1 March 2024

For his 84th birthday Bill Blanch will walk from Coalcliff to Corrimal for mental health - and you're invited

| Zoe Cartwright
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Bill Blanch with his wife Joan and some members of his Home to Home walk support crew.

Bill Blanch with his wife Joan and some members of his ‘Home to Home’ walk support crew. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

A wry sense of humour, an incredible appetite for exercise and the deep desire to help others form Bill Blanch’s legacy from living with manic depression, or bipolar disorder.

The 83-year-old Corrimal man says doctors told him he had the mental illness “from the moment my eyes opened as a baby”, and while it’s led to some deep lows, his experiences have given him a profound sense of empathy for others who are struggling.

Bill has never been one to sit still – a rugby player into his 70s, he only recently stopped bodybuilding, and still walks daily for his mental health.

Nevertheless, it was still a bit of a surprise for his daughter Vicki when Bill announced that, for his 84th birthday, he was going to walk from the place he was born in Coalcliff to his current – and he expects final – home in Corrimal, a distance of a little more than 17 kilometres, or as he puts it “from home to home”.

Not one to let an opportunity go by, Vicki suggested Bill might like to put his mammoth effort to good use by fundraising for a cause close to his heart.

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Lifeline South Coast holds a special significance for Bill, who lost a son-in-law to suicide, and had days so dark he contemplated taking his own life.

“I was lucky – my children and my wife got into me well and truly, and told me I would just be putting them through the pain I was going through,” he said.

“That was 25 years ago and I found a good doctor and that’s helped; the right medication helped and whatever’s going on, I can go outside and walk it out and come home feeling better.

“As a young man I covered it up with aggression, football, drinking and fighting. I couldn’t stay in the one job for more than 12 months – I was a good worker so I could always go back to the job.

“I am determined to turn adversity into an opportunity for positive change in our community’s mental health system. Every step I take is a step towards a better future.”

Bill is determined that all funds raised will support mental health services locally and hopes his story will help raise awareness of mental illness.

Although his life has been affected by it, he and his wife Joan have had plenty of good times.

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Bill has been proactive about managing his mental health with medication and exercise, and gave up drinking and smoking 45 years ago – with a gentle nudge from Joan.

“I bought the Denman Hotel in Cessnock, and Joan said she wouldn’t go with me if I was drinking and smoking while we owned a pub,” he said.

“So I stopped and I haven’t had one since.”

Bill and Joan had two daughters together, and now have five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Members of their family have flown in from around Australia and the US to support Bill on his walk.

He’s been training seriously, with his longest training walk to date clocking in at 14 kilometres.

A dog attack in February put a dampener on his training, but Bill has continued undeterred.

CEO of Lifeline South Coast, Renee Green, applauded his efforts.

“Bill’s journey is a beacon of hope, showcasing the strength that resides within our community,” she said.

“His walk not only raises funds for Lifeline South Coast but also ignites conversations about suicide prevention and how to help people in crisis.”

Bill extends an open invitation to the community to join him at any stage of his walk, encouraging participation for a stroll, a chat, or simply some company.

“Your support means the world to me, and together, we can make a difference in the lives of those struggling with mental health challenges,” he said.

To support Bill’s charity walk and contribute to Lifeline South Coast, donations can be made on the dedicated fundraising page.

His walk will begin in Coalcliff at 8:30 am on Saturday 2 March, and all are welcome to join.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467.

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Vicki Blanch11:35 pm 02 Mar 24

by Vicki Blanch, Organizer
Today was the day. It has been and gone and WOW!!!! We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Dads incredible journey on his 84th birthday.
The fact that he walked 19.7km to raise funds for mental health speaks volumes about his dedication and passion for this cause.
We want to extend our deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who has contributed, whether through donations, sharing his story, or offering words of encouragement. Your support means more than words can express, not only to our family but to everyone affected by mental health challenges.
Together, we are making a difference, one step at a time. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!!!

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