Rugby community wraps its arms around mental health round

By Pete Fairbairn, 17.10.14

Queensland Rugby Media Unit

One in five Australians suffer from a mental health issue. That’s more than four million Australians who struggle with this illness every day.

Round 9 of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship is ‘Mental Health Round’ and principal partner Buildcorp has thrown its support behind national charity Lifeline.

Buildcorp, together with Queensland Rugby, RUPA and the other State Unions, are targeting $50,000 in funds raised across Round 9 of the NRC, the Bledisloe Test and at other Rugby events during the round to help expand Lifeline’s online Crisis Support Chat service.

Buildcorp Group Principal, Josephine Sukkar, said the Rugby community’s support of Lifeline would help it provide more accessible services to those in need.

Sukkar, whose husband Tony is Buildcorp Group Managing Director, said: “Buildcorp Charitable Fund was established by my husband and I to support charities which are important to our employees.

“This year we are supporting mental health because we have a disproportionately high rate of suicide in construction.

“Mental health issues are also a concern to national sports bodies, who deal with this issue with their athletes.

“Builders are like footballers, they’re “blokey-blokes”, so they often don’t talk about these issues. I’m not sure today’s youth are comfortable picking up the phone, so we wanted to help support Lifeline’s online presence to give people more opportunities to talk.”

In 2010, men accounted for more than three quarters of deaths from suicide and yet an estimated 72% of males don’t seek help for mental health issues.

Sukkar said it was important for society to get past the stigma associated with mental health and provide young people, particularly males, with as much opportunity as possible to feel comfortable seeking help, as early as possible.

“We had an approach a year ago from a group called Mates in Construction, who work with builders and help identify if their friends may be at risk of suicide.

“They trained men on a couple of our sites on how to identify whether their mates might be trouble. They also worked with them on how to talk about it.

“As a direct result of this, they had some success with a colleague on one of their sites, as they had been trained to recognise the signs, asked the right questions, at the right time, in the right way. They helped their mate.”

But this is not an issue isolated to the construction industry. One in five Australians have some form of mental health issue, with 75% of those affected having their first issue before turning 25. This is a pertinent fact when considering the average age of Australian Rugby players is 18 to 25 years old.

Lifeline is a national charity which provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

Queensland Rugby are working closely with Buildcorp to raise awareness and funds for the prevention of anxiety, depression and suicide, particularly in young males.

Four of the Queensland Reds have partnered with Buildcorp to create a special television commercial for Round 9, which encourages young males to talk about mental health issues. See the video here:

As part of the fundraising efforts, all jerseys from the Brisbane City match will feature the Lifeline logo on the sleeve. The jerseys will be signed following the match and auctioned online at

Queensland Rugby will also raise funds for the program through a raffle at its Bledisloe Cup Long Lunch and via a gold-coin donation at its Parliamentary Friends of Rugby in Queensland event at Parliament House.

In addition, University of Queensland volunteers will be selling Buildcorp NRC Rugby balls at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday.

Lifeline’s Crisis Support Chat service has a notable impact with a younger demographic; with people in rural and regional communities; with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; with people for whom English is not their first language; and people in acute crisis who are too overwhelmed to talk.

Due to funding pressures, the service is currently only available between 7:00pm and 4:00am, unlike Lifeline’s phone service which offers 24-hour support.

The program currently costs $1.4-million annually to run, with the average cost of an online chat around $30, so a $50,000 contribution from Rugby will allow an extra 1,600 online chats to be answered per annum.

Pete Fairbairn
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