Mental health advocate and 2019 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Mike King is embarking on a nationwide tour aboard a tractor to promote positive, societal and attitudinal change towards mental health in New Zealand.
In the lead-up to Gumboot Friday on April 3, Mike King and 30 others will travel 2000km on a fleet of 20 tractors to host free community and school events throughout the country, from Cape Reinga to the Bluff.
The Gumboot Friday initiative, which launched last year, aims to raise $5 million for free counselling for Kiwis.
Last year Gumboot Friday raised $1.3 million to provide 10,670 critical counselling sessions to more than 2500 New Zealanders.
Most sessions went to eight-11 year-olds, then 12-15-year-olds and 16-19-year-olds, with the top six regions with people accessing assistance being Otago, Canterbury, Auckland, Wellington, Bay of Plenty and the Waikato.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s latest suicide statistics released by the Chief Coroner last August showed another annual increase – in the year to June 30 last year 685 people took their own lives, which was 17 more than the previous year.
Mike King says now more than ever, we need Kiwis to reach out to friends and whanau. “We encourage everyone to ask those you’re closest to if they’re okay.
“Our nationwide trek is about raising awareness and encouraging communities and individuals to drive the attitudinal and social change that is needed to reverse the incidence of anxiety, suicide and depression.
“This year, with the help of the highly-experienced Tractor Trek team, we are focused primarily on our rural communities who face high rates of poor mental health and suicide,” says Mike.
Federated Farmers NZ president and health spokesperson Katie Milne says our rural communities face physical and mental isolation, economic instability and limited access to health service – all factors which contribute to poor mental health.
“Too many rural folk are so busy looking after their families, their animals, their friends and workmates that they put themselves at the bottom of the list, and fail to reach out for help.
“Mike King is a champion for getting stuff out in the open, and talking about depression and suicide. Good on him. Federated Farmers wishes every success to Mike King and the Tractor Trek Team and urges farming families to get in behind the initiative.”
Tractor Trek is a fundraising drive that was launched in 2016 by Phil Aish to raise support and awareness for Hospice.
A chance encounter with his daughter Cat Levine and Mike King, led to the trek supporting the Gumboot Friday initiative this year.
Cat, who is Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek manager, says as fourth generation farmers, supporting and raising awareness for positive mental health within the farming community is something they feel strongly connected to as a family.
“With this trek, we are sending a message of hope to those in need. They are not alone and we support them wholeheartedly,” says Cat.
Mike King says it’s also great to have Kiwibank, a foundation partner in 2019, back on board to help make the Tractor Trek possible and spreading the message of hope in communities across NZ.
Local community groups and service providers wanting to be involved in the trek are encouraged to get in touch by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find a Tractor Trek event happening near you, see: www.gumbootfridaytractortrek.org