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Don’t Do It Alone takes to the road
Even riders in the Tour de France have rest days. Terry Heafield is having none of that as he rides 2500 kilometres around Victoria over three weeks. Winning for him will be helping just one person recognise they are suffering from depression and seeking help.
From Beulah and Hopetoun to Shepparton, Terry has been led into towns by fire trucks including an aerial pumper. He’s been fed lasagne, carbonara and barbecues by brigades and treated to pub dinners. Operations officers, career firefighters, volunteers and members of the public have all ridden alongside him as he spreads the word that depression is an illness and help is available if you just ask.
“That man is an inspiration,” said Hopetoun West Captain John Webster who was having his first ride as a senior following his recent birthday. He had a good conversation with Terry over 25 kilometres on Sunday and another 25 kilometres on Monday into Beulah.
“I have huge appreciation for people seeking help if they need it,” he continued. “I’ve dealt with peer support personally and through the brigade and I’ve also put other people in that direction.
“Terry is saying don’t be afraid to press the button. It’s no shame to say that you need help. The biggest step is admitting it and the next step is getting the help you need and it’s available through CFA.”
Shepparton Station Officer Rob Puise has been just as impressed by Terry’s mission.
“As men, we’re good at not showing our emotions but PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] hits so many of us. I feel the same way and here’s Terry raising awareness.
“About 15 to 20 of us at Shepparton were at his talk and there was some sharing of stories. Terry is from the ranks and he shares a magnificent account that’s very personal and that’s something I haven’t experienced before.
“He talked to us about the services provided to help and he’s got a real interest in getting those services more integrated into the way we operate. All the recent media attention has taken a big toll and people are looking for help.
“Before we rode with him I looked at his eyes, and it’s clear that he’s determined to follow this through. It just felt right to be riding beside him.”
Bendigo Senior Station Officer B Platoon Craig Houlahan drove the support vehicle from Charlton to Sea Lake during the first week of Terry’s ride. He also saw Terry’s determination up close.
“The guys from the Bendigo rode with him and they’re pretty fit,” he said, “but there was a point at 80 kilometres when Terry was pushing them. He’s pretty focussed.”
When Craig started in the fire service 22 years ago he saw depression around him, but it was perhaps more likely to be covered up by alcohol consumption.
“Depression was never spoken about but now we’re more aware that it’s an illness,” he continued. “It’s not something that should be hidden. There’s assistance and support out there and Terry’s ride is bringing the conversations out into the open. He’s being upfront and pro-active – that’s his message and it’s only going to be positive for career and vols alike.
“We’ve got support in place in CFA but it’s not until one of our own talks about it and tells a story we can all relate to that the story sinks in. When you’ve got that connection, you listen.
“I think this is heralding a change in the fire services. Terry’s actions will probably save more of the lives of our own people than we do pulling people out of buildings.
“He’s the champion for highlighting mental health and depression. He’s doing what all fireys do, and that is helping people, but this cause is helping us.”
If you, a colleague or a family member is struggling, CFA provides services to support all members and their families in managing their mental health.
- Peer Support
- Member Assistance Program
Call 1300 795 711 (24 hours)
- Chaplaincy Support
Call 1800 337 068 (24 hours)