Ferntree Gully fireys step up for mental health

Ferntree Gully Fire Brigade has more firefighters than any other brigade tackling this year’s Melbourne Firefighters Stair Climb on 1 September to ‘Step up to fight Depression, PTSD and Suicide’.


Ferntree Gully CFA is the brigade with the most firefighters tackling this year’s Melbourne Firefighters Stair Climb on 1 September.

Eleven of its members will be among 650 firefighters climbing 28 floors of the Crown Metropol Hotel wearing full firefighting gear.

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 almost $1.3 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 hope to raise $700,000 for Lifeline 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.

Ferntree Gully CFA Brigade Secretary Lowan Sist said the brigade is hoping to smash last year’s fund-raising total of $11,964. “We were very proud of that and as much as there is a real sense of competition with other brigades or services interstate it’s about a huge sense of achievement to be helping such a great cause,” he said.

“We all know colleagues in the firefighting family who struggle with mental health or depression issues. If in any way we can help them via research and professional advice, we are delighted to be involved. That’s what this is all about - helping our mates!”

Training for Team Ferntree Gully involves many visits to the 1000 Steps in Ferntree Gully and regular fitness events.

CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington will also be taking on the challenge. “This climb is a huge physical challenge for us and everyone who takes 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,” he said.

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). “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,” he 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,” she said.

To donate via individual firefighters or brigades, visit www.firefighterclimb.org.au

Author: Liselotte Geary