More than 200 people are expected to brace the winter chill and test their limits this Saturday (1 July) by submerging themselves in baths filled with ice at North Wollongong beach.
The initiative by local mental health organisation Talk2mebro has surged in popularity and its director Jack Brown said the service is about more than just challenging yourself.
“The reason the ice baths are amazing is because not only are there physiological benefits, but they’re also really good for our mental health to get out of our head and into the present,” Jack said.
Talk2mebro has been running the service for almost three years but despite the cold weather and early mornings, crowds continue to grow as word gets out about the benefits.
“There’s not many activities like ours where you come together and you focus on bettering ourselves, supporting each other through that journey and also testing ourselves,” Jack said.
Catch-ups are run weekly, fortnightly or monthly for different groups, where participants are guided through sessions to help them connect to the community and connect to themselves.
“We’ve got breath work run by breath work instructors,” Jack said. “It allows us to meditate and focus on our breath no matter what’s going on around, to just be centre and present.”
Jack said those skills and mindset are not only important for helping overcome the immediate challenge of the ice bath, but also help support people with how to approach other obstacles in their lives.
“A lot of times in life you can’t change the problem, you can only change the way you react to it,” he said. “Your thoughts aren’t going to make it any warmer or any more comfortable but we can use our breath and be present and we can just focus on the problem at hand.”
He said the feeling of accomplishment keeps people coming back for more, but it’s not always easy.
“It’s the practice of actually getting there and becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Jack said. “That way when life does throw us curve balls, we have practiced being in that uncomfortable position and being able to breathe and being able to connect with those people around us to get through those hard times.”
Talk2mebro started in 2018 as a suicide prevention and mental health platform for men in the Illawarra and has continued to grow across the country, reaching more than 50,000 people face-to-face through programs and initiatives and more than 1.7 million through social media.
Its mission is to create societal change and stop more losses to suicide by reducing stigma and encouraging men to feel more comfortable talking about their struggles.
And by offering catch-ups like this, they are making sure it doesn’t cost a thing to connect to your community.
“They’re free to come along to, you get a free cup of coffee, a free ice bath, breathwork,” Jack said. “We do all this because we’re trying to break as many barriers as possible for people coming down and encouraging help-seeking behaviour.”
And if you or someone you know is in need of crisis support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Talk2mebro’s monthly catch up takes place at North Wollongong Surf Club on 1 July at 8:15 am. It’s free and open to everyone. For more information and to reserve a spot, visit the Eventbrite link.
To register for other events or join the cause visit the Talk2mebro website.