A team of Shepparton firefighters will complete a 20km walk next month to honour a colleague who took his own life.
Just 18 months after finishing a 400km walk to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Ballarat firefighter Nathan Shanahan committed suicide.
He was as an ex-soldier and a former Mildura firefighter.
Mr Shanahan’s walk from Mildura to Adelaide in April 2015 was also a way for him to tackle his own demons.
However, in December last year he succumbed to his mental health problems.
To honour him, Mr Shanahan’s colleagues in Ballarat and Mildura organised the Walk Off The War Within challenge, a 20km walk to share the burden and walk as one.
About five Shepparton firefighters will take part in the challenge on Saturday, April 22, along with teams from CFA stations and other service groups from across the state.
Shepparton fire station senior station officer Leigh Allan, along with another team member, will complete the 20/20 challenge, donning 20kg backpacks during the walk just like Mr Shanahan did for his walk in 2015.
‘‘The 20kg backpack is to represent the weight of the condition and PTSD,’’ Mr Allan said.
‘‘I knew Nathan, and locally this has certainly impacted people at our station.’’
A walk to honour Mr Shanahan was in the works soon after his passing, with his friends and colleagues not wanting his death to be in vain.
‘‘We went to Nathan’s funeral which was held in Ballarat and there was talk of doing something to recognise Nathan then,’’ Mr Allen said.
‘‘The guys started organising it in February and it’s sort of come on board quickly from there.’’
The walk has attracted attention from CFA teams as far as Traralgon, Mildura and Warrnambool, who are also gearing up to take part next month.
‘‘It’s about raising awareness of these disorders and mental health problems,’’ Mr Allen said.
‘‘Our aim, with a couple of other organisations locally, is to hold our own walk (in Shepparton) during mental health week in October.’’
The Walk Off The War Within challenge is open to the wider public, not just emergency services.
Registrations close at 5.30pm on Monday, April 17.
The walk will be held at Victoria Park, St Patrick’s College rear oval, in Ballarat on Saturday, April 22, from 9am to 3pm.
For more information and to register go to walkoffww.com
If you are troubled by this report, experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide, you can phone Lifeline on 131114 or beyondblue on 1300224636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.org.au