Canberra firefighters are gearing up for the hike of their life to raise funds for mental health.
ACT Fire & Rescue (ACTF&R) will climb up and down Mt Ainslie four times on Saturday (19 March) to support mental health and raise funds for Lifeline Canberra.
In teams of five, each firefighter will don their full breathing apparatus and complete eight laps of the mountain, roughly 36 km.
ACTF&R Chief Officer Matthew Mavity said participating firefighters span generations and have been training in their own time to make sure they’re up to the enormous challenge.
“In between COVID-19 lockdowns, they have been coming out to Mount Ainslie and attempting the climb,” he said.
Chief Officer Mavity said they are all excited to be supporting such a worthy cause.
“Being a firefighter is a physically and emotionally challenging career, which is one of the reasons ACTF&R prioritises the normalising of discussions around mental health,” he said.
“It shows the deep links we have with Lifeline. Mental health is obviously a very important community issue, but for first responders, it’s also an important consideration for their overall wellbeing.”
The fundraising target is $50,000; so far, they’ve raised over $30,000.
Lifeline Canberra CEO Carrie-Ann Leeson will be taking to the slope herself as part of the challenge and said she’s thrilled to have ACT’s firefighters by her side.
“Lifeline exists to support individuals in crisis and prevent suicides in our community, and ACTF&R are there to support individuals in crisis and keep them safe, so our communities coming together is something we’re looking forward to,” Ms Leeson said.
“We work very closely together on everything.”
A life is lost in Canberra every week due to suicide, and there has been a 40 per cent increase in those reaching out for help throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We anticipate it will keep increasing over the next three years as individuals come to terms with what has also occurred over the last couple of years.”
Ms Leeson said it costs around $26 to take a life-changing call.
“So we’re very much looking forward to Saturday, and we hope the community can come out to support us and put a face to the name of these amazing organisations that are there to help maintain and secure our way of life.”
The event is the brainchild of firefighter Sean Guinard who said it was originally meant to occur in September last year but was pushed back by COVID-19 restrictions.
“I was talking to a couple of fellow firefighters about doing a physical challenge of some kind, and it was immediately thrown out, why don’t we raise money? Immediately, the cogs started turning when someone mentioned the Everest challenge.”
In case it would be too easy, they then threw the breathing apparatuses into the mix.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the event is an opportunity to raise awareness of the mental health challenges many Canberrans face.
“We want to encourage conversations that support mental health and raise much-needed funds for Lifeline Canberra,” Mr Gentleman said.
“All funds raised from the event will go directly to Lifeline Canberra Crisis Support Service, which will provide assistance to the Canberra community in their time of need.”
Canberrans are encouraged to show their support by turning up to see the firefighters in action from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, 19 March, at Mt Ainslie and donate via the Ainslie to Everest event fundraising website.