With the global pandemic majorly impacting 2020, the focus on mental health in Australia has never been more important.
Just under 1,000 people attended the 2020 (COVID-approved) Walk for Awareness in Brisbane today, and over 500 joined virtually, to walk 8km, to recognise the 8 Australians who take their own life each day.
Over $140, 000 was fundraised, through donations by Walk for Awareness and other initiatives by the Mental Awareness Foundation, raising vital funds for health services.
The event, now in its tenth year, brings the community together to talk about mental illness, loved ones who have been lost and to raise awareness about mental health.
An initiative of the Mental Awareness Foundation (MAf), Walk for Awareness transformed the city into a front line of community support and encouraging physical activity in a positive and supportive environment.
Brisbane turned on perfect conditions for the COVID-safe event, as participants embarked on the 8km walk, across separate wave-starts to ensure physical distancing, taking in iconic sights of Brisbane including the Story Bridge.
Dollars were not the only currency today with self-hugs being a widely shared commodity. During the proceedings, before the walk started, the crowd were encouraged to self-hug and give virtual high-fives with people they didn’t know, talk to people they had never met and share the meaningful experience together.
Brisbane brothers Tudor and Wesley Vasile, who established the event after losing two friends to suicide in 2011, ensure the event is positive and uplifting, while also taking the time to reflect and remember.
“At Walk for Awareness we encourage mental wellness through participation and movement. Before we start the walk today, let’s take a minute silence to reflect why we are here and honour our loved ones and each other. Close your eyes and place your hand on your heart. We are all here for different reasons but together we will take a stand for mental awareness and support one another,” Wesley Vasile said.
Mental Awareness Foundation Chief Executive Officer Raewyn Bailey was overwhelmed with the support generated from Brisbane and the wider community to a cause close to her heart.
“Today was exceptional and more than ever we needed the walk because of the mental health issues, anxiety and depression during this time. The looks on people’s faces, grieving for people they had lost but the joy on their faces during the warm up and out on the walk was so heartwarming. I am so proud of the entire team, we could not have put on a better event,” said Raewyn Bailey.
Deputy QLD Opposition Leader Tim Mander is a great supporter of the event and knows the Vasile brothers well. He shared his own personal story of having a close family member in a mental health unit at this moment, who has battled mental illness for 18 years.
“This event is so special and I have attended and supported it for years. The work of the Mental Awareness Foundation is incredible and so valuable. I know how painful it is for the families and I can only imagine what it is like for people who are experiencing mental illness.
“This event is called Walk for Awareness for a reason. Please let’s make sure we get rid of the stigma around mental health. Let’s talk about these things and especially you blokes, there is no shame if you are struggling to talk to your mates and your friends so we can help you get through the struggles that you’re having,” said Tim Mander.
Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic, who has attended the walk on several occasions, set an intention with participants before the start of the walk.
“I would like to challenge you all here today, not just to commit to coming back next year but commit to raising awareness and tackling mental health wherever you are, all year round,” said the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner.
The 8km walk starts and finishes at Captain Burke Park in Kangaroo Point under the Story Bridge. The iconic structure is a city landmark and also sadly known to be where many people have chosen to take their life.
Australian Olympian and swimming legend Jessicah Schipper OAM, Paralympic champions Lakeisha Patterson OAM and Brenden Hall OAM and Olympians Matthew Denny and Cedric Dubler were in attendance at the event in Brisbane while Bondi Lifeguards Andrew “Reidy” Reid and Ryan “Whippet” Clark, Sport’s Report Mark Beretta and World Paratriathlon Champion Lauren Parker joined the event from their local community, walking and supporting the Mental Awareness Foundation today.
The atmosphere was at times sombre and otherwise resilient. It was an emotional day for many who were paying tribute to people lost or who are dealing with their own mental struggles. The Walk for Awareness is also a positive way for friends, family and colleagues to show support.
Individual and team registrations will be open shortly for the 2021 Walk for Awareness at www.walkforawareness.org.au which will be held of Sunday, 10 October.