Gumboot Friday is back on today, with communities around the motu participating in special events while wearing gumboots – all in the name of mental health.
The initiative collects donations that go to free counselling for rangatahi, organised by charity I Am Hope, fronted by former comedian and mental health advocate Mike King.
Rangatahi Ora Hauraki in Thames has set its own wero as part of Gumboot Friday – a 24-hour walkathon, which started at 10am this morning. The response has even been received from the wider community like Paeroa, Waihī and Coromandel.
Youth worker and organiser Roanne Mitchell-Te Teira says the community getting behind the kaupapa “is the best thing” about the walkathon.
Live music from folk band The Harmonic Resonators, tamariki of all ages and even the New Zealand Army are part of the event.
“It’s a massive event for a real strong kaupapa that we’re all passionate about, which is to help our rangatahi out get access to services of need in times of need,” Mitchell-Te Teira says.
Both Mitchell-Te Teira and Jacinda Karaitiana, from the self-funded iwi organisation Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, know the hardships that rangatahi have gone through in their line of work.
“I think the reason that we thought of I Am Hope is because kids in our community do utilise that service and access to counsellors immediately is really important,” Karaitiana says.
Having worked as a police officer before working with youth offenders, Karaitiana’s advice to parents who might have their children struggling is to keep open and safe in communication – something she learned during her time with the police.
“The other thing is realising they’re impulsive and their brains aren’t fully developed yet, so we need to be there to guide them.
“It’s not just our job to control and dictate.
“The things that we don’t think are big dramas for a teenager, they actually are.”
Karaitiana wants the rangatahi in her community to know “we see them, we’re walking with them, we’re beside them and that we do care".
Anyone wanting to donate to I Am Hope can do so through their website.
If you need help or are concerned about someone who may need help, contact Lifeline: 0800 543 354, or the Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 TAUTOKO.