King pro­motes Key To Life char­ity

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By ABBY BROWN

For­mer co­me­dian Mike King may have sworn off standup com­edy, but he had the Catholic Women’s League mem­bers chuck­ling when he spoke at their con­fer­ence in Mata­mata.

King spoke on April 18 about his ex­pe­ri­ences with de­pres­sion, drugs and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion that led him to start the Key to Life char­ity.

This char­ity, which the league is sup­port­ing through its at home ap­peal this year, fo­cuses on talk­ing to high school stu­dents about the taboo sub­ject of de­pres­sion.

King be­lieves that zero sui­cides are pos­si­ble.

‘‘All we have to do is take care of our own fam­i­lies.

‘‘If we all say there is go­ing to be zero sui­cides in my fam­ily, it is an achiev­able goal.

‘‘If we say there will be zero sui­cides in amongst the Catholic Women’s League that will be our goal, our waka ama, our rugby club, what­ever it is; our school, our class­room; just nar­row the fo­cus. Just fo­cus on those we love and care about.’’

He said the key is ed­u­cat­ing young peo­ple and em­pow­er­ing them to find so­lu­tions to the is­sue of sui­cide, by let­ting them talk about their prob­lems.

He said a big en­emy to those suf­fer­ing de­pres­sion is the at­ti­tude of other peo­ple. ‘‘You get this ‘harden up, stay staunch’ at­ti­tude, es­pe­cially amongst Kiwi men. You also get wee com­ments like ‘ at­ten­tion seeker’.’’

He said peo­ple needed to be ed­u­cated about what de­pres­sion is and what to say and what not to say.

He en­cour­ages dis­cus­sion by shar­ing his jour­ney with high school stu­dents.

‘‘In­stead of telling them what to show them what to do.’’

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He tells them how coun­selling helped him. Most peo­ple are aware of his com­edy back­ground. But as King said, most don’t know that from the age of 13 he was an al­co­holic. ‘‘When­ever I needed con­fi­dence I drank, when­ever I was hurt­ing I drank and when­ever I needed to sleep I drank, which was ev­ery day.’’ That led on to drug ad­dic­tion. He said his de­pres­sion started at pri­mary

school, where he had very low self es­teem. His hu­mour meant he was able to join the popular group, but they made him pick on other kids.

In 2007 he had a stroke that tem­po­rar­ily paral­ysed him. He suf­fered locked- in syn­drome, which meant he could not com­mu­ni­cate. A sui­cide at­tempt pushed him to get clean and sober, and he has been since April 1, 2007.

King’s ini­tial re­sponse, when a friend sug­gested he saw a coun­sel­lor was ‘‘do I look like a girl?’’. But the coun­sel­lor looked at the rea­sons why he was drink­ing and do­ing drugs, in­stead of just try­ing to stop him drink­ing and us­ing.

Through his coun­sel­lor, King learnt that the num­ber one sign of de­pres­sion in men is anger. His coun­sel­lor said his head was a ‘‘boil­ing cesspool of crap’’ that King tried to keep a lid on.

In 2009 when there were no call-ins on the talkback sta­tion where King was fill­ing in for a week he freaked out and started speak­ing to the voices in his head. His first caller was a Maori youth who ex­claimed ‘‘Bro, bro, bro I hear those voices too!’’. By the end of the week King had his own ra­dio show. The Nut­ters’ Club fo­cuses on talk­ing about men­tal health.

King still has those voices and will battle with de­pres­sion for the rest of his life, but now he knows the keys to help him­self and oth­ers.

Photo: ABBY BROWN

Mike King at the Catholic Women’s League con­fer­ence in Mata­mata on April 18.

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