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Brigade says “I do” to talking about PTSD
Allan East, a member of Mooroopna Fire Brigade is the first to admit their brigade doesn’t mind a creative approach to fundraising events.
On June 24, 2017 Mooroopna Fire Brigade held a pretend fancy-dress wedding, the first of its kind for CFA.
Allan East and Cara Disint were behind organising the event for the brigade with the aim to highlight the importance of peer support for those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and raise money for the vital work done by The Black Dog Institute in supporting those with PTSD.
Their mutual goal was to hold an event, which reflected the unique, fun, culture of their brigade and got attendees our of their comfort zone to help eliminate the stigma mental health is a taboo subject.
Allan commented this approach got invitees engaged by disrupting the normal format for information evenings.
“We wanted to create a fundraising event that everyone wanted to get involved in, not just firefighters, because the message goes beyond our member community,” he said.
Around 70 people came to support the event, with invitees facing a fine of $150 if they weren’t dressed in theme. The crowd combined members from Mooroopna, North West Mooroopna, Stanhope and Shepparton with special guest speaker, Travis Harris, Operations Officer of District 22 who shared the story of his own fight with PTSD.
Both Allan and Cara have attended difficult calls over the years and know first-hand the value in talking to your peers.
“For all our members, it’s important to know where to turn if you need someone to talk to – you don’t have to do it alone.
“At times, to your family you’re quiet after an incident but you share with your brigade and that was something we wanted to highlight at the wedding – in front of our friends and family,” said Alan.
Travis Harris, Operations Officer of District 22 and member of Shepparton Fire Brigade spoke about the invaluable support of services like CFA Peer Support Program and The Black Dog Institute provide, delivering a very open and honest account of his own experiences on the night.
“As someone who suffers from PTSD, I understand the battle a lot of firefighters face and having someone you can relate to and feel comfortable sharing with is key to helping overcome a difficult experience.”
“Through sharing my story, I hope others know it’s ok to talk through a tough time, you don’t have to suffer in silence,” said Travis.
Cara Disint, 4th Lieutenant of Mooroopna Fire Brigade donated not only her time to organising the wedding but made sure the event looked the part, complete with balloons, arch and flowers. Cara, a member for around 16 years, appreciates the supportive culture of her brigade and acknowledges mental health is sometimes a difficult subject to talk about.
“This is part of the job – you need to look out for yourself and for each other,” said Cara.
Cara also commented on the impact of Travis’ speech to the audience.
“When Travis spoke, you could have heard a pin drop in the room, everyone listened to what he had to say.”
Complete with a Bride who was played by firefighter, Nathan Ballard and Groom played by firefighter, Natalie Dobbyn. The event raised $800 that will be donated to The Black Dog Institute. The brigade is looking to hold another fundraising event next year.
CFA support services
If you are in an emergency situation or at immediate risk of harm, contact emergency services on Triple Zero (000).
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 1800 650 890.
CFA Welfare Support Services
Member Assistance Program: 1300 795 711 (24 hours)
Peer Support Program: contact your local peer coordinator
Chaplaincy Program: 1800 337 068 (24 hours)
HeadsUP online resources: cfa.vic.gov.au/headsup