On New Year's Day 2012, ANU Alumnus Brad Carron-Arthur began a life-changing odyssey. Armed with only an eight kilo backpack, determination and a maturity beyond his 22 years, he set out to run from Canberra to Cape York to raise funds for The Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research (AFFIRM).
Almost 5,000 kilometres and 131 days later, Brad completed his journey. In an extraordinary feat of physical and mental endurance, he averaged more than a marathon (approximately 53km) a day and raised $37,475 for mental health research at ANU.
Along the way Brad endured the usual runner's discomforts of blisters and sore muscles, as well as encountering torrential storms, swollen rivers, crocodile-inhabited waters and day-long slogs through mud and sand. He posted 147 videos and 86 articles on a blog, ensuring that the community that supported him could also take part in his adventure.
Brad also engaged with communities he was running through by giving 18 talks in a number of towns and schools.
"I hoped to inspire other young people to live healthy and fulfilling lifestyles. I'm not sure how widespread my message became, but even if it was adopted by just one student, that would mean a great deal to me," he says.
"Fundraising has been a rewarding experience for me because it has given me a profound sense that I can make an impact for the better."
Brad chose to support AFFIRM to highlight the need for greater awareness and acceptance of mental health issues. As an alumnus, Brad felt a connection with AFFIRM's research at ANU.
"Having completed a Bachelor of Psychology at ANU, I understand on an intellectual level the detrimental impact mental illness has on society. But also importantly, having witnessed my dad's plight with long-term depression, I have seen the suffering it can have on a personal level. More recently, seeing him recover was truly inspirational," he says.
When Brad faced some of his own mental health challenges during his run he really understood that there was no shame in asking for help when needed.
Brad's campaign did not stop in Cape York. He continues to raise awareness on mental health issues by speaking to schools, with community groups and at business events. Brad won the Young Canberra Citizen for 2012 and was a finalist in the 2013 ACT Young Australian of the Year.
Funds raised from this extraordinary journey have been invested into AFFIRM's endowment fund, which annually awards PhD research scholarships. In 2012, AFFIRM was proud to award a Postdoctoral Fellowship to Dr Dimity Crisp, whose research work is focused on internet-based interventions for depression (WEllBeing Project) and their impact on perceived social support, empowerment, self-esteem, and general quality of life.