By Oriwa Atkins, Te Rito journalism cadet.
A Gisborne group is spearheading a fun and empowering new way to start conversations about mental health awareness with ‘Frocks on Friday’.
Every Friday from November to February, members get spruced up in the best outfits they’ve usually saved for special occasions.
Founder Jo McLean (Ngāti Porou) says the idea was years in the making and came to her after she was looking through her wardrobe and seeing all the dresses she rarely wore.
“I thought, you know what, there must be so many other people that are in the same situation.”
It’s not limited to women and McLean says that if anyone wants to wear a frock they’re welcome to do so because participation and conversation are the most important things.
“People will likely ask, ‘Why you are dressed up?’ That starts the conversation about mental health, empowering others, showing up, being brave, having fun, bugger what anyone else thinks.”
For those who do decide they want to fundraise, some of the money will be used to sponsor women for the Taupo half-marathon, and the rest will go towards the men's mental health and suicide prevention group Here4U.
In 2020, men made up nearly three-quarters (72%) of suicides in New Zealand, despite having lower rates of depression and anxiety than women - so it’s a pressing issue across Aotearoa.
McLean says once a month they get together somewhere public for lunch, although the aim is still to keep the kaupapa simple and achievable for everybody.
“It's growing into more than what I initially thought, it's more than a quiet get-together."
The Facebook group Frocks on Friday has had about 1000 members sign up so far.