For Toronto Police Detective Tom Comeau, there are similarities in facing mental health challenges and ascending a mountain.
“Trekking and climbing at extreme altitude while being away from your family is akin to the difficulties law enforcement personnel can suffer when dealing with their own mountain of stress,” he said.
It is for this reason that the 51 Division officer is attempting to become the first Canadian law enforcement officer to double summit the Lobouche and Ama Dablam peaks in Nepal.
“Mental health has not always been a conversation we have been comfortable having,” Comeau said. “The accumulated stress and pain suffered by officers was instead bottled up and put away until, for some, it boiled over into debilitating post-traumatic stress.”
Comeau is climbing to raise funds to support mental health among .
Through a GoFundMe campaign, he has raised over $11,000 for Toronto Beyond the Blue, a charitable organization that strengthens and supports police service members, both uniform and civilian and their families.
“Raising money for Toronto Beyond the Blue to help them continue their conversation about the importance of good mental health was natural fit,” said Comeau.
In 2016, Comeau and his wife walked the 42-kilometer Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.
“I enjoyed the altitude and I wanted to go higher,” he said.
A year ago, he and Detective Paul Young spent two weeks in Nepal, trekking to about 5,300 metres.
“It was quite difficult, but we had fun and I decided I wanted to climb some of the mountains I saw on that trek and go higher,” he said.
This time, he will be aiming to climb Lobuche, which is 6119 metres tall and Ama Dablam that is 6812 metres above sea level.
Signing up with a Nepal-based expedition company, Comeau will join a group for the climbs.
“The first climb on Lobouche is sort of an acclimatization for Ama Dablam,” he pointed out. “The last two-and-a-half weeks of the expedition will be spent climbing that one.”
Scaling both mountains, said Comeau, will be physically and mentally exhausting.
“Nevertheless, it is soothing,” he added. “It is a sort of a stress reliever as all you are thinking about is doing all the things to ensure you get up and down that mountain safely.”
In an effort to support the local economy, Comeau has ordered a Mountaineering Down Suit with TPS colours from a Nepal company.