2 December 2022

Mo-mentous month ends as firie recruits smash fundraising target for men's mental health

| Claire Fenwicke
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ACTF&R Recruit College 47 members

ACTF&R Recruit College 47 members Alex O’Connor, Simon Kelland, Benjamin Pond, Matthew Hansen, Josh Turk and Sean Toohey sport some impressive facial hair for Movember. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

What started as an idea to raise some money for men’s mental health has opened up a whole new conversation for one recruit college with ACT Fire and Rescue.

It’s also raised some impressive cash: more than $12,000 and counting.

Recruit firefighter Matt Hansen said it all began when the group started talking about what it could do to help the community.

“We have a lot of support within our organisation, and we just thought there are a lot of people out there who don’t,” he said.

“We just wanted to help out those people who may be in situations but aren’t in a position to get help like we do.”

So the 17 members of Recruit College 47 decided to take part in Movember, the annual event to raise awareness of men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s suicide. Some of their instructors also took part.

The team found its conversations tended towards men’s mental health and the experiences of those in the group who had first-hand experience with poor mental health in their families.

“We’re talking about it a lot more,” Matt said. “It’s great because we like to hold it in especially among men. But with this, we’re getting out there.”

READ ALSO Calls for help to Perinatal Wellbeing Centre double since COVID began

One recruit who shared his story, Josh Turk, lost his father to suicide.

While he’s always taken part in Movember, none of Josh’s colleagues knew just how close the cause was to his heart.

“Having lost [my father] in November as well is sort of a double whammy, but when we started doing it I opened up to the fellas and started a conversation,” he said.

“That snowballed with other people opening up and normalising it a fair bit, so talking about these sorts of things didn’t feel so daunting.”

Josh said he was proud how open all his colleagues were to having these tough conversations because it helped create trust and break down stigmas or apprehension some may have felt.

“College is a tough run anyway, so starting these tough conversations early is a really good start to our career,” he said.

“We’re going to see and hear and go through things most people don’t, so being able to have conversations with your peers about what you’re going through really breaks down [that stigma] and lessens the burden a fair bit.

“Being able to talk about something like that openly and not feel judged is a good precursor to start having conversations about real things that impact you every day.”

Josh said hearing similar stories also helped empower some people to make changes in their own lives, and feel like they had others around who could support and understand them.

“Just knowing other people are going through it and normalising it is the biggest step,” he said.

“It’s also a precursor to be able to make more meaningful change through further conversations.”

The month-long exercise also brought the recruits together as a unit, swapping banter about who had the most impressive or thickest moustache – or lack thereof.

Matt said he noticed their bond grow almost as quickly as some of the facial hair.

“Walking in even after the first weekend, seeing where people were at and where they weren’t, we’ve been having progression photos once a week. All while getting together and talking about this great cause,” he said.

READ ALSO Ravi’s Weird Years highlights campaign for ACT mental health reform

Recruit College 47 graduates in a week’s time, but that doesn’t mean the moustaches will.

“A few boys want to keep them for our graduation photo, but a few partners of some of the boys want them gone today,” Matt said.

You can show your support for ACTF&R Recruit College 47 and help the recruits raise even more funds.

If this article has brought up any issues for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 44.

ACTF&R Recruit College 47 members shave off for Mo-vember

Benjamin Pond is brave enough to let Simon Kelland shave off his top lip’s pride and joy. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

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