Mullets are like Marmite – love or hate – but now they’re also for a good cause
“It’s quite Marmite, isn’t it? Either you love it or you hate it,” says apprentice carpenter Dan King of the mullet he wears on the back of his neck.
But that’s the point, it’s a conversation starter.
King, along with about 800 other mullet-sporting pariahs, are using their questionable cuts to close a $300,000 funding deficit for the Mental Health Foundation.
Each year, the foundation must find ways to fill the funding gap that impacts the mental health resources it can allocate.
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For the month of March, King and his hairy cohort are putting their fashion credibility on the line to raise both money and awareness.
King, a British expat now living in Queenstown, was already wearing a mullet before he started fundraising but decided to “use the mullet forever” when he heard about the campaign.
And so far, he’s delivering on that promise, having already raised over $1500 and had more than a few mental health talks.
This is particularly relevant in the construction industry, whose workers account for nearly a quarter of New Zealand’s annual suicides, according to a 2021 Otago University study.
King says there’s a stigma to opening up in the trades, so if his mullet can help change that, he’s happy to drop it all.
The motivation is similar for Auckland’s Tim Burgess, who knows firsthand what not talking about fights can lead to.
“I think like so many New Zealanders, I lost friends – close friends – to suicide,” he says. “And there’s nothing more confronting than someone who takes their own life.”
He pauses while searching for the right words. Conversations about mental health and seeking help can be tense, but the mullet is a smooth transition to address the issue, he says.
“[New Zealand has] a stoic culture, and humor is an easy way to break that.”
Having run fundraisers in the past, he says his locks helped grease the wheels when he spoke to people about donating a little money to support the cause.
“The hardest thing for people is to ask [for donations]and that really resonates, when you think of mental health, it’s the hardest thing for people to ask about,” he says.
But not everything went smoothly. He admits the haircut didn’t go down well with his significant other, and oddly enough, strangers have felt the need to offer their opinions on his haircut choice.
But it grows on him. He says it’s “cool” and “making a comeback,” and it could stay that way well beyond the month of March.
His son Jed is now sporting a mullet too, although it’s not entirely clear if it’s in solidarity with his dad.
And it’s this fun aspect of the hairstyle that the foundation’s fundraising manager and campaign creator, Chris Taylor, hopes she captures.
But while it’s a bit of fun for some, there’s serious business at the heart of the campaign.
Money raised through the campaign will help the foundation distribute free informational resources to those in need.
That’s nearly a million resources for schools, workplaces, health centers, and downloads across Aotearoa.
Taylor, who of course also sports a mullet, says the demand for services is increasing every year and it’s important to keep up with the demand.
“Even though the mullet is a fun hairstyle that people poke fun at, it meant a lot to people and… it was pretty important to a lot of people,” he says.
“And there are also some parallels with mental health, it breaks down the stigma.
“I never thought it would have a mullet, but now I have it and I think it’s cool.”
WHERE TO GET HELP
1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to speak to a trained advisor.
Fear New Zealand 0800 FEAR (0800 269 4389)
Depression.org.nz 0800 111 757 or SMS 4202
lifeline 0800 543 354
Mental Health Foundation 09 623 4812, click here to access the free resource and information service.
Trust in rural support 0800 787 254
Samaritan 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Yellow cobblestone road 0800 732 825
thelowdown.co.nz Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
What works 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18 year olds). Telephone advice Monday to Friday from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. and on weekends from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Online chat is available from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.
youth line 0800 376 633, free text 234, email [email protected], or find online chat and other support options here.
If it is an emergency, Click here to find your local Crisis Assessment Team number.