‘Gumboot Friday’ is a stark reminder of youth struggle


Mike King has been the torchbearer for mental health counselling for children and youth (Image Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, November 3, 2023

It is Gumboot Friday today, where people are encouraged to wear gumboots and donate to the charity helping thousands of Kiwi children and youth dealing with mental health traumas.

Mike King, the organiser and founder of the ‘I am Hope’ charity, said his charity is funding 3400 counselling sessions a month, but there is a need for double that number.

Gumboot Friday is on November 3, 2023, and you can get involved (Image Supplied)

About the initiative

Gumboot Friday, founded by mental health advocate Mr King, is a free counselling service for any young person aged 25 and under in New Zealand.

He claims that an overworked, underfunded, and under-resourced public mental health service has led to excruciatingly long wait times for young people needing immediate help. The free counselling platform provides a bridge to youth in need by breaking down the barriers of cost and wait times.

A spokesperson for I am Hope, the charity behind the initiative said, “When we started going into schools, we quickly learned that some children needed more than just a chat. As our budget for sponsoring children and youth counselling blew up, we knew something had to change. From this, Gumboot Friday was born. Since its inception, Gumboot Friday has spent over three million dollars on counselling for over 10,000 young people, and it is only getting bigger. We dream that one day soon any child in New Zealand can quickly get the help they want when they need it – no questions asked.”

Talking about Gumboot Friday events being organised around the country today, November 3, 2023, Mr King said, “Dealing with depression and mental health challenges is like walking through mud every day. On November 3 this year, we ask you to show your support, put your gumboots on, give a gold coin, and take a walk in their shoes for just one day.”

He said that the majority of later-life traumas happen because issues are suppressed for years instead of being tackled immediately.

“Sexual abuse is the giant elephant in the room when it comes to mental health issues. One in four girls in this country is sexually abused and one in eight boys. So it is one of those things that is an underlying factor,” Mr King said.

Mr King claims that ‘I Am Hope’ now has more data than government agencies but funding keeps being funnelled into expensive and far less effective programs. I am Hope has released

Children and youth are in dire need of Mental Health support and counselling across the Country (Image Supplied)

What the numbers say

I Am Hope, revealed the findings this week, providing a troubling insight into the challenges facing youth today.  The anonymised data from the Gumboot Friday platform was based on more than 4,150 requests for counselling.

The data found anxiety as the “primary stressor” among young people in today’s society, with 69%  of people seeking help through the platform dealing with anger or family issues and 89% of people struggling with eating disorders.

“While we were aware of the increasing prevalence of eating disorders, what truly surprised us was the age at which children are now grappling with body image,” Mr King said.

He said the data illustrates children as young as five years old are seeking help, and numbers more than quadruple by the age of eight. “This data underscores the critical importance of addressing anxiety with both urgency and empathy,” I Am Hope Chief Executive Troy Elliott said.

Mr King said that although prescription drugs are often used to treat anxiety, research proves counselling is significantly more effective.

He believes it is essential to provide free access to this option for young Kiwis.

“Left untreated, anxiety can rapidly develop into severe mental health issues, placing more strain on our already stretched crisis teams,” King stressed “This, in turn, has led to an overreliance on medication as a kind of medicated waiting room.”

Data also found young people face an almost identical number of issues regardless of their economic or ethnic background.

Click on the link to find a Gumboot Friday Event near you.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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