In February of this year, 19-year-old Kristian Reid, from Miramar Corps, made the switch from being a second-year university student to setting up Lucky to be Alive, a not-for-profit charity created to give young men space and support to address their mental health while taking part in adventure activities. The charity commences early in 2022.
Kristian Reid has always felt the call to set up a charity but without much direction as to what it would be for, until one night while he was watching Once Were Warriors. ‘In the film someone takes their life, and I can’t watch those things because it’s too much for me but I’ve never really understood why. I was watching this and it just kind of clicked that, actually, I really want to make something for young men for suicide prevention and helping men get through depression.’
After starting his second year of university study, Kristian felt the time was right to act on those dreams. There were a couple of tricky conversations with his family about the change in direction, but, at the same time, he ‘knew that there’s never really a convenient time to start a charity organisation, and I knew that I’d never be in the best financial position or have enough time, necessarily, but the older you get, there are more commitments. Who says I have to have a wealth of knowledge or financial income or anything like that to be able to do this?’
Mental Health in New Zealand
It is widely known that the state of New Zealand’s mental health services is fairly dire when it comes to access, availability and funding. In order to get a good lay of the land around pre-existing mental health groups, Kristian called every major healthline operating in New Zealand, and found it was difficult to get through to speak to someone—in part due to long waiting times for operators to become available. While these services are doing what they can to offer support, Kristian noticed in his conversations a lack of practical help for young men in his own age bracket. ‘I was just really shocked. I found out they’re not legally allowed to give you advice; they can give you vague suggestions, but the people on the other side of the phone are in quite a strict box where they can’t reach too far. The more I unveiled it, the more I thought it’s really quite bad ... It’s so difficult for so many young men to get access to counselling, let alone find something that suits them.’ With these findings in mind, the heart of Lucky to be Alive is ‘young men helping young men’. While the board that Kristian appointed has experts and those with experience in counselling and mental health support, he also feels that there is something significant in having shared life experience and points of connection with people in the same age bracket.
Lucky to be Alive will take 16- to 25-year-old men from across New Zealand out to do adventure activities together and build relationships during those transient periods of young adulthood. The programme came out of Kristian’s own times of adventuring with friends. Whether it’s abseiling, mountaineering or holding the New Zealand record for the highest game of croquet played by altitude (2600 metres up Mt Ruapehu), the best conversations have been had in those extreme situations. ‘On top of those mountains or at really odd times—like when we’re driving back to get KFC, and one of the guys will open up about all this crazy stuff you just weren’t expecting and those masks just come off.’
Kristian feels very lucky to have been able to have these trips with friends, but also recognises that not everyone has these opportunities, which is why he is planning for the charity’s excursions to be fully funded for participants.
Kristian is particularly passionate about getting alongside more isolated rural communities and supporting them in what is already happening there. ‘It’s not like we can travel much outside of New Zealand at the moment, so let’s utilise the beautiful backyard we’ve got, but let’s also get into those places where you stop to get a pie, fuel up and go. Let’s also recognise that we can’t always relate, like I couldn’t go into some small town and be like “come do these epic things”, because I don’t understand what they’re going through, I don’t live there. So, something we want to do is find out what good stuff is already happening in those communities and then get behind that.’
Despite Kristian’s own faith, he and the Lucky to be Alive board have made the call to intentionally not run the charity with a Christian affiliation. ‘I’ve prayed a lot about it, and I haven’t felt compelled to change that. When reading through the Bible, Jesus is all about relationships and getting to know everyone, not just the people you’re comfortable with, but also the people that you probably aren’t comfortable getting to know. I really want to be able to show love through action rather than just talking about it, I want to do something about it, to be able to help, to be an organisation that doesn’t just say “come hang out with us” and that’s all we do, but being able to say “I know you, I know your sister’s and your brother’s names, I know what your parents do for a living, I know what awesome things are going on in your area”. If something happens where I get to share my faith, cool. If I don’t, cool.’
Although Lucky to be Alive will be launching early next year, Kristian and the team have been planning a pre-launch event for December.
‘We’re playing 25 games of swing ball in extreme locations around New Zealand: on top of mountains, off waterfalls, everywhere you can think of. We are visiting 25 locations in 30 days, with the intention of raising a minimum of 25 grand and being able to put $1000 into each of those communities to support the things they are already doing. I’m really adamant that the first thing that we do with any funding goes straight back into the community and helps support the things that are already really good.’
The hope is that as they travel around the country for this event, Kristian and Lucky to be Alive will be able to connect with communities across New Zealand and find out what initiatives are already underway, as well as sharing about their programme and gauging interest.