They may get blisters and smelly socks but that won't deter Rotorua children from striding into school today with their gumboots on to raise money for free counselling for youth.

Gumboot Friday is a national event set up by New Zealander of the Year Mike King and the I AM HOPE foundation with a goal to offer free mental health support to children.

The I AM HOPE website stated 137 young people died by suicide last year and it was estimated another 3500 attempted to take their own lives.

The idea behind gumboots was that having depression was like walking through the mud every day, and people are asked to put on a pair, show support, and walk in their shoes for a day.

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Despite the lack of puddles, Rotorua Primary School is one of the many schools around district breaking the uniform code and putting on their gumboots.

Having been a teacher for 19 years, Francis Naera said young people struggling with mental health had gotten worse.

She said teachers often took on the role of a social worker.

The free access to experts for young people would be significant for those immediately affected as well as the wider community, she said.

As well as raising money, Owhata Primary School principal Bob Stiles said it was also about raising awareness and the entire school day would revolve around the cause.

Rotorua Primary School pupils Kawatapuarangi Dawson (left), Ahli Gillies, Ali-Frank Acton, Leiya Whakataka-Brightwell, and Nathaniel Reid, all 5, stride into Gumboot Friday. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua Primary School pupils Kawatapuarangi Dawson (left), Ahli Gillies, Ali-Frank Acton, Leiya Whakataka-Brightwell, and Nathaniel Reid, all 5, stride into Gumboot Friday. Photo / Stephen Parker

From three-legged races, mud runs, and a gumboot toss, half the day would have pupils fully in the spirit of the day.

Gumboot colouring and a best-dressed competition would also be in the mix as well as creating a school video to submit with a chance for a visit from Mike King.

Stiles said children needed to know there was no shame in needing help.

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Whangamarino School pupils will also join the country in the mission for free services.

Teacher aid Hilary Dewes-Green said suicides of family members in the school community made supporting the day even more important.

She said gumboots, juicies and a sausage sizzle would be a way for their school to make a difference for themselves and others.

No financial goals have been set by the schools who said any bit of money would help.

King aimed to raise $2 million and was confident the target would be met with all the support.

All money donated would go towards funding free counselling services for young people. More information could be found on their website.

King said Gumboot Friday was set to become an annual event, with planning already under way for 2020.

Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.