Gumboots in NZ are synonymous with famers, cows, mud, Taihape, utes and Barry Crump. They are not usually identified as school footwear or associated with urban teenagers. But tomorrow, Friday 5th, many teenagers and adults around the city will be seen wearing the fashion of the day. Gumboots.
We wonder how many will manage to wear them all day long, before the skin gets rubbed off calves, your feet get sore (unless you’ve got fancy ones) and your socks slip down and your feet get too hot and you want to take them off. And that’s before you even get stuck in the mud, and one sock gets muddy and you’ve got no free hands to pull your gumboot out, or the gumboot is so stuck that you fall over and you and everything you’re holding onto ends up in the mud.
Which is the point of Gumboot day.
Because if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety you can’t just take it off. Anxiety and depression don’t come off with socks at the end of the day. They go to bed with you and they’re there in the morning. They’re with you until you work out a way to live with them, and deal with them. Often to reach that point you need professional help.
Last year in New Zealand 137 young people died by suicide and it is estimated another 3500 attempted to take their own lives. While Government agencies are doing their best some kids are stuck waiting up to six months to receive the counselling they so urgently need.
Schools are getting on-board with providing support to many students, replacing physical education classes with health classes that cover mental health, providing compulsory counselling services to all students, creating spaces for students to visit a counsellor confidentially and generally working hard to raise awareness and provide support. But more counsellors and support is needed.
So tomorrow, wear your gumboots if you have some. More importantly make a donation. And when you take your gumboots off, ask yourself if it weren’t for yer gumboots where would ya be?