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R U OK?
Today CFA is taking part in R U OK? Day, a mental health initiative that asks people to check on loved ones or colleagues, perhaps using the simple question “Are you ok?”.
It’s a message Benloch brigade member Shelley Cowen wants everyone to be mindful of. Four years ago her GP diagnosed her with depression.
“Everything and everyone annoyed me. I would just get really grumpy. I used to walk around with a frown,” Shelley said.
This culminated in a breakdown after the Mickleham fires in February 2014, when homes were lost.
Now Shelley is feeling much better, praising the assistance the CFA peer support program provided.
“They were really, really helpful” she said.
“This experience made me realise how much depression can affect your life and your family’s life. Now I always ask people if they’re ok.
“If you’re not feeling ok. If you feel sad, like you don’t mean anything to anyone, you need to speak to someone”.
“If you’re feeling down speak to a close friend.”
The peer support program Shelley used is just one of the support services available to all CFA members and their immediate families. There’s also the Member Assistance Program – 24/7 phone based counselling service staffed by trained psychologists and counsellors, as well as the HeadsUP online tool. These services are available to members for any mental health or relationship issues – it doesn’t have to relate to CFA.. The intranet and Brigades Online also contain resources on recognising and resolving mental health warning signs.
Shelley said the invisible mental toll of attending at times traumatic and stressful emergencies was one of the hardest things CFA members had to deal with.
“We have to show people that we care,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re ok. Those three words could mean the difference.”
Peer Support Program – contact your local Peer Coordinator
Member Assistance Program (24-hour counselling) - 1300 795 711
24-hour Chaplaincy support - 1800 337 068