Scores of Kiwis are ditching their loafers, heels or sneakers in favour of gumboots today, in support of inaugural mental health initiative Gumboot Friday.

Mental health charity I AM HOPE and its founder – New Zealander of the Year Mike King – have launched the initiative to raise money and awareness for children’s mental health.

Kiwis are being encouraged to don a pair of gumboots to work or school and bring a gold coin donation. Gumboot Friday aims to raise $2 million, to fund an unspecified number of counselling sessions.

King’s organisation I AM HOPE said the fundraiser was a fun way for Kiwis to join in the mental health conversation, while raising money to provide free counselling for kids in need.

The initiative uses gumboots because “for people struggling with depression, it can feel like walking through mud every day”.

All of the money donated would go to registered health professionals. Therapists or counsellors will be able to directly invoice The Key to Life Charitable Trust for the cost of their appointment.

In 2018, 137 young New Zealanders died by suicide. It’s estimated another 3500 attempted to take their own lives.

There are concerns around kids waiting up to six months to receive counselling services.

Around 25 different events have been organised around the country in efforts to raise awareness.

Amber Hall, from I AM HOPE, said sparking conversations about mental health in a fun way can remove the judgment from discussions about the issues facing so many Kiwis.

“New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. As a population, we’ve tried the “suck it up”, secrecy, and self-reliance approaches – and they haven’t worked,” Hall said.

“There’s plenty of research that demonstrates what humans have known all along: a problem shared is a problem halved.

“But it can feel overwhelming and too hard to start those conversations.”

Hall said it was important for businesses to advocate for mental health, as they quite often “set the tone” and lead communities in pushing social change.

“If a work environment isn’t open to talking about mental health and supporting good mental health practices, it is pretty difficult for an individual to build that environment alone.”

The Prime Minister is throwing her weight behind the initiative, with a video posted on the Labour Party Facebook page showing her donning a pair of wellies herself.

“It really doesn’t matter where you are on April 5th,” Jacinda Ardern said in the clip.

“Everyone can support Gumboot Friday.”

For those New Zealanders without gumboots stowed away in the wardrobe, there are many spots where they’re able to pick a pair up on the cheap.

The Warehouse has a handful of options, including glittery boots and gumboots adorned with flamingos. The range all sits around $29.

Number One Shoes also has a great selection, ranging from around $15 to $40.

Numbers of Kiwis were also posting on social media with pictures of their footwear, ranging in style from stock-standard black wellies, to options with a bit more glam.

Psychotherapist Kyle McDonald posted a picture on Twitter titled “Family portrait” – featuring four pairs of the boots.

By donning gumboots Kiwis can “show people who are struggling that they’re not alone,” King said,

“It’s important and normal to talk about the things that they’re dealing with internally.”

Make a donation here to support Gumboot Friday.

Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider.

However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

Source: NZ Herald

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