Lifeguards tackle trail run to highlight Peer Support

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A winter run through Central Otago is a stark contrast from lifeguarding at the beach on a sunny summer's day.

But for four Surf Life Saving members from around the country, it's all part of a plan to shine a light on the importance of peer support within the surf lifesaving community.

Paul Carlyon (Otaki), Dave Clark (United North Piha), Adam Fraser (Fitzroy) and Gavin Mason (St Clair) are taking on a half marathon as part of the Mt Difficulty Ascent trail run on June 10.

Paul says it's not just a great opportunity to get some off-season training or see a beautiful part of the country.

"We thought it was a chance to promote mates helping mates doing tough things, he says.

"Clubbies sometimes face huge challenges in their duties and being there for each other, giving support and lending a hand, is key to how effective lifeguard services operate."

SLSNZ's national lifesaving manager Allan Mundy says the Peer Support programme provides a formal network of support for Surf Lifeguards who can often be faced with traumatic critical incidents and be subjected to stressors in the line of duty which can have adverse effects on their daily coping and operational functioning.

Lifeguards who are experiencing these issues can be referred to the Regional Lifesaving Manager by a Patrol Captain or any concerned club member and that will activate the services of a local Peer Supporter.

There are around 20 senior lifeguards from around the country that make up the peer support network. They are hand-picked due to their experience (including paramedics and psychologists) and training is provided every two years.

"It's important for members to know that if they're faced with a traumatic event while lifeguarding, or even using their lifeguarding skills away from the beach, someone is there to help support them," he says.

Members can also be referred onto further counselling or professional support.

Paul, alongside Scott Weatherall of Brighton Surf Life Saving Club, has trained members in Peer Support over the past few years.

The 22km adventure run will be no easy feat for Paul, Dave, Adam and Gavin with the cold temperatures and steep, rocky terrain around the Bannockburn vineyards and hills.

Paul says the race has obvious parallels with peer support.

With two Lifeguards of the Year, the SLSNZ Chief Instructor for the Advanced Lifesaving School and the Chairman of the National Lifesaving Committee doing the run, there's plenty of shared experience and wisdom between the group, and they all agree that being a team and being willing to ask for help when the going gets tough is core to managing challenges.

"It'd be fair to say we're a mixed-ability group and we'll rely on each other to get the training in before-hand and get the event done," he says.

To find out more about Surf Life Saving New Zealand's Peer Support programme, contact your Regional Manager.

For more information, please contact:

Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager, SLSNZ
Phone 0276 488 823