Walk­ing length of coun­try for men­tal health

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - GE­OR­GIA FOR­RESTER

‘‘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

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Alex Wini­ata is walk­ing 3000 kilo­me­tres from Cape Reinga to Bluff to raise money and aware­ness for men­tal health groups.

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