in Melbourne and Sydney and a lot of the people from the Facebook page got to finally meet for the first time. We also got to meet some of the Black Dog team who work tirelessly to make the whole One Foot Forward challenge work every year. We had a great day and I took one of my friends with me in the hope that next year she will join me in the One Foot Forward 2023 challenge. Who knows, maybe we might even get a Fella Team going... fingers crossed!

Delwyn's adventures with her dog

5. What motivated you to take on the One Foot Forward challenge, and what does this cause mean to you?

Mental health issues have had a big impact on my life. I’ve seen first-hand through family and friends what devastating effects untreated or ignored mental health issues can have on everyone. My motivation for supporting this cause is driven by the need to help and the need to bring awareness - to help people open up about how they are feeling and to remove the stigma attached to mental illness.

For myself, I’ve always been the happy friend or family member so then to be diagnosed with depression was unbelievable. That can’t be right? I’m not depressed! Looking back, I became embarrassed that this could be true. I had a mental illness. I remained silent and continued to put on the smile that everyone expected, but at what cost? Depression comes in all shapes and sizes - just because you think you don’t have the outwardly depressed symptoms doesn’t mean that you are any less vulnerable.

I’m sharing this information publicly for the first time in the hope that if I can be honest and open, that maybe it will touch someone else so that they can also be open and ask for help.

6. Do you know how much the One Foot Forward community has raised? 

The One Foot Forward community has raised $5,710,601 this year, with the fundraiser still open till the end of the year. Over the 3 years the Black Dog Institute has been running the One Foot Forward challenge, participants have raised a total of $16, 171,666 for vital mental health research.

7. Do you know what the funds will go towards? 

The funds raised from the One Foot Forward challenge will go towards the following four key areas:

Prevention – Helping young people overcome sleep difficulties to prevent depression and anxiety through the Sleep Ninja app.

Informing – Preparing our community presenters to talk about mental health and reach schools and communities.

Future Proofing – Help reduce the impact of mental health by training teachers to support students struggling with anxiety in schools. Help grow the school-based research trials into 5 states and ensure this five-year study of school students continues.

Supporting – Supporting research, running clinical trials and developing policy recommendations to reform mental health services.

These are just some of the projects the Black Dog institute are currently work on, with many more as well.

8. So, what’s the plan for next year?

I have already registered my interest for next year and I’m hoping to have a few people from work join me!

The benefits of getting out there even when the conditions are terrible, helps remind us that we are human and we can overcome challenges and support each other to help become better versions of ourselves.

9. What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of also supporting this wonderful institute?

Go for it!… Join in the fun! 

You don’t have to commit to a huge number of kilometers, or to raise heaps of money, or to even walk every day, you just need to commit to what you think you can do in the challenge. Whatever you walk or whatever funds you raise is amazing.

Come and join the Facebook group and share this experience with some fantastic humans, enjoy the laughs and maybe some tears, as you travel along in your own journey xxx

The One Foot Forward Facebook page link is HERE. Or see our link here if you'd like to Donate directly to the Black Dog Institute and help in the cause to create a mentally healthier world:

Donate to the Black Dog institute here

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