THE message is still raw but Ballarat City firefighter Josh Martin knows this united front is powerful, even in so many seemingly subtle ways.
Emergency services personnel, family and supporters will reunite on Saturday for the second Walking Off the War Within even in Ballarat, in a bid to raise greater awareness for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The event has a strong family-orientated feel with lots of children’s activities, historic vehicle displays, fire trucks and entertainment.
One year ago, an army of people took to Victoria Park last year to honour Ballarat-raised firefighter and former soldier Nathan Shanahan, who took his own life in December 2016.
Mr Martin said the approach and spotlight on mental health among emergency service ranks was gradually changing for the better. He said the walk was powerful but the joy on people’s faces, the chatter, the smiles were incredibly important because this got people talking – they could know they were not alone.
“Across the board the profile of mental health has raised and it’s a lot more publicised,” Mr Martin said.
“A lot more agencies are involved. It needed to happen and we can see it is. In emergency services there is more peer support.”
Mr Martin said Walking Off the War Within also helped promote safe environment and support for those who were suffering to find their voice.
Nathan Shanahan had been a fierce advocate in rallying attention to those silently struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. A year before his death, Nathan had walked 400-kilometres for the cause.
Walking Off the War Within replicates what Nathan set out to achieve. About 2000 people took part in the inaugural Ballarat walk.
The whole walk is 20 kilometres, looping around Vic Park, but people are invited to walk as much or as little as they feel for the journey. Or, people can also just be there in support in the events precinct on the nearby St Patrick’s College oval where the walk will start at 9am.
People are encouraged to register for the March 24 Ballarat walk at walkoffww.com.
- If you or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Walking Off the War Within supports mental health researcher Black Dog Institute, Lifeline and Soldier On.