Aussies walk the talk for mental health support

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
6 Min Read

Construction workers, families and friends from around Australia have walked their way towards raising more than $100,000 for mental health, completing more than eight laps around Australia in the process.

1044 Aussies from around the country took part in the MATES Big Lap challenge throughout May, walking a total of 124,288 kilometres between them.

Participants were required to walk, run, ride, swim or wheel an individual target distance of their choosing, improving both their physical health and mental health simultaneously.

Completed distances are pooled together, with those involved aiming to achieve as many equivalent laps around Australia (15,000km) as possible.

Collectively, teams raised just over $100,000, which will go to support mental health programs and initiatives provided by suicide prevention charity MATES in Construction. 

The awareness training will provide construction industry workers on job sites around the country with the skills to recognise when a workmate might be struggling with life while also learning support and suicide prevention strategies.

One of this year’s biggest movers was the Hanssen Construction and Train & Retain team, who smashed their target of $12,285 with days left to spare.

Hanssen Construction administrator Robyn Hixon walked more than 350km as part of the challenge, raising $1250.

She said she couldn’t have done it without her dog, who appreciated all the extra walks.

“I’m really proud of myself for this year’s effort. I’ve managed to stay consistent no matter what comes at me,” she said.

robyn hixon
Robyn (left) and her friend Johno found the perfect finish line to one of their strolls.

“I firmly believe that supporting this cause is important not only for our community but also for my personal well-being.”

“By pushing myself physically, I’ll not only be improving my fitness and mental health but also demonstrating my dedication to the cause.”

Meanwhile consultant at Skillforce Recruitment, Emily Peck, chose to run and cycled over 350km as part of the challenge and is currently just shy of her $700 fundraising target. 

She praised the work MATES in Construction is doing to help build up better systems of mental health assistance within the industry, such as their phone support line.

Emily Peck
Emily Peck chose to run and cycle 350km to raise funds for mental health

MATES in Construction are champions that look after the wellbeing of us and our colleagues; they are huge advocates for Mental Health and the prevention of suicide within the construction industry,”  she said.

“I am a big supporter of mental health, and after struggling with my own mental health, I do believe having a free 24/7 phone line available for those in need is a great thing that I want to see and hear more of.”  

Every year, 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own life, with young construction workers twice as likely to do so than other young Aussie men.

In fact, construction workers are still six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work.

But while suicide remains a significant problem for Australia’s construction industry, great strides have been taken over the last decade to improve awareness and understanding of the importance of mental health, thanks to the hard work and dedication of mental health support charities such as MATES.

Many of Australia’s largest building firms and construction companies are now acutely aware of the seriousness surrounding mental health, with programs and protocols in place to assist those suffering.

These preventative measures play a crucial role in safeguarding the mental health of thousands of tradies across the country. However, the industry still loses one construction worker every two days to suicide.

MATES Australia CEO Chris Lockwood told Build-it the annual fundraiser was a way to make positive change in an industry heavily impacted by mental health issues.

“We are thrilled with the outcome of this year’s MATES Big Lap. Together, we’ve raised over $100,000, which is a testament to the incredible support and dedication of our community,” he said.

“Moreover, participants have collectively completed over 125,000 kilometres, which is equivalent to completing more than eight virtual big laps of Australia.”

“These are not just numbers; they represent the shared commitment and effort of every individual involved, driving us forward in our mission to support suicide prevention and mental health in the construction industry. It’s truly an amazing result, and it reflects the strong spirit and commitment of our community.”

MATES Big Lap is more than just an event; it’s a beacon of hope.”

“Having so many people join our cause is a testament to the shared commitment to turning the tide against mental health struggles and suicide in our workplaces.”

For more information on how to participate in MATESbiglap2025, support, or donate, please visit their website.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.