Representatives of IRONMAN New Zealand paid a surprise visit to Dunedin Paramedic Scott Weatherall to reveal that he had been named a recipient of the Tony Jackson Scholarship to compete in the 2019 event.

Weatherall was given the news in front of family, friends and workmates in a surprise visit by IRONMAN Regional Director Chris Randle on Friday, and now has the green light to further his quest to assist in raising awareness of mental health issues in New Zealand, especially with youth.

Weatherall splits his time between working as a front-line Ambulance Paramedic and crewing in the Otago Rescue Helicopter, with a huge amount of his time spent helping people struggling with mental health issues.

It is that first-hand experience that led Weatherall to work closely with Mike King, becoming an Ambassador to The Key to Life Trust, helping raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention. Weatherall is looking to use the Tony Jackson Scholarship and his participation in IRONMAN New Zealand to further highlight the work of the Trust and the message of hope they take into the community.

"Approximately 30% of my work as a Paramedic is attending people having a really challenging time of things in regard to their mental health. These incidents include people turning to drugs or alcohol for a way to cope, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicide or suicidal thoughts.

"At that time of the call I can only do what I can to the best of my ability, but the reality is thats all in the reactive space and I wanted to back-up the Ambulance so to speak, so I got on board with Mike King and his trust The Key to Life Trust as an Ambassador.

"This gives me an awesome and really positive opportunity to spread the word about mental health. We all have medical and physical health and we all have mental health, but this does not mean mental illness. One of the keys is supporting each other before a crisis, and as a result of having a strong local profile I have been lucky enough to be involved in a range of community events and engagements that allow me to speak confidently to people."

IRONMAN New Zealand Regional Director Chris Randle was there to give Weatherall the news in a live video surprise (CLICK HERE) and says he is a perfect recipient of the Tony Jackson Scholarship.

"There are so many amazing New Zealanders doing amazing things, with nominations for the Tony Jackson Scholarship a reflection of those many and varied stories, many in their own way worthy of the Scholarship.

"What stood out for Chris was his well-established passion for his work in the area of mental health and suicide prevention and we believe his participation in IRONMAN New Zealand will provide a great platform to further that great work.

"The benefits of physical exercise in mental health are well researched and documented, we are sure that this will be a story that will resonate with the wider community, with Chris inspiring through his actions and his words. We know Tony would be proud of the work that Chris is doing and the goals he is setting for himself."

A 38-year-old father of two, Weatherall is no stranger to multi-sport and endurance events, he has completed the two-day Coast to Coast and is a keen mountain biker and has already used his participation in various events to raise awareness.

"I am a keen mountain biker, I am not an athlete by any means, but I found riding really helped my personal mental health and resiliency when managing and processing the things we see and deal with at work. From there I started doing a few mountain bike events and I started seeing people wearing sponsored bike tops. I thought I wanted to do that too but with a purpose, so I wear one proudly displaying the Key to Life Trust logo and the I AM HOPE message.

"Through this and other experiences I shared my journey in preparing my body and my mind for another absolutely amazing challenge while at the same time sharing the I AM HOPE message - talking to community groups and organizations along the way."

But it was watching the video of Tony Jackson talking about the Scholarship that has inspired him to take on his biggest challenge yet.

"I have read and watched the video about Tony - what an absolutely amazing man and I love his philosophy nothing is impossibleto the willing mind. I share this philosophy and would love to be a part of IRONMAN New Zealand 2019, representing both Tony and the Key to Life Trust, proudly raising awareness of mental health and suicide prevention through a personal journey of self-discovery and challenge."

Tonys widow Verna Cook-Jackson loves what Scott will bring to the event and the Tony Jackson Scholarship.

"I researched and saw the work that Scott does, as a busy professional doing an amazing job but what I really liked is the charity work, working with young leaders and many other aspects of what Scott does. Tony was someone who loved and believed in helping other people and that is what I see that Scott embodies.

"Scott is now a Tony Jackson scholar and with that comes an expectation to continue to inspire others and show that anything is possible to the winning mind. Well done, I cant wait to see Scott at IRONMAN next year."

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Triathlon New Zealand