24 May 2021

Could you do 3318 push-ups in June if it saved a life?

| Dominic Giannini
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Lifeline pushup challenge

Lifeline Canberra staff are each doing 3318 push-ups in June to raise money for suicide prevention. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A whopping 3318 pushups in 25 days is enough to make any bicep tense up.

But thousands of people have pledged to complete the 3318 Push-Up Challenge – the number represents each life lost to suicide in 2019 – to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention following continued pressure on crisis services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

And Lifeline Canberra knows the impact on Australians’ mental health all too well.

Staff member Mark Molloy, who volunteers on the Lifeline phones and moonlights as a paramedic, says it is important to keep a focus on mental health despite the increased awareness throughout COVID-19.

“We have seen it within our community,” he says. “Everybody has seen that shift and that change and that increase in stress. On the crisis line, we have massively felt it.

“On my last shift last week, of the seven people I spoke to, three were at the point of taking their lives.

“From my work in emergency services, and particularly with mental health among emergency services [staff], my friends are seven times more likely to take their lives.

“All of that makes me very passionate to raise awareness.”

This year, Lifeline Canberra staff are getting involved in a bid to raise $20,000 following a large uptick in callers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lifeline Canberra staff doing push-ups

Lifeline Canberra is hoping to raise $20,000 in its Push-Up Challenge in June. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Both the severity and the number of calls coming through Lifeline have increased dramatically, with 30 per cent more calls coming through compared to the same time in 2020, and a 75 per cent increase during peaks.

Lifeline Canberra has continued to have its busiest days on record as the COVID-19 pandemic has fluctuated throughout 2021.

“In terms of coming out of [the pandemic] and returning to that new normal, that is still pretty stressful for people and pretty scary at times,” says Mark.

“It leaves a lasting impact and we are still feeling that. As soon as you acknowledge the struggle of others, it makes it more acceptable to put up your hand and say, ‘Actually, I am not doing well.’

“When you break it down that every one of those push-ups was a life lost, it makes it really meaningful.”

READ ALSO My first Lifeline call

Despite the seriousness of the issue behind the cause, Push-Up Challenge participants are encouraged to have fun with it and encourage their friends to take part with them.

Mark will be breaking down the challenge to around 10 to 20 push-ups each hour during the workday to make it more manageable.

“It is a great way to keep that conversation,” he says.

“I do a lot of corporate training sessions for Lifeline. If you are constantly dropping to the floor, people are going to want to know why as opposed to disappearing to the corner of the gym.”

Mark admits he might be at a bit of an advantage in the challenge, having completed a challenge of 100 pull-ups, push-ups, burpees and one-mile runs, all while wearing a 20kg vest, every day for 30 days to raise money and awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder in the armed forces and emergency services.

“I struggled to get people to join that one,” he laughs.

The Push-Up Challenge has led to 173 million push-ups and more than $7.5 million being raised since 2017.

If you want to join the challenge, learn more about it or donate, visit The Push-Up Challenge website.

To donate to Lifeline Canberra’s team, click here.

The Push-Up Challenge will take place between 1 June and 25 June, 2021. Participates can also aim to complete 25 per cent, 50 per cent or 75 per cent of the target.

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