Walking off the war within: CFA raise mental health awareness

PIcture: MAIL-TIMES
PIcture: MAIL-TIMES

FROM bushfires to road accidents - the Country Fire Authority is always there in times of need. 

Volunteers and staff routinely risk physical harm to protect the community but the invisible injuries often have the highest toll. 

County Fire Authority district 17 operations manager Dale Russell said for too long Post Traumatic Stress and the other impacts of the job remained hidden and unspoken.

On Friday, the authority will walk laps around Horsham’s May Park to raise awareness of silent killers in Walking off the War Within. 

Mr Russell said the event was not a fundraiser, but an event to raise awareness of depression and other mental health conditions. 

He said on the front lines, emergency services see devastating and traumatic scenes. 

“The stress can be accumulative,” he said.

“You see one thing at a scene and think nothing of it but over a period of times it can accumulate in your mind.

“It sneaks up on you and before you know it you’re affected by it.

“It’s a matter of being aware and talking to people.”

Mr Russell said there had been a societal and organisational shift towards opening up about mental health issues.

“In the old days, around the 80s, there was no such thing as counselling or debriefing processes,” he said.

“It was only after Ash Wednesday in 1983 the CFA set up a peer support group.

“In the old days it was more ‘get over it you wimp’ but now we that’s not the case.

“We understand the effects of these situation and there has been a huge turn around in attitude of people and the organisation.”

The walk will run from 10am to 1pm with a barbecue after.

Mr Russell said the public were invited to support and join the CFA as they relay walk the park.

“We’ve all been touched by mental illness in some way whether it’s personally, a work colleague, a family member or friend,” he said. 

“We’re trying to raise awareness because it has affected a number of CFA members.”