On Saturday 10th September, 600 emergency service personnel are stepping up to fight depression, PTSD and suicide by climbing the 28 floors of Crown Metropol Hotel.
Wearing 25kgs of turnout gear and breathing apparatus, participants will take on the physical challenge to raise money for various mental health charities.
After a two-year break where the challenge went ‘virtual’, this year participants will return to Crown Metropol. However, emergency services personnel can also take part in the virtual challenge by climbing 3,139 steps over the course of a month – with each step representing a person who died by suicide in 2020.
This year, organisers are aiming to raise $600,000 for Lifeline, Fortem and the 000 Foundation, to improve support services, fund research, remove stigmas and raise awareness of mental health issues, especially for those within the emergency service sector.
Stair climb coordinator and CFA volunteer Chris May said that he has always been passionate about the topic of mental health, having dealt with challenges himself.
“I served in the Australian Army for over 10 years, serving twice in Afghanistan, and in 2011 I was wounded in a bomb blast. When I came home, I saw there was a lot of veterans, including myself, who didn’t want to discuss their mental health because of the consequences it meant to their jobs.
“My brother also served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this is a cause we’ve always been passionate about. When my brother and I left the army, I fell in love with firefighting through CFA and FFMVic, and my brother became a police officer. I have seen so many similarities in how emergency services personnel deal with mental health to that of our veterans that I wanted to be the positive change for a healthier, happier and all round more self-aware emergency services community.”
Mental health is a challenge across the entire country, but is a particularly relevant for the emergency services sector, said Chris.
“Mental health is a serious issue in many ways across Australia. My brother once said to me ‘in the army we trained for years and deployed for a few months, in the emergency services we train for a few months and every day is a deployment’. This really stuck with me as it highlights the level of exposure and potential exposure to trauma as well as the heightened state of alertness in our emergency services between trauma and going home to their family.”
“To top that, the last two years have seen the strongest people begin to hurt through the pandemic. It was an extremely tough time mentally and we, as the community based standard setters should be at the forefront of re-engagement in our communities.”
Chris said the stair climb is a great way to support an important cause.
“The Climb supports the 000 Foundation, Lifeline and Fortem Australia; all fantastic charities supporting emergency service personnel across the country.
“It’s a great physical challenge for those that want to tackle the stairs, but it is also a fantastic social opportunity to get around some positive people set on making the change in our own emergency services world.
“Whether it’s raising money for one of the climbers, volunteering to be part of the climb crew or cheering on each other - it brings firefighters from all over together for a great cause.”
You can find out more about the Climb at www.firefighterclimb.org.au