Cyclist rides the height of Mount Everest for veterans’ mental health

Major collision unit Detective Leading Senior Constable Leigh Miller rode over 9,000 metres on Kallista-Emerald Road in The Patch, higher than Mount Everest, to raise funds for Police Veterans Victoria. PICTURE: ERNESTO ARRIAGADA

By Tyler Wright

A Detective Leading Senior Constable at Victoria Police’s major collision unit has successfully ridden the height of Mount Everest in an effort to raise funds for police veterans’ mental heath.

Raising nearly $10,000 for Police Veterans Victoria with friend Stephan Jusypiw; Constable Leigh Miller rode 300 kilometres on a 1.5 kilometre stretch of Kallista-Emerald Road in The Patch on Saturday 11 March.

Starting at 3am, it took Constable Miller nearly 14 hours to reach a vertical gain of 9,036 metres; nearly 200 metres higher than Mount Everest.

With wife Michelle on the board of Police Veterans Victoria, the police officer knew that a $400,000 sponsorship with the state government had fallen through for the non-for-profit organisation, and he wanted to create a fundraising event.

“Back in the late ‘80s I was a track and field athlete and went to the Olympics in Seoul for 400 metre hurdles, so I’ve got a sporting background,” Constable Miller said.

“I like a challenge, and fitness and health for me is very high on my agenda, so once my running career finished back in the ’90s and my body started breaking down, I went to cycling and I love riding.

“We’re dealing with some the worst collisions that anyone can see, which involves a lot of tragedy. Getting out of the bike clears my head. It gives me time to bring myself back to normality.”

Working with police officers throughout the state and seeing the potential mental health impacts on those in the police force, Constable Miller said he wanted people to know there is an organisation that can help them in retirement.

“PTSD builds up on you, of course, once you retire and you’re not working…they start to suffer,” he said.

“For instance, I go to fatal collisions day after day, and I say, ‘it doesn’t affect me, ‘it doesn’t affect me. I’m okay,’…but then one day I go to a collision and it bothers me, and then when I retire or I leave the job and I’m walking down the street and I see something and it’s a flashback to that memory, and all of a sudden I’m a mess and I need help and I don’t know where to go, it can be just one incident which puts you over and just makes you suffer.

“Whereas police veterans, they’re there, they will provide counselling, servicing, support, anything that members need, and because they’re not for profit, obviously, they’re relying on the goodwill of major corporations to keep them up and running.”

Constable Miller said the support from Victoria Police, as well as friends and family he received throughout his fundraising efforts, made him feel “really good”.

“Even post ride messages of support, people that came out and ride with me and support me, it’s just a different feeling than riding on your own…I knew I had people’s backing,” he said.

“I’m just blown away by the support that everybody gave me.”