Walking a Mile for Mental Health Awareness.

Justine Brogna cares about mental health. The founder and director of TreeHaus Williamstown, has been involved in the private and public sectors of the mental health industry since 2002. As an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Justine has made it her mission in life to help as many people as possible, not only as a practitioner, but as an advocate, raising awareness in order to lower the stigma surrounding this issue.

Walk a Mile in my Shoes – a Mental Health Awareness Walk, is Justine’s initiative and with the help of a dedicated group of individuals, and the support of Hobsons Bay City Council, this inaugural event was a huge success.

Green was the colour of the day on Sunday October 14th, at the Commonwealth Reserve in Williamstown. 800 plus people turned out to witness the Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Angela Altair cut the ribbon to kick things off. Local comedian and writer, Stella Kinsella was on hand with her trademark wit and humour, as MC.

Among the walkers in green, was Petronella Boonen, another advocate for mental health awareness.

Nella offers us a walk in her shoes….

mental health 3

As Elvis Presley put it, “before you abuse, criticise and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.”

The King refers to empathy – the capacity to understand and feel another’s circumstances. Unlike sympathy, empathy allows you to walk next to that person and travel a little in their shoes.

On a perfect Sunday morning, October 14, 800 pairs of shoes walked the shoreline of Williamstown to raise acceptance for mental health. Mental illness, like any ailment, is a challenge to your wellbeing. Statistics from HeadsUp tells us, ‘one in five Australian workers is experiencing a mental health condition,’ with anxiety and depression topping the charts.

In fact, statistics from Beyond Blue report that on the whole, ‘3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression.’

Alongside many of Sunday’s walkers, were the four-legged kind, dogs of all different breeds and colours – ‘empathy experts’ in their own right – loving us equally on our good and challenging days.

mental health 2My mate Ros and I joined the crowd at Nelson Place and started with a warm up – a little dance therapy, followed by some laughter therapy. Protected by the huddle of information stands, I tried to keep up with the exercises, which actually allowed me to start my laughter therapy a little early. To be honest, it was scary to get up and do it at first, but I had Ros by my side and I decided to relax and set aside self-judgement. This day was not built for that.

mental health1Hobsons Bay Mayor, Cr Angela Altair ‘walked the talk’ pointing out a poster at the event – a list of ‘labels people lay on me, because I live with mental health challenges and they don’t understand me.’ And another list to ‘fight back, these are things I tell myself.’

The biggest message of the day, was that you don’t ever need to struggle alone. Get to your local community centre or library and learn more about groups and services open to you. Have a conversation with a GP.


You can also pick up the phone and speak to someone:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277

Parentline: 13 22 89

NURSE-ON-CALL: 1300 60 60 24

SuicideLine: 1300 651 251

Mind Carer Helpline: 1300 134 130

Mental health, like any health issue, affects the sufferer as well as families, friendships and workplaces. It is sometimes misunderstood because it is often invisible, unlike a broken leg or the flu. When it is visible, it is often seen and handled with fear.

That’s where empathy slips on your stilettos and walks a mile, uphill in the gravel. After the walk, you’ll still have your stilettos, but maybe for respite, your feet will feel the joy of a good pair of ugg boots!

Petronella Boonen

#inkcloud #positivity #community #williamstown #walkamileinmyshoes #mentalhealthawareness


  1. Justine Brogna

    Hello Nella,

    I recently came across the article you wrote back in October about my project “walk a mile in my shoes”. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece about the event. We will be holding another one this October 13th. We’d love for you to attend again.
    Would it be ok for us to link your article to the walls social media’s pages?
    Kind regards
    Justine Brogna


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