Mike King is touring from Bluff to Cape Reinga as part of the Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek

Message of hope

by Andy Bryenton

As part of the Gumboot Friday initiative, mental health advocate and 2019 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, Mike King is embarking on a nationwide tour to​ promote positive, social and attitude change towards mental health in New Zealand.

In the lead-up to Gumboot Friday on April 3, Mike and 30 others will travel 2,000kms on a fleet of 20 tractors to host free community and school events throughout the country.

In the year to June 30 — 685 people took their own lives. The initiative aims to raise $5 million for free counselling. Last year $1.3 million was raised to provide 10,670 critical counselling sessions to more than 2,500 New Zealanders.

“Now more than ever, we need Kiwis to reach out to friends and whanau. We encourage everyone to ask those you are closest to if they are OK,” says Mike.

“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 focussed primarily on our rural communities who face high rates of poor mental health and suicide.”

Tractor Trek fundraising drive was launched in 2016 by Phil Aish to raise support for Hospice. An encounter with his daughter Cat Levine and Mike led to the trek supporting Gumboot Friday.

“As fourth-generation farmers, supporting and raising awareness for positive mental health within the farming community is something we 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 Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek manager, Cat.

To find where the events are happening — go to gumbootfridaytractortrek.org.

Local community groups and service providers wanting to be involved in the trek are encouraged to get in touch via tractor.trek@keytolife.org.nz.