Derrick McManus doesn't like the idea of mental toughness, because it breeds the unhealthy idea that "you don't break and don't crack".
But particularly for men, he says we need to promote an idea of 'mental fitness', where people work on their resilience, but remain open to help when it's needed.
Mr McManus, a former member of the SA Police Special Tasks and Rescue Group, will speak at the Walking Off The War Within's luncheon at the North Ballarat Sports Club on Friday.
Walking Off The War Within continues in memory of Ballarat's Nathan Shanahan, a returned solider and firefighter who took his own life in 2016. It strives to spur discussion about mental illness in emergency service workers and veterans.
Mr McManus has an unbelievable story: in 1994, he was shot 14 times with a semi-automatic rifle.
After five days in hospital - and knowing the struggles others in his field faced - he was determined to speak to a psychiatrist so he could spot warning signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I didn't see the diagnosis of having depression as a weakness. It was humanness," he said. "It was not because I thought I was weak or there was anything wrong with me."
But two years later, it wasn't the previous traumatic events which sparked his eventual depression, it was the breakdown of his marriage, distance from his children and his dog's death.
"I was having some issues with management of work, and noticing I wasn't as enthusiastic as I used to be, wasn't sleeping or eating well," he said. "I thought there was something missing in my diet ... but a doctor diagnosed me with depression.
"It took me two seconds to go: 'Seriously? I don't want this. How do we deal with it?'"
The sold-out luncheon will kick off the program of walks scheduled over the next year across Australia.
Mr McManus is keen to help attendees think of mental fitness, agility and strength as "something we have to keep working on, not something you can get a one time fix on".
Ten community community events are planned for Walking Off The War Within (WOTWW) 2020, with walks in Ballarat, Mildura, Kalgoorlie, Canberra and Brisbane.
SANE Australia clinical director Karen Fletcher told The Courier people in "emergency services are more often put in positions where their lives are threatened", leading to higher rates of PTSD and depression.
"I think we're getting better at having a culture of checking in with each, not ignoring when someone doesn't seem okay or just soldiering on. People need to get behind (events like WOTWW) because it reduces the stigma, and more people will put their hands up to say 'I'm not okay'," she said.
The Ballarat walk will take place on February 29 next year. For more information, head to walkoffww.com
- SANE Help Centre 1800 187 263, Lifelife 13 11 14, Mensline 1300 789 978
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