Rowers go Through the Blue for Mental Health

This weekend, four Wellington rowers will make history as the first ever all-female crew to attempt to row the Cook Strait.

The quartet make up the charity Through the Blue, and are doing the crossing to raise money and awareness for mental health.

"We didn't want to do it for no reason. So through chatting with each other we found we all had our own struggles with mental illness," Eleanor Morris told Newshub.

The charity wants to develop early intervention programmes, to educate teachers about youth mental health.

"The cause is quite close to my heart because I see quite a lot of students on a daily basis, seeing that they might be struggling with some sort of mental health issue," says teacher Tina Manker.

At first they didn't know they were the first all-female crew to attempt the crossing, and they say the row isn't about their individual achievements, but their message.

"It's just kind of a bonus, but it's not why we're doing it," says Ms Morris.

This week's rough weather means the first time they'll get to try out their brand new boat - is when they push off from Picton.

Joining Ms Morris and Ms Manker in the boat will be Johannah Kearney and Rachel Gamble-Flint - who have represented New Zealand and Great Britain respectively at international level. A support boat will also be on-hand.

The team hopes to leave Picton Rowing Club shortly after 3am on Sunday, making the nearly 100km trip to Wellington Rowing Club - it's estimated to take them around 13 hours.

"We've had jokes about who's going to crack first," says Ms Morris.

"Half way through I'll be going, 'Who the hell had this idea?!'" says Ms Manker.

This will be a different kind of challenge for Ms Manker - she rowed at the London 2012 Olympics and was part of the German quadruple sculls crew that beat New Zealand to get gold at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Slovenia.

"This is not the kind of training you do for competitive rowing - it's really endurance-based. Sore hands, lots of blisters," she says.

After a suicide attempt in 2016, Ms Morris sought out ways to establish goals, and understand her illness - and found rowing.

"This row is pretty special to me 'cause it's full circle," she says.

The crossing is a metaphor for the resilience, strength, and support mental illness sufferers need every day.

"It's incredibly hard to do it alone; you need you support crew, you need other people in your boat," says Ms Morris.

"The one difference though, is that we know there's an end-point to this row. Whereas with mental illness, it does sometimes feel like you're pushing out into the blue and you don't know when you're going to see land again."

They've raised $10,000, so now there's talk about making it an annual thing - but they'll wait and see if they're still keen on the idea after the row.