Are you okay?

That's the important question to come from Gumboot Friday last week where schools and businesses in Horowhenua donned gumboots in support of a national initiative to raise awareness of mental wellbeing.

The focus on wellbeing was a nationwide initiative sparked by comedian and New Zealander of the Year Mike King to bring attention to New Zealand's mental health issues.

Gumboot Friday was born out of the idea that depression was like walking through mud every day. People were encouraged to wear gumboots all day to show their support for young New Zealanders struggling with their mental health.

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Jamie Harper and Carter Maddock, both aged 16, were part of a social action committee at Horowhenua College that help raise more than $400 in support of Gumboot Day.
Jamie Harper and Carter Maddock, both aged 16, were part of a social action committee at Horowhenua College that help raise more than $400 in support of Gumboot Day.

Horowhenua College got behind the initiative with students and teachers wearing gumboots and holding a gumboot throwing competition.

Horowhenua College principal Grant Congdon said the school held a special assembly last week specifically to talk about wellbeing and to reinforce the availability of the student counsellor and the need to talk and seek help.

"We see student wellbeing as a top priority," he said.

"There have been local tragedies here. We need to acknowledge that mental health is an issue. We need to work as a community to see how we can help each other," he said.

"The conversation around wellbeing and mental health awareness. I want to see it open up so that we can be open and transparent with each other."

"How can we, as a community, get together to look after our own?"

Congdon said the school had a counsellor available that students could approach with any concerns, and from there they could be best directed to the appropriate services.

"And the need for that is growing. It's growing exponentially," he said.

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Carter Maddock and Jamie Harper from the school's social action committee came up with the idea of a gumboot throwing competition and the $400 raised would go towards the school's counselling service.

Staff at Oxford Finance booted up for the national fundraising initiative.
Staff at Oxford Finance booted up for the national fundraising initiative.

Meanwhile, Oxford Finance in Levin was one of a number of businesses to support the initiative and raised $500.

Gumboot Day also increased gumboot sales. Kirsten Gagiano from The Warehouse in Levin said people were lined up waiting for the store doors to open on Friday, solely to buy a pair of gumboots, particularly smaller sizes.

"They were waiting at the door," she said.

Statistics showed that 137 young New Zealanders killed themselves last year, while 3500 attempted suicide.

WHERE TO GET HELP:
1737, Need to talk? - Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor
Depression.org.nz - 0800 111 757 or text 4202
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 for people up to 18 years old. Open 24/7.
Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz, or find online chat and other support options.
Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
What's Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling available Monday-Friday, noon–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.
thelowdown.co.nz – Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
Anxiety New Zealand - 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
Supporting Families in Mental Illness - 0800 732 825.
If it is an emergency click here to find the number for your local crisis assessment team. In a life-threatening situation call 111