Tractor Trek sends message of hope to rural communities


Mental health advocate and 2019 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, Mike King embarks on a nationwide tour to promote positive, societal and attitudinal change towards mental health in New Zealand

In the lead up to Gumboot Friday on April 3, mental health advocate Mike King and 30 others are embarking on a 2000 kilometre tour from Bluff to Cape Reinga in a fleet of 20 tractors to host free community and school events throughout the country.

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The Gumboot Friday initiative which launched last year, aims to promote positive, socie­­­tal and attitudinal change towards mental health awareness, and in the process intends to raise five million dollars for free counselling.

Organisers say Gumboot Friday last year raised 1.3 million dollars to provide 10,670 critical counselling sessions to more than 2,500 New Zealanders. New Zealand's latest suicide statistics released by the Chief Coroner in August last year showed another annual increase, where in the year to June 30, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year.

"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 King.

Katie Milne, president and health spokesperson of Federated Farmers NZ says rural communities face physical and mental isolation, economic instability and limited access to health services; all are 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," says Katie.

Federated Farmers wishes every success to Mike and the Tractor Trek Team and urges farming families to get in behind the initiative.

" Tractor Trek 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.

"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," says Katie.

"They are not alone and we support them wholeheartedly," says Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek manager, Cat Levine.

Local community groups and service providers wanting to be involved in the trek are encouraged to get in touch via 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

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