From Rachael Longshaw-Park’s front doorstep in Auckland’s suburb of Grey Lynn all the way to the steps of Parliament in Wellington is a lengthy 644 kilometres.

The plucky 29-year-old’s From Bubble to Beehive fundraising journey for the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is taking that distance on, and she is loving the challenge.

Rachael is taking part in the MHF’s Go the Distance event and is relishing the opportunity to get out of her bubble and walk. She and anybody else who wants to “join” her will be pounding their local streets, parks and beaches to stay well and raise funds at the same time.

A freelance actor, writer and director, Rachael has lived experience and has recently been laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has 12 weeks of subsidy and then a whole lot of uncertainty.

Walking was turning point for mental health

The biggest thing for this former paid dog walker, is that walking is her saviour; it gives her the opportunity to gently process the things going on around her.

“Figuring that out was such a turning point for me. Walking and taking in the world is really beautiful and I want to encourage others to do this as well.

During lockdown, Rachael wanted to be motivated to stay active and when she became unemployed it was hard to set a routine for herself. So she signed up for Go the Distance.

"I didn’t want to just get outside but to also highlight mental health as an ongoing issue. I have lived experience of mental distress, I also have friends and family who have lived experience of mental distress, and I’ve seen artists take their own lives so I think people are in need of a lot of support from mental health services."

All in same sea but in very different boats

Rachael picked the Beehive as her destination because it was doable and she intends to deliver a message to politicians when her goal is reached. If she can’t physically walk up those steps and do it, she still has a message she wants them to hear.

“They have control over mental health services. I am thinking about writing a letter telling them what I’ve done and my concerns about mental health, especially for artists who are displaced and without work.”

Rachael, originally from the UK, says everyone talks about being in the same boat at the moment, but she has a different take: “We are all in the same sea but in different types of boats, and some don’t even have a boat. As we come out of this some will have had a hard time but will be comfortable while others’ lives will have changed completely.”

One companion, looking for more

Rachael estimated it would take her four months of daily walks on her own to get to the Beehive, but with more people raising funds with her it would be quicker.

One week in, she has one fellow walker, her best friend’s sister.

“The beauty is we don’t even know each other, but maybe we might recruit lots of others.”

She says it would be “amazing” to have more artists on board.

“You can start small and build up. I started last week and went for a big 2km walks in loops around my home, now I can go out and do 4km.”

She has an online map of her walks and goes armed with hand sanitiser and a face mask “to keep people at a distance”.

If you would like to join Rachael and her best friend’s sister, you can do so by signing up here.

If you'd like to Go the Distance your own way, pick an event and sign up here.


Photo credit: Jake Hoggen