Mike King to lead 'Tractor Trek' rural mental health tour

Mental health advocate Mike King is to lead a tractor convoy to raise awareness of suicide in the rural sector, in the lead up to the Gumboot Friday fundraiser.

King and 30 others will take part in 'Tractor Trek ' and travel 2000kms on a fleet of 20 tractors to host free community and school events throughout the country. 

Tractor Trek is a fundraising drive that was launched in 2016 to support and raise awareness for Hospice, and it has now lent its support to Gumboot Friday.

The Gumboot Friday initiative, which was launched last year, aims to raise $5 million for free counselling for children and young adults. 

New Zealand's latest suicide statistics released by the chief coroner in August last year showed another annual increase with 685 people taking their own lives in the year to June - 17 more than the previous year. 

"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.

A fleet of 20 tractors will travel from Bluff to Cape Reinga
A fleet of 20 tractors will travel from Bluff to Cape Reinga

 "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," said King.

The tour would shine a light on the issue of mental health in rural communities.

"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."

The initiative is being applauded by Federated Farmers president and health spokesperson, Katie Milne who said rural communities faced physical and mental isolation, economic instability and limited access to health services. 

"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. "Mike King is a champion for getting stuff out in the open, and talking about depression and suicide," said Milne.

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

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