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Firefighters step up for mental health

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01 Sep 2018
The Chief Officers of CFA and MFB will be among 650 firefighters climbing 28 floors of the Crown Metropol Hotel wearing full firefighting gear in today’s Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb.

Held for the fifth year, the annual charity event brings together career and volunteer firefighters from all over Australasia and the world to compete while raising vital funds for charity.

Since 2014, the event has raised more than $1.6 million for the Alfred Hospital Burns Unit, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Lifeline and the Black Dog Institute.

This year, organisers are again raising funds for Lifeline (as operated by Uniting Vic.Tas) and the Black Dog Institute to ‘Step up to fight Depression, PTSD and Suicide’. The funds raised will improve support services, fund research, remove stigmas and raise awareness of mental health issues like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide, especially for those within the emergency and defence services.

The event simulates the actions of a firefighter entering a burning high-rise building, so is exclusively for firefighters in full structural firefighting protective clothing, and wearing self-contained Breathing Apparatus.

CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said the climb was a huge physical challenge for everyone taking part.

“But it is really nothing compared with the battle that our friends, family and emergency service colleagues can face when it comes to mental health,” Chief Officer Warrington said.

MFB Chief Officer Dan Stephens concurred: “As emergency services personnel we’re often exposed to events that can leave a lasting impact on our mental health. The Stair Climb provides friendly competition and raises vital funds to support mental health services.”

Black Dog Institute Chief Psychiatrist and Head of Workplace Mental Health Research Program A/Prof Samuel Harvey said the institute’s research has shown that one in 10 Australian firefighters are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We are now at a point where our research has shown how disorders such as PTSD can be effectively treated and we are beginning to understand what needs to be done to help prevent these disorders occurring in the first place. Funds raised by this event can help us to provide better mental health education, training and support for first responders and the wider community,” Associate Professor Harvey said.

Gai Campbell, Manager of Lifeline Melbourne, said Lifeline answers close to a million calls each year Australia wide.

“We are committed to the goal of every help-seeker being able to speak to a crisis supporter on the 13 11 14 line. In order to achieve this goal we always need volunteers. The funds raised in the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb directly support the employment of trainers and supervisors for our volunteer workforce at Lifeline Melbourne, who answer calls from around Australia.”

The chiefs’ fundraising pages, and those of all other firefighters and brigades, are registered at www.firefighterclimb.org.au

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