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Walking for mental health .. Chancel Mimbi is taking part in this year's Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of Aotearoa. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

When Chancel Mimbi stopped turning up to football games and trainings last year, his team-mates suspected something was wrong.

They were right. Mimbi was struggling with depression and had started to isolate himself and turn to drinking and smoking for comfort.

So his Meadowbank “buddies” stepped in, dragging him out of his comfort zone to referee some football games.

Slowly, he started playing football, hiking and socialising again.

“It hit me hard last year and . these little changes in my life have managed to help me keep my head up, stay focused on my work and be community active again,” he said.

“I got back to my happiness.”

Now, he is on a mission to raise awareness about depression and money for mental health initiatives in New Zealand.

On February 23, he will be among the 132 athletes taking part in the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon, from Aoraki-Mt Cook to Oamaru. He has never run a marathon before, let alone an ultra marathon.

“You have to be a little insane to do 324km,” he said.

“I’m more of a hiker; I just love the outdoors.”

He expected it to be a huge challenge for him, but he was motivated to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of Aotearoa.

His goal is to raise $1737 help people remember the free national mental health and addictions call and text helpline.

Mimbi grew up in Palmerston North and moved to Oamaru from Auckland, where he had been studying, about a year ago. He is a spatial administration officer at the Waitaki District Council.

He loves hiking and the outdoors, so has been enjoying running and walking around the district as training, averaging about 100km a week.

Friends, family, strangers, local businesses and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher have all contributed to his fundraising efforts.

To support Mimbi’s efforts, visit: events.mentalhealth.org.nz/fundraisers/chancelmimbi