Māori family spreads mental health awareness, through skateboarding

By Mare Haimona-Riki
Chareese Henare (centre) with her children who are avid skateboarders. Photo/File.

Skate to Live is an initiative that aims to use skateboarding as a means to combat anxiety and depression amongst men and women of all ages - a kaupapa that sits close to home with the Henare whānau.

For Chareese Henare ( Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou), a mother of four children who are all avid skaters, this kaupapa is something that she was more than happy to get involved with when they first heard about it five months ago.

"This is about raising good mental health awareness for our young people, and skateboarding being a tool to be able to help some people who aren't in good mental spaces," says Henare.

The Henare family and friends use skateboarding not only as a hobby but as a means to build relationships and maintain mental health. Photo/File.

The initiative is less than a year old and began with Frank Edwards, a seasoned skater and an ambassador for the sport, who was motivated to start the programme after learning that the Far North has some of the highest risk factors associated with youth suicide.

"I have had a lot of young Māori skaters come into the business and I have seen them go from being probably people at risk to being solid individuals, and skateboarding has given that to them, so I know it works," says Edwards.

Although it's not something that currently affects her immediate family, Henare knows that mental well-being is something that needs more attention in society. She says she constantly gives her kids the tools they need if they were to encounter anxiety or depression in their own lives.

"We are really blessed, our kids are healthy physically and they're healthy mentally as well, but I know not every family is like that," says Henare.

"One thing for us, is that we have always spoken about poor mental health and about depression and the actions that it can lead rangatahi and adults to do..... That is a kōrero that we have, and we have it often."

Skate to Live will continue its tour of the country's skate parks during this coming summer.