Tractors make trek for youth mental health

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Pupils at Rosebank School in Balclutha were treated to an unusual display on their playing fields on Friday, which came with a message of support.

Participants in the Gumboot Friday tractor trek 2020 drove their 35 tractors and other heavy vehicles on to the school grounds for the pupils to inspect and play with.

Phil Aish lead the group that stopped in Balclutha, with others continuing on up the country on the journey which began in Bluff and would end in Auckland.

Mr Aish said the visit was about more than children enjoying exploring the large vehicles.

‘‘Basically our message is ‘there is hope’.’’

Mike King’s Gumboot Fund sought to provide free counselling and mental health support to New Zealand young people.

‘‘If parking the tractors and jeeps here creates good memories, I’m in.’’

Mr Aish said starting children early in mastering their emotions was important.

The suicide rate of young adults and older people was a ‘‘dark shadow’’ that needed addressing.

The Auckland native’s daughter, Cat Levine, gave a talk at the school to help young people learn to identify and deal with their feelings.

She used a ‘‘mood cube’’ to help them get a more accurate reading of their mental states.

‘‘Kids of this age are often stuck with ‘I’m happy’ or ‘I’m sad’,’’ Mrs Levine said.

‘‘The cube has sub-categories that allow the kids to decide if they are disappointed, or anxious, or if they feel unsafe.’’

This understanding was an important part of a person’s ‘‘emotional literacy’’, she said.

The pupils were also taught strategies to deal with bad feelings in the moment, such as breathing techniques and physical exercise.

‘‘It could be something as simple as listening to music or going for a walk.’’

One of the key takeaways for parents and those who worked with children was to understand that they were ‘‘excellent observers, but poor interpreters’’, of events in their lives.

‘‘A kid might interpret a parent being away on work for long periods as rejection.’’

The most important message of the talk was that ‘‘feelings aren’t forever’’.