20 May 2022

Strip away your negative energy by taking the plunge for mental health

| Claire Fenwicke
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Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim supporters unfurl the event banner.

Launch of the 2022 Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim: (from left) Lifeline Canberra CEO Carrie-Ann Leeson, swim committee member Geoff Arney, swim participant David Windeyer, swim committee member Peter Lindeman and swim committee chairperson Ben Johnston. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Peter Lindeman strips off to his birthday suit and plunges into Yarralumla Beach on the shortest day of every year.

“At first I was fairly scared of getting into the water, but the more I do it the better it gets,” he laughs.

It’s all part of the Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim, held since 2017 to raise money for Lifeline and other charities.

A committee member, Peter says his brother Ian came up with the idea after attending a similar event in Hobart in 2016.

A key aspect? Everyone runs into the water butt-naked.

Naked swimmers take the plunge.

Take the plunge for charity on 21 June at Yarralumla Beach. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

“He was particularly impressed with the camaraderie and the friendliness of the people, and he thought ‘I want to do this in Canberra’,” Peter says.

“When Ian first pitched the idea to me, I must admit I was a bit shocked. It took a long time for me to have a think about it but he talked me into it.”

Peter says he keeps taking the plunge to honour the memory of his brother, who died from liver cancer in 2019 and his nephew who died in 2018. It also continues to raise money for Lifeline and keeps the mental health conversation going.

The event has already raised more than $100,000 for Lifeline Canberra, mainly helping to train operators on the 131 444 crisis support line.

Lifeline Canberra CEO Carrie-Ann Leeson says the money is vital.

“We have 400 crisis support operators in Canberra, it’s the largest centre in the country,” she says.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a distressing increase in calls during the pandemic. We’ve had a 700 per cent increase since April 2021 to April 2022.

“It’s interesting to compare it. April 2021 was when the vaccine rollout was deemed botched, we had no end in sight with restrictions and lockdowns. So we now have individuals coming to terms with what happened in a very concerning way.”

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Carrie-Ann says the swim is a “very cherished” event that represents a chance for people to cleanse themselves and hit refresh for a new solar year.

“It brings the community together to have a conversation around self-awareness, self-compassion and the work being done by all of us to feel better,” she says.

“It’s a physically uncomfortable exercise that symbolises the uncomfortable mental exercise some people need to go through.”

Swimmers warm themselves after the event.

The swim on the shortest day of the year symbolises reinvigoration. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Swim committee chairperson Ben Johnston says the sense of community creates a “magic atmosphere” on the day.

“The idea is you see in the new solar year by refreshing and reinvigorating your energy by washing away any negativity in the cold waters,” he says.

“People come out of the water with a smile on their faces, they have a bonding experience straight away.

“It’s going to be cold, it’s always cold but that’s part of the challenge.”

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Bagpipes will welcome swimmers to the shoreline on 21 June, before towels are dropped to take the plunge at 7:12 am sharp.

Open-pit fires and a free sausage sizzle will be on-site to warm swimmers once they return to shore.

Get involved by registering to swim on the day or submitting a donation.

If you need help or someone to talk to, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If it is an emergency, call Triple Zero 000.

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