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Paul lost his daughter to suicide. Six months later, he was photographed by the side of the road.​

Paul Murcott isn’t great with emotion. It’s why he started walking.

Last November one of Paul’s three children took her own life. 

He knew Shona Mai had been having a rough time, but when his son called with the news he was left speechless; “no no no” he remembers yelling down the phone.

“Everything just stopped, my guts felt like they were ripped out. They still do,” he told Mamamia.

Shona Mai
Shona Mai died from suicide last November. She had four children. Image: Paul Murcott.

Shona was only 32. Her four children were in the care of DOCS and she'd been "jumping through their [DOCS] hoops" to get them back, explained Paul.

He knew she was feeling pretty broken after overhearing some case workers having a laugh about some of their clients in a back room while she was in their offices waiting for a meeting.

"Overhearing it she got it into her head that she was never going to get her kids back. It was part of the reason for her demise," said Paul.

But the family had no idea how dire Shona's circumstances had become. "We would have rallied if we did," he said.

After returning from the funeral on the New South Wales coast to his home in Adelaide, the 58-year-old couldn't concentrate.

"Back home I was so shocked I couldn't focus. Things just sort of stopped. It's hard to articulate....it's hard to put into words," he told Mamamia.

So in the first week of February Paul made himself a cart, grabbed his best friend RJ and started walking.

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He's been walking for 400km, along the highways of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. He estimates that he'll reach Canberra in a few more months.

paul-rj-and-cart
Paul and RJ have walked 400km so far. It has taken them five months. Image: Paul Murcott.

Paul has started a petition called 'stop suicide across the board' that he wants to present to Parliament House when he eventually gets there.

In it, he asks for three things: For the government to do more to recognise the horrific numbers of suicide rates in Australia, for a strict code of conduct to be introduced in child and family services (so that no one else is put in the position of Shona having to overhear employees laughing about their clients), and for there to be a dedicated mental health minister in Australia.

Paul has plans to approach Jacqui Lambie when he reaches Parliament because he thinks she'll understand. Post continues after video.

Video by Sunday Night

He has a clear goal and the country's eyes upon him as he skirts along the edges of the country's highways sleeping in truck stops and safe little inlets along the way.

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But at the start it was just a man and his dog on a solitary journey. It was all he could think to do in his grief.

"I was just going it for me until a fella called Brenton stopped and asked me if I was OK. I was fixing my solar radiator," explained Paul.

"I told him what I was doing, and he put it online. The response...It blew me out of the water," he admitted.

Paul's story went viral. Brenton, a passing truck driver, had originally thought Paul was homeless when he spotted him crouched on the side of the road.

Paul RJ
Truck driver Brenton Smart sent this photo viral, after he stopped to check on Paul and RJ. Image: Supplied.

Since then thousands have been following Paul's trek on Facebook, and offering him a helping hand plastering his page with support.

"Stay safe mate." 

"Where are you now?" 

"You're awesome dude. Best wishes from Germany."

In real life, Daniel fixed his cart when it lost a wheel. Malcolm and Joy helped him start his petition, and Gabby made him a banner so his cart looked more "legit."

Just yesterday, a passerby took his water container and an hour later came back and dropped it off filled to the brim.

"It's restored my faith in humanity," said Paul.

"People are really genuine and their compassion sometimes can be enough to trigger my teary eyes," he said.

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Paul has been having many a teary moment as he plods along the side of the highway towing his 100kg cart.

"I am not in a good place at the moment," he admitted.

"It's still pretty gut wrenching. It's very raw. It's why I needed something to focus on....and it is helping me deal with my grief."

Paul admits he was pretty rubbish at talking about his emotions and mental health in the past.

"My views were pretty backwards, they were just the whole bloke thing of 'keep it to yourself'," he admitted to Mamamia.

But that's all changed now, and Paul is determined to encourage everyone, especially men, to be more open.

paul and rj
Paul and RJ have been walking for five months now. Image: Paul Murcott.

"All those little sayings like 'it's not weak to speak' are true. It's not," he said.

Paul is currently just outside of Mildura, and has the Hay Plains ahead of him - 140km of nothing.

He's not worried. He has his best mate, a fresh slab of water and enough food to last him a month.

But while he prepares to head off onto the plains (where he probably won't have a lot of phone reception) he is hopeful his story will inspire others to be a little bit more mindful about mental health.

"My trek is helping me in a big way.. and maybe in a small way I'm helping others," he told Mamamia.

You can sign Paul's petition here.

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