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‘If we reach just one person, it’s worth it’ – Fire fighters open up about mental health

PUBLISHED: 17:56 18 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:56 18 February 2020

Suffolk firefighters are going to be cycling  the length of the UK to raise awareness of mental health   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk firefighters are going to be cycling the length of the UK to raise awareness of mental health Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Firefighters from Suffolk will be opening up about their own mental health on a journey which will be both physically and mentally exhausting.

Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham, county council chief executive Nicola Beach and Darren Cooper   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNChief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham, county council chief executive Nicola Beach and Darren Cooper Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A 20-strong team men and women from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service will be taking on the famous Lands End to John O'Groats to raise money and awareness for mental health on Sunday, September 20.

Darren Cooper, station commander, came up with the idea as he wanted to tick it off his bucket list, but now it's evolved into much more.

"The idea is that we will stay at 12 fire stations along the way and each evening we will be opening up and sharing our personal experiences with mental health," he explained.

"We will be producing daily videos where we talk about our stories and give key messages to make sure other people know they're not alone and that 'it's OK not to be OK'.

Sally Hammond, Darren Cooper and Hazel Baldwin   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSally Hammond, Darren Cooper and Hazel Baldwin Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"If we can reach just one other person by doing this, even one, then for me it will all have been totally worth it."

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The 46-year-old is hoping to raise £50,000 to transform Harcombe House, a residential home in Devon run by The Fire Fighters Charity in Devon, which rehabilitates firefighters affected by physical and emotional stress of the job.

The team is aiming to complete the ride in 10 days and they will cycle 1,000 miles.

Suffolk firefighters are going to be cycling  the length of the UK to raise awareness of mental health   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSuffolk firefighters are going to be cycling the length of the UK to raise awareness of mental health Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Dr Jill Tolfrey, chief executive at The Fire Fighters Charity, said: "We are delighted to offer our full support to the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service team as it sets off on The Longest Ride 2020.

"Every penny raised by the team will allow us to fund life enhancing mental health support - at our centres and through our outdoor spaces - for members of the fire services community in need today."

Mark Hardingham, chief fire officer, will be taking on one leg of the bike ride and says that he and the team are encouraging others to take on a leg.

"Darren walked into my office and asked, 'have you got 10 minutes?' He pitched me his idea and I was sold right away.

Sally Hammond, Darren Cooper and Hazel Baldwin   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSally Hammond, Darren Cooper and Hazel Baldwin Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"It's a great idea and even those who are more of what we'd called leisurely cyclists - and me who does no cycling at all - are taking part."

For more details and donations visit the website or find them on Twitter

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