Walking length of country for mental health
‘‘There is help out there and there's definitely people that care as well.’’
A Horowhenua man setting off on a journey of a lifetime hopes to see New Zealand’s mental health crisis heading in a better direction.
Levin-born Alex Winiata, 21, plans to walk 3000 kilometres, from Cape Reinga to Bluff, to raise money and awareness for mental health groups.
When he returned to New Zealand from Mexico, Winiata said he was shocked to learn how high the country’s suicide statistics were.
There were 606 people who died by suicide in New Zealand in 2016-17 – the highest number of deaths since provisional statistics were first recorded in the 2007-2008.
Thirty-five people in the MidCentral District Health Board area, which includes Manawatu¯, Horowhenua and Tararua, committed suicide in 2016-17.
Suicide was something that had impacted Winiata’s extended family, and he had also seen how depression affected university students he knew while he was studying.
He hoped his four-month trek down the country would raise both money and awareness around mental health.
‘‘There is help out there and there’s definitely people that care as well.’’
He also wanted to encourage people with a mental illness to reach out and talk to someone about it.
‘‘They don’t need ashamed about it.’’
Winiata said he would like to walk between 25-30km each day.
Although he has completed half marathons and hiked up mountains, walking the length of the country was a new challenge.
Winiata started his journey on Wednesday, November 1.
Before his feet had even touched the sand at Cape Reinga, he said he had been blown away by how supportive people and businesses had been, with offers to be of food, showers and accommodation flooding in.
He aimed to raise $30,000 for charity, with the money raised going towards Palmerston Northbased charity Life House.
It would also go towards Life Matters, based in Dunedin, and other groups such as Youthline and Key to Life.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people