Tupou visits Longford

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Here to help... I Am Hope speakers Zoe Dawson and Tai Tupou visit Longford Intermediate School to talk about mental health and wellbeing. PHOTO: FIONA ELLIS

Former rugby player Tai Tupou visited Longford Intermediate School on Friday for a coaching session.

However, rather than passing rugby balls, he passed on advice about mental wellbeing.

The former Highlander has been a youth ambassador for The Key to Life Charitable Trust’s nationwide support group I Am Hope since it formed in 2012.

This was his first talk in Gore.

The father of three thought it was important for children to have a supportive environment in which they could express themselves.

“Growing up I wasn’t able to communicate how I was feeling,” Mr Tupou said.

“I suffered later on in life because of that.”

It was important to make others feel good.

“Every single day I try and lift up two people.”

As an exercise in kindness, he had the auditorium full of pupils tell the person beside them something they loved and appreciated about them.

He also urged children to think about they way they used social media.

“We live in an age where it’s so easy to discourage. If you are using social media, use it in a positive way.”

Counselling was an option he encouraged children to use if they needed someone to talk to.

“The most important thing about falling down is finding people who are going to help lift you up.

“It’s OK to be in a bad place.”

He had advice for the pupils on maintaining mental wellbeing: to find a hobby or routine that made them feel good.

He enjoyed keeping active so he went to the gym every day.

I Am Hope youth advocate Zoe Dawson also spoke, telling the children to be kind to themselves.

“You are your own biggest critic,” Miss Dawson said.

Principal Yvonne Catherwood said the pupils were still talking about the visit a week later.

“[Mr Tupou] had a real way of being able to connect with the students and get his message across,” she said.

“I loved it.”