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Printers are being asked to swim and donate for mental health in the annual Head Above Water 24-hour Swimathon, and this year they can swim in any location they choose.

Swimming for mental health: (l-r) Andrew Ward, Konica Minolta; Steve Gamble, Anchor Health; and Lachlan Finch, Rawson print & Packaging
Swimming for mental health: (l-r) Andrew Ward, Konica Minolta; Steve Gamble, Anchor Health; and Lachlan Finch, Rawson Print & Packaging

The Swimathon will take place on 2-3 March, with the main action in Collaroy rockpool in NSW, but printers can swim in any pool in the country and still be part of the event.

Click here to register for Collaroy, click here to register for elsewhere, and click here to make a donation.

Andrew ‘Wardy’ Ward, NSW sales manager at Konica Minolta and founder of Head Above Water said, “We wanted to give people the opportunity to participate wherever they are. They can register to take part in the event, and then set their own time and place.”

For those swimming at Collaroy Rockpool, swimmers can book in one hour blocks of time from 9am Saturday to 9am Sunday – but they don’t have to swim for the entire hour – and in one of four categories: beginner, hack, weekend warrior, and pro. Ward said, “Whatever level you are at there is a lane for you, we’ve even had people walking in the lane, that’s fine, and however long you can swim for is also fine.” Teams of ten can also enter the relays on Sunday, which are starting at 9:15am.

Collaroy will have water safety people and marshalls for the entire 24 hours. Ward says, “There is something magical about swimming in the middle of the night. The first year we had just one person between 2am and 4am, last year we had 50.”

Print industry businesses Rawson Print & Packaging and Konica Minolta are both sponsoring a lane at Collaroy, with Spicers, Abbey Group and Eyetonic also among the sponsors for this year’s event.

Lachlan Finch, director of Rawson Graphics, who has been a swimmer at the event since it started, said, “Print is a tough industry, and it can take a toll. Mental health needs to be supported, particularly in our industry where it has often been a case of 'suck it up princess'. We wanted to step up, Rawson Graphics is proud to support the Swimathon, which will raise valuable funds to enable positive mental health input for printers and others in the community.”

Registration for the Collaroy event, which starts with a smoking ceremony and welcome to country at 8.30am, is $40, and $20 for those swimming in different locations. Swimmers and supporters are encouraged to use the Head Above Water fundraising page on to make donations, which are fully tax deductible.

Head Above Water aims to provide funds to a range of mental health groups, particularly those working in suicide prevention, and over the previous four swims has raised $660,000. This year the event is poignant for many in print, in light of recent events with a well-known industry identity taking his own life.

Enter a team: Finish of the team relay last year
Enter a team: Finish of the team relay last year

Steven Gamble, head of mental health advocates Man Anchor, which is currently rebranding to Anchor Health, said, “Plenty of people are doing it tough. It is important to know you are not alone, and there is help. And just like we all know it is important to keep on top of our physical health, it is equally important to take pro-active steps to ensure our mental wellbeing.

“The support our organisation gets from Head Above Water is wonderful, and will enable us to offer services to print businesses of all sizes, not just the big one. We have been able to work with getting on for 15,000 participants so far, with the Head Above Water funding making a significant contribution to that, for instance enabling us to provide affordable EAP (employee assistance programmes) to smaller print businesses.”

Head Above Water says every donation helps create “meaningful connections” and makes a positive difference throughout the community; every $40 raised funds a participant to attend a workshop, every $75 raised funds a one-hour session with a qualified counsellor, every $700 raised funds a six-week meditation course, and every $4,000 raised funds two 50-person workshops.

Over the last five years, Head Above Water has helped fund mental fitness workshops, presentations and training from partners including Anchor Health (formerly Man Anchor), Tomorrow Man, Tomorrow Woman, Meditation HQ, and Spoke International.

From 2019 to 2023, some 450 programmes have been facilitated, reaching 14,500 men, women, boys and girls across schools, sports clubs, businesses, and community groups. Ward said, “This work is ensuring we all strive for a healthier and more meaningful life, for ourselves and those around us, helping address the tragic reality that eight people in Australia lose their life to suicide every day.”

Steve Gamble said, "Statistics show that in any 12-month period one in five Australians will have adverse mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. That is a large number, and one that we need to take pro-active actions to help reduce. The Head Above Water event is a great way that we can all help, whether through swimming or donating."

Anchor Health says more than two in five Australians (42.9 per cent) aged 16–85 years have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, with one in five Australians (21.5 per cent) experiencing a mental disorder in the previous 12 months. Data also shows that around 1.1 million (38.8 per cent) young adults aged 16–24 years experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months.

Figures show that 8.6 Australians die every day by suicide. That's more than double the road toll (ABS, 2022). Some 75 per cent of those who take their own life are male (ABS, 2022). An unknown number of Australians attempt suicide every year, with some estimates suggesting this figure may be more than 65,000.

Swim for mental health: Head Above Water, 2-3 March
Swim for mental health: Head Above Water, 2-3 March


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