THE MOMENT everyone marches out together is intense and inspiring.
Ballarat City Fire Brigade’s C-shift will march as one, joined by C-shift crews from emergency services ranks across the state on Saturday morning.
A further cross-section from available police, ambulance, state emergency service, fire, armed forces and Department of Enivronment, Land, Water and Planning officers will step out with their families.
Walking Off the War Within is primarily a call-to-arms for emergency and armed services in raising awareness for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But the walk also encourages everyone to share the burden in a show of united support.
C-shift is Ballarat City firefighter and event co-organiser Josh Martin’s crew.
The shift works together, plays together and even holidays together.
“The beauty of 10 on a shift means there is always someone to talk to – you’re never really alone and it’s important to remember that,” Mr Martin said.
“Mental health as a whole is a huge issue. The biggest thing for us, is that those who suffer feel there is a way they can get their voice out.
“Families can be affected, too.”
We want to look out for the whole family because the whole idea is that we share the burden and walk as one.Ballarat City firefighter Josh Martin
Importantly, this is why Mr Martin and fellow organiser John Shanahan are keen for the event to be family-friendly. They want to get everyone comfortable talking about mental health.
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Mr Martin said the effect of more than 2000 people marching off together was incredibly powerful in last year’s inaugural event. There was joy, smiles, plenty of chat and interaction with and among different uniforms.
The event was months after firefighter and former soldier Nathan Shanahan – a fierce advocate for those silently struggling – took his own life. A year before he died, Nathan set out on a 400-kilometre walk for awareness.
Participants can join in as much of the 20km walk about Vic Park as they feel. They are also welcome to be there in support at the events precinct on the nearby St Patrick’s College oval.
There will be a showcase of old ambulances, police cars and on-call fire trucks with children’s activities (including a jumping castle) and a barbecue on site.
Walking Off the War starts 9am with simultaneous walks across the nation and, for the first time, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
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.