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It took Vicki Mendyk and her partner Lyndsay a little over 13 hours to walk around Maitland Park for 67 kilometres on one muggy night in January. Why? To remember the loved ones who have taken their lives and to raise awareness of suicide.

Vicki met her husband Peter when she was 15 and they were married five years later. They had four beautiful children, boys Brock, Bailey, and Callan and girl Chelsey.

Both Vicki and Peter worked in the Hunter Valley. Peter worked in the mines his entire life, as a boiler maker and then took on leading hand supervisor roles before becoming a maintenance planner in a permanent position at Mt Owen mine near Singleton in 2017.

Everything seemed to be going as it should, but just two months shy of their 25th wedding anniversary, Peter took his own life.

And five months later, Vicki and her boys lost Chelsey at just 19 years old.

Vicki said Peter was a real family man, hard-working and the backbone of the family.

“He had everything together,” she said. “It was such a big shock because he always had the answer to everything I guess and kept everything together. He was a very together person. It still blows me away to think how it all unfolded.

“Chelsey and Peter were very close, very close. Daddy’s little girl got away with everything, you know what it’s like!

“She had struggled on and off with her mental health for quite a while really, she struggled after Peter died but the week of her passing was the best she’d been in those five months without Peter, we thought she’d turned a corner and everything was on the up for her.

“I couldn’t believe it happened once really, but to happen the second time it was like, this has got to be a dream surely, it can’t be a reality.”

Vicki didn’t let herself fall down into a hole so deep that she couldn’t pull herself out.

“People say to me, ‘how did you keep going? You’re so strong’ and I said I’m not strong, I do what I have to do because if I’m not here there is no one left for the boys. As hard as it was I had to keep going for them,” said Vicki through teary eyes.

“You run along for a little while and everything is OK but then it all sort of hits you again. It’s a rollercoaster, it’s up down, up down, it’s not smooth.”

Last December Vicki decided to start up UMatter;, a suicide prevention network that is also a place where Peter and Chelsey’s memory is kept alive.

With her now partner Lyndsay, the UMatter; platform has also become a place to spread the message of hope to anyone who finds themself in a place where they feel like taking their own life is the only way out.

As a part of their UMatter; movement, Vicki and Lyndsay organised a suicide awareness charity walk in memory of Peter and Chelsey. The walk also raised money for the local organisation the Maitland Regional Suicide Prevention Network.

ATCF 20.1 Mendyk 2

Vicki always knew she didn’t want to just walk randomly for hours, so she decided on 67 kilometres – the combined ages of Peter and Chelsey when they died.

Vicki and around 60 others started the walk at 8pm on a Friday and three of them finished the entire 67 kilometres just after 9 o’clock the next morning. The idea was that they all start when it was dark and finish the walk in the daylight to prove that no matter how dark it is, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

“That’s what I say all the time, there’s always the light of a new day. That’s my firm belief, no matter how dark it is, the next day the sun rises. If ever I’m feeling quite down that’s when I think about that,” Vicki said.

“When I walked ahead a bit and I was by myself I did a lot of remembering. I’d think of something that happened with Peter and different things with Chels, nice memories.

“When I was there by myself I did think, you know people say it’s really dark. They feel it’s really dark when they’re not good so that’s what I kept thinking to myself, ‘is this what it feels like? Dark, really dark?’”.

The walk meant a great deal to everyone involved, and the Maitland Regional Suicide Prevention Network received some vital funding to go towards the work it does for so many in the local area.

As a mum, a friend and someone who has seen it all firsthand, Vicki said if anyone is going through something they just need to talk to someone, anyone.

“They need to go and talk to somebody, they need to be able to do it and not be judged. I feel like even now there’s a lot of judgment if you’re not OK and if you go and speak to someone they need to follow through, not just think ‘oh, she’s having a bad day she’ll be right tomorrow’.

“When you know someone is definitely struggling you need to persist and make sure they get the help they need before it’s too late.”

You can follow UMatter; on Instagram: If you or someone you know needs help call: Lifeline 13 11 14 Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 Men’s Line – 1300 789 978

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