• 14th Sep 2023

#Parasoul: Taking steps to support paramedic mental health

Supporting paramedic mental health and wellbeing has long been a College priority, and in October members of our Paramedic Wellbeing Working Group are stepping up to raise awareness and enlist support for the Black Dog Institute’s annual One Foot Forward initiative.

One Foot Forward gives people the opportunity to walk, run or roll in solidarity for the 1 in 5 Australians who experience symptoms of mental illness every year. It’s a particularly pressing issue for paramedics, who are reported to have higher rates of mental health problems, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, burnout, post-traumatic stress and higher rates of suicidal ideation than the general population as a result of prolonged exposure to stress and repeated exposure to critical incidents.

Commemorating Mental Health Month, the event runs throughout October and enables people to show solidarity with friends, family, and colleagues with lived experience of mental illness. It’s also a great way of encouraging people to improve their own health and wellbeing through exercise and social connections by being part of a wider community working towards a common goal of raising funds to support mental health treatment, education, and research.

Paramedic Wellbeing Working Group members Clare Sutton (NSW), Sandy MacQuarrie (QLD), Kelly-Ann Bowles (VIC), Jacquie Willis (NSW), Tahlia Harper (VIC) and College Member Engagement Manager Alisha McFarlane (NSW) will walk, run and cycle as part of our special #Parasoul campaign to promote the benefits of exercise on mental health and wellbeing and the importance of social connections.

“We’re proud to be able to support fundraising for the Black Dog Institute, which is a fantastic not-for-profit organisation that does so much in relation to mental health research, education, treatment, digital services, and advocacy, especially in regard to first responders,” Ms Sutton said. “Our aims in taking part in this important initiative are to help people expand their social networks, promote healthy behaviours, and motivate people to take small steps in adopting more active lifestyles.

“It’s imperative that we prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of our paramedic community. Mental resilience directly affects our ability to deliver high-quality care. Exercise has been shown to have a beneficial effect on mental health, alertness, concentration, and mood, as well as reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep and improving physical fitness.”

Among the many activities in which our Working Group members will take part are:

Scheduled walks

Bondi to Manly, Bidjigal, Birrabirragal, Gadigal, Guringai and Gayemagal Country, NSW (Wednesday 18 October to Sunday 22 October)

Day 1: Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay Wharf - 13.4km

Day 2: Watsons Bay Wharf to Circular Quay - 20.1km

Day 3 - Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo - 14.5km

Day 4 - Taronga Zoo to Manly Wharf - 21.8km

Day 5 - Manly Wharf to Manly Beach - 10.2km

Port Macquarie, Birpai Country, NSW - Port Macquarie Lighthouse to Shelly Beach - return, Sunday October 1

Bathurst, Wiradjuri Country, NSW - Sunday 8 October

Blue Mountains, Darkinjung, Dharawal, Dharug, Gundungurra, Wonnarua and Wiradjuri Country, NSW - Saturday 14 October

Melbourne Bayside Beach Hike, Kulin Country, VIC - Brighton to Port Melbourne, 12.5km

We encourage our members to join us on our special month-long #Parasoul journey. It’s free to join and you can sign up as an individual or as part of a team, which is a great way to connect with friends or workmates. You can also join the online community where people are able to share their stories and progress and receive support, encouragement, and inspiration.

You can do as little or as much as you’d like as the goals you set are individual targets. It could be going on a long walk, taking the dog for a few extra walks, or walking instead of driving. Every little bit helps. These types of challenges are a great way to encourage you to meet up with friends for a walk or bike ride, which means you’ll benefit from the social connections as well as from the exercise.

To help spread the word and share your One Foot Forward activities, tag us on social media with the hashtag #Parasoul. We’ll provide updates from our Working Group and share member content throughout October. Sign up for the One Foot Forward campaign here.

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