ON and around World Mental Health Day on 10 October Mornington Peninsula police showcased the work of Sergeant Barry Randall, who founded Operation Soul Surf.
When it comes to healing the mind, water and waves are the best healers.
From early in his career, Randall became aware of the impact policing can have on a person’s mental health, describing “high highs and low lows” during his nearly 30 years at Victoria Police.
Not long into his career, an attempt on Randall’s life in 1995 ended in a fatal police shooting.
Nightmares followed, as did insomnia and PTSD; a diagnosis that encouraged Randall to leave the country, and then return to the Mornington Peninsula where he could be closer to the beach.
While he knew the benefits of surfing for his own wellbeing, it wasn’t until he watched a documentary on surf therapy that he had a lightbulb moment.
Soon after, Operation Soul Surf was born – based at Point Leo – with the help of the East Coast Surf School, surf outlets and sponsors.
Designed for first responders and military veterans, each free program includes four two-hour lessons and a post-surf meal where participants bond over shared experiences.
“Learning to surf is very physical, very immersive. They (participants) can get out of their own heads for a while, which resonates with so many of us,” Randall said.
Since its launch in 2021, Operation Soul Surf has supported 120 first responders and veterans impacted by PTSD and trauma.
If you or someone you know needs crisis support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au
If a life is in danger, call triple zero (000).
Current and former Victoria Police employees and their families can also access wellbeing services at bluespacewellbeing.com.au