After the past 12 months, getting the crew back together has never been more important.
For community members in uniforms and their families - and everyone else, of course - Walking Off The War Within is a good excuse to touch base and share stories.
The walk was started by army veteran and firefighter Nathan Shanahan, who walked from Mildura to Adelaide in 2015 to raise mental health awareness and start conversations - tragically, Nathan died to suicide not long after.
His father John has maintained Nath's legacy, and now Walking Off the War Within takes places across Australia.
The event itself is simple, with participants invited to complete two-kilometre laps of a circuit, in uniform for armed or emergency services, and strike up conversations with whoever you find yourself next to.
There's also an option to carry a full pack of gear for a full 20 kilometres.
Ballarat's event is April 24, the day before Anzac Day, at St Patrick's College.
Mr Shanahan said the walks were always emotional for him, but they were too important.
"One of the alarming stats - when Nath died, suicide was running at 4.5 per day in Australia, and recently, that has crept up to nine a day," he said.
"With Ballarat, we do have the highest suicide rate in Australia, I'm led to believe.
"We can see it's on the rise, so we still need to do more and more work in getting the message out to the community and letting everyone know that there's nothing wrong with putting your hand up, with coming forward - especially males - and saying 'I need help'."
What has impressed Mr Shanahan is the way the event has been embraced by Nathan's mates across the country, with Brisbane the latest addition in March, organised by an army mate.
"My wife and myself went up to that one, and we found that an unbelievable experience, because a lot of his army mates were present at that walk," he said.
"That night, at the barbecue, there were lots of stories about what they'd encountered through their life and in the army.
"A lot of people will have sympathy and lend you an ear, but until you're affected by it, it takes on a totally different meaning."
Mr Shanahan has noticed a shift in how mental health is approached - people are slowly opening up and treating it as less of a taboo topic, but services still desperately require more funding and support.
"Those rapidly rising numbers indicate we haven't got a handle on being able to reel that back in," he said.
"Every one of those people have families and loved ones, it just has a terrible impact on families, the workforce - I just believe that we still aren't getting out there, getting help and support and direction.
"If people are waiting for those appointments, there's a fair chance that something dramatic could happen in the meantime.
"The government bodies will tell us there's all these supports around, just pick up the phone and ring them - the people in deep trouble mentally, that's the last thing they're going to do , and I just know very well, speaking from experience with our son, they're not willing to pick up a phone, so we need to have loved ones out there keeping a close eye on them and trying to get them to come along."
He also voiced support for a federal Royal Commission into veterans suicide, which has received support at a state level.
"It shouldn't be political, and I believe to the general community, a Royal Commission into mental health and suicide should be bipartisan - then you tend to find, they're speaking to people who've been deeply, personally affected by these events, so they'll get raw honesty that won't be glossed over," he said.
"They'll let them know well and truly about what it's like, and everyone will have their own stories about trying to get help.
"It's in black and white, it's very clear.
"As a dad, as a person who is pushing very hard for mental health to become more recognised and better funded, everyone's looking for their slice and I understand that, but for God's sake, we're talking about people's lives."
Ultimately, grassroots events like Walking Off the War Within will help get those conversations started.
Ballarat City firefighter Josh Martin is once again throwing his support behind the event, with the rest of FRV Station 67 and 68.
"This is the fifth year in Ballarat, and it just seems to be getting stronger and stronger - there are a lot more people talking about it, and families getting involved," he said.
"There seems to be, especially after COVID, a lot of mental health issues being discussed in the media and the wider community, so we're hoping we can do our little bit, and walk and talk, that's the biggest thing.
"There are so many who just turn up on the day - if you are, I'd love to see the colours, it's a big thing to see where people are from.
"You couldn't ask for more from the Ballarat community."
IN THE NEWS
The event begins at 8.30am, with several guest speakers, including Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp and Fire Rescue Commissioner Ken Block, as well as a choir performing, a DJ, and displays from emergency services and support agencies.
Two helicopters will also land at the St Pat's oval on Friday afternoon, weather permitting.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
- Mensline: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
- Veterans support: Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or openarms.gov.au
- Ballarat Mental Health Services: 5320 4100 or after hours on 1300 247 647
- Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
- Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
- headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
- Soldier On: 1300 620 380
- Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
- QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people)
- Family violence: 1800 RESPECT
- For Aboriginal crisis support: Yarning SafeNStrong, 1800 959 563 (24/7)
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