National | Gumboot Friday

World champion boxer Mea Motu signs up for Mike King’s Gumboot Friday

With preparations underway for this year’s edition of Gumboot Friday this week, I Am Hope founder Mike King (Te Māhurehure) and world super bantamweight boxing champion Mea Motu have teamed up to raise funds and awareness in the charity’s annual event for mental health.

A passionate Motu, who is putting on the ambassador armband for Gumboot Friday, knows all too well the struggles with mental health.

“I’m definitely passionate. I fight for our children, allowing them to have a voice and protecting their mental health because our children are our next generation. They’re the ones we need to look after. We need to change the narrative.”

“I’ve been through it, but, also, my children have been through it. I have a 10-year-old son, who has wanted to commit suicide, so I totally understand it. Even I’ve been in that dark place at a very young age, I wanted to give up.”

King had some words about the incoming government’s $20 million pool of funding set aside for mental health services, which I Am Hope has yet to see a cent of.

“It’s been a struggle this month,” King says. “We have to find $500,000 a month, and this month and the last three weeks we’ve had $139,000, so it’s a massive hill to climb.

“[The government] has reached out to us on numerous occasions but we have to remember it’s not the governments that are the issue, it’s the bureaucrats. Ironically, the same bureaucrats that were advising the last government will be advising the incoming government and we don’t have a great relationship with them. Who knows?”

To date, $10 million has been spent on close to 80,000 counselling sessions through I Am Hope.

But with 534 counsellors and 190 more wanting to sign up, the funds aren’t meeting the demand.

“Two years ago we were funding $78,000 worth of sessions. Now we fund 3400 sessions at $500,000 a month. We have to go out there and find that money because we will never be funded by Te Whatu Ora.

“For us, having people like Mea shining a light on Gumboot Friday, shining a light on the needs of our kids, that’s vital. Mea is our best ambassador not because she talks about it, she lives it every single day.”

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.

Public Interest Journalism