Little People, Big Feelings
Gumboot Friday by I Am Hope
The importance of mental health is paramount, especially for our younger generations. The cost of living, cyberbullying, stresses of work or study, and a more fast-paced life are just some of the implications that young people face. Gumboot Friday is returning this year on Friday the third where people all around the country are hosting events to raise funds for young people, 25 and under, to have access to free and timely counselling services.
For farmers and members of the rural community, gumboots are usually an everyday necessity. The next time you slip on your Red Bands, take a moment to think about the analogy of what gumboots reflect in terms of mental health. Sometimes life can be overwhelming, like when you’re stuck in mud, but wearing gumboots can make it a little more manageable. This is why Gumboot Friday was founded: to give support to young people going through depression and mental health issues, and to shed light on what counselling can do for them.
Founded by Mike King in 2009, the I Am Hope Foundation is the parent charity, and Gumboot Friday is the platform through which free counselling is provided to young people across Aotearoa. It was originally called The Nutters Club, which transitioned to The Key to Life before changing to its current name “I Am Hope”. “We asked the young people we support what we represent to them and what we should be called, and they came up with the name, so here we are,” Michaiah Simmons, Events, Marketing, and Partnerships Manager, said.
“Why Gumboot Friday, you may ask? Mike was providing free counselling sessions to young people and paying for them himself, but when it quickly grew to a $10,000-a- month exercise, he realised there was a huge need in this area."
"Mike and his friend came up with the idea to create a day of fundraising so he could continue to provide free counselling. All the proceeds donated to Gumboot Friday fund the counselling sessions; in fact, we cover the cost of their administration through I Am Hope. We are now providing approximately 3,500 monthly sessions, which is costing us about $500,000 a month," she said.
In her role at I Am Hope, Michaiah uses her past mental health experiences to provide young people with a safe, supportive environment. She has been working with the charity for the last six months and has full confidence in the work that they do. “Mental health is something that has impacted my life from a young age. I work for Gumboot Friday and I Am Hope because I want to make sure no young person has to go through what I went through on their own. I want to make sure our young people have support and know they can talk about their struggles without fear of judgement. I want them to have a safe space to be able to talk about the issues they are facing. We have no idea what younger generations face today.”
Little People, Big Feelings is a programme that benefits primary-aged children across New Zealand. The programme aims to educate youth on how to manage their emotions. “It’s normal to feel sad, angry and upset. We all have that voice or inner critic that tells us we are no good. We are working to change attitudes around mental health so that future generations are in a much better place to take on life, so we don’t need to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, and families don’t have to go through the trauma of losing their young ones to suicide,” Michaiah highlighted.
“We have already been into hundreds of schools around New Zealand and are fully booked up for the rest of the year. We believe the success rate is something that will play out in years to come, but it is always incredibly well received. We have had numerous reports of young kids opening up to their whānau and teachers about issues they have been struggling with, which meant they were able to get the help and support they needed before it was too late.”
The charity is entirely community-funded, so it relies heavily on individuals, groups and businesses to get involved by participating in fundraising efforts. On Gumboot Friday, they encourage people to wear gumboots, raise awareness and donate to the cause. For the past few years, Goldpine has been hosting ‘The Annual Goldpine Gumboot Throw’ at each of their stores nationwide. The event gives the community an opportunity to participate in a gumboot throw alongside other locals, with prizes up for grabs!
"There are a lot of incredible supporters that dedicate their time and resources to the cause, and many amazing fundraising ideas and events that take place across the country. We have this amazing woman, Paula, a 70-year-old, who has just completed a tour around New Zealand, jumping into all the lakes to raise money and awareness for the lives lost to suicide. She completed over 180 minutes in freezing cold water over a ten-day period and raised over $5,000,” Michaiah said.
“We have had epic people doing all sorts of intense physical challenges, such as running for 24 hours in the Karangahake Gorge tunnel, running for 101 hours in the Dead Cow Gully, breaking a world record, 24 hours of non-stop yoga, or 16 people shaving their heads at once – all raising funds for us.”
The latest project called ‘Hope Home’ is in collaboration with Fowler Homes, where they’re building a house located in Queenstown that will be auctioned off before next year’s Gumboot Friday. All proceeds will go directly to the charity to fund free youth counselling. The process will be followed closely throughout the year on The Rock FM.
If you’re interested in donating to Gumboot Friday now, text ‘BOOTS’ to 469 to make an automatic $3 donation or go to gumbootfriday.com to donate.
As a rural community, It’s important to stay connected and find someone to talk to. If you or anyone you know is struggling, feel free to call or text 1737 at any time for support from a trained counsellor.
Here are some other national helplines provided by Mental Health Foundation New Zealand: Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) Healthline – 0800 611 116 Samaritans – 0800 726 666