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Grier Buchanan, left, and Jamie Lee Owen are opening a conversation about mental health. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Run for a Reason: students tackle mental health

When Paeroa College head students Jamie Lee Owen and Grier Buchanan saw a gap in the conversation around mental health issues, they decided to address the problem head-on.

Their solution: a fun run and walk event.

Dubbed Run for a Reason, the inaugural event will see participants tackle either a 2km or 4km walk/run to raise money for mental health charity I Am Hope.

College head of wellbeing Jamie Lee said the event was a way to “just get people out there, talking about mental health, and raising money for a good cause too”.

“The whole purpose was just to really get people talking about mental health and suicide.”

The deaths of a student in July last year and a recent school leaver in December had shaken the student population, the teenagers said, and they wanted to let people know they were not alone.

“[These] conversations are really important, and it doesn’t have to be a taboo thing,” Jamie Lee said.

“I think we’re in a position, especially as head students, where we can say: let’s talk about it. If you feel like you’re struggling, reach out. It might make people feel like they can reach out if it was talked about more, that was really important to us.”

Head of community Grier agreed, though it wasn’t always clear who to reach out to, she said. “As head students, we feel like the school hasn’t really gone too deep into the topic, and so rather than just skim over the top, we really want to delve into that and get some real conversations going,” she said.

The students said help was available at the school for anyone who needed it.

“If you come into the school and say you’re struggling, you’re gonna get referred to a councillor, nine out of ten times, that’s how that goes,” Jamie Lee said.

Run for a Reason will take place on June 11, beginning at Paeroa Domain and continuing along the rail trail behind the school. Tickets are available online, and participants are encouraged to dress in green.

The event is open to anyone from the wider Hauraki community, and is being run with support from the Hauraki District Council and several local businesses.

“This is a whole Hauraki-wide event: we’re getting in contact with other schools, we’re just hoping for it to be more than just a town,” Grier said.

“We have a Facebook page, Paeroa Run for a Reason, and so on there we’re hoping to not just talk about people’s reasons for going in the event but also give advice about helplines, give them places that they can actually go, resources.”
Jamie Lee said any money raised for charity was a bonus, but creating a safe space to talk was the most important part of the event.

“That’s 100 per cent what this is all about, just talking about it, because I think that that’s one of the most powerful things you can do to break stigmas.”

DETAILS: Run for a Reason, June 11, 10am at Paeroa Domain. Book tickets at

Need to talk?
Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234, email
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
What’s Up 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18-year-olds). Phone counselling available Monday-Friday, noon-11pm and weekends, 3pm-11pm. Online chat is available 3pm-10pm daily.
In a life-threatening situation, call 111.

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air