In the lead up to this year's Gumboot Friday, Mike King and 30 others will travel 2000km on a fleet of 20 tractors to raise awareness for rural mental health.

The Tractor Trek will host free community and school events throughout the country before Gumboot Friday on April 3.

"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" said King.

"Now more than ever, we need kiwis to reach out to friends and whānau. We encourage everyone to ask those you're closest to if they're ok.

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"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".

President and health spokeswoman of Federated Farmers NZ, Katie Milne said rural
communities faced physical and mental isolation, economic instability and limited access
to health services. All factors which contributed 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" said Milne.

"Mike King is a champion for getting stuff out in the open, and talking about depression and suicide. Good on him. Federated Farmers wishes every success to Mike King and the Tractor Trek Team and urges farming families to get in behind the initiative."

Mike King and the Tractor Trek Team will travel 2000km to raise rural mental health awareness. Photo / Supplied
Mike King and the Tractor Trek Team will travel 2000km to raise rural mental health awareness. Photo / Supplied

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 Aish's daughter, Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek Manager Cat Levine, and mental health advocate King, who was 2019 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, 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" said Levine.

"With this trek, we are sending a message of hope to those in need. They are not alone and we support them wholeheartedly."

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The Gumboot Friday initiative, 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 2,500 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.

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

Find out more about Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek 2020 here.

* From April 2019 to January 2020 Gumboot Friday provided:

• 10,670 Counselling sessions
• 2541 Children and young adults were seen by counsellors
• 57 per cent female 41 per cent male
• Most sessions went to 8-11yos, then 12-15yos and 16-19yos
• Top six regions were Otago, Canterbury, Auckland, Wellington, Bay of
Plenty and Waikato

Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
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.