Mike King's message of hope arrives in Palmerston North for the Rural Games next weekend.

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

In the lead-up to Gumboot Friday April 3, King and 30 others will travel 2000km on a fleet of 20 tractors to host free community and school events throughout the country.

The convoy will arrive in Palmerston North at Awapuni on Friday March 13.

Advertisement

The team will be at the Rural Games on both Saturday and Sunday to raise awareness and I am Hope Tractor Trek will convoy around The Square at 3pm on Saturday March 14.

The Gumboot Friday which launched last year aims to raise $5 million for free counselling.

Last year Gumboot Friday raised $1.3 million to provide 10,670 critical counselling sessions to more than 2500 New Zealanders.

New Zealand's latest suicide statistics released by the Chief Coroner in August last year showed another annual increase.

In the year to June 30, 685 people took their own lives - 17 more than the previous year.

"Now more than ever, we need Kiwis to reach out to friends and whānau," said King.

"We encourage everyone to ask those you're closest to if they're ok.

"Our nationwide trek is about raising awareness and encouraging communities and individuals to drive the attitudinal and social change that is needed to reverse the incidence of anxiety, suicide and depression.

Advertisement

"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 King.

New Zealand Rural Games Founder Steve Hollander says Mike's message of hope is especially important for people living in rural communities and on the farms.

"Rural sports play a massive role in giving people in rural areas an outlet off-farm, a chance to have fun with mates, be competitive but most importantly have a go and keep in touch with others."

Tractor Trek is a fundraising drive that 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.

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

King said it was great to have Kiwibank, a foundation partner in 2019, back on board to help make the Tractor Trek possible as they spread the message of hope in communities across New Zealand.