May 26, 2015 7:36 pm
Updated: May 26, 2015 8:50 pm

Edmonton firefighters tackle gruelling 100-mile race for mental health

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WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton firefighters and their supporters are training for the Sinister 7 race to raise awareness and funds for mental illness. Quinn Ohler reports.

EDMONTON — A group of Edmonton’s toughest firefighters and supporters are getting ready to participate in one of the most challenging races in Canada – the Sinister 7 Ultra Marathon in the Crowsnest Pass.

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“It’s intimidating” admitted team member Kyle Kozlowski. “The majority of the race and finishing the race is going to come down to your mental capacity, not your physical [capacity].”

Each team member will complete the 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains this July.

Taking part in the 30-hour race is not just a personal goal; the eight runners will also be raising funds and awareness for the Mental Health Foundation, which is why they’re calling themselves Team Mental Rescue.

In recent months, PTSD and mental illness have been brought to the forefront for the team after members of Edmonton’s Emergency Services have died by suicide.

READ MORE: ‘Depression made that choice’: Wife of Edmonton paramedic who took his own life

“It’s such an invisible illness,” said local firefighter and team leader Paul Semeniuk.

“In emergency response, individuals, on a daily basis, deal with traumatic injuries and situations the average citizen doesn’t have to see or be put through.”

Semeniuk said it reaches far beyond the fire hall.

“It’s affecting everyone in different ways.”

Throughout their training, at various local events and on race day, Team Mental Rescue will be wearing bright green as a way to bring light to what Semeniuk called an invisible disease.

“It says ‘I’m in support of it, and it’s not so invisible anymore.'”

“I see a lot of people suffer with it. They don’t know what they can do. They don’t know what’s out there,” Kozlowski added.

The group is also using social media to help raise awareness of the resources out there for those living with mental illness.

Come race day, Kozlowski said the funds and the support they’ve received so far will help motivate them to cross the finish line.

“You don’t sign up to get halfway through. You sign up to finish.”

If you, a family member or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, or you believe they may be suffering from severe depression and/or anxiety, there are many organizations available to help including the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.  A lengthy list can be found here.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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