Mike King’s two-wheel NZ tour of hope


In­stead of am­bu­lances at the bot­tom of the men­tal health cliff, a cam­paigner wants to start with scoot­ers at school gates.

Sui­cide pre­ven­tion ed­u­ca­tor Mike King and friends are scoot­ing around New Zealand spread­ing a mes­sage of hope. Rain or shine King’s 50cc scooter I Am Hope Tour posse will ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff vis­it­ing more than 50 towns and dozens of schools.

‘‘What is I Am Hope? It’s a tour where we are chang­ing the per­cep­tion of men­tal health in New Zealand,’’ King told peo­ple gath­ered at the road trip’s launch on Mon­day. The co­me­dian’s mes­sage, which is backed by The Key to Life Char­i­ta­ble Trust, is that adults need to lead a ‘‘cul­tural change’’ mak­ing it ok for kids to talk about prob­lems that left bot­tled-up can lead to sui­cide. Speak­ing at Smales Farm, King told year eight pupils from North­cote In­ter­me­di­ate School his gen­er­a­tion was ‘‘screw­ing them up with our neg­a­tive judg­men­tal at­ti­tudes’’ to­ward prob­lem-solv­ing.

‘‘Kids have got covert ways of talk­ing,’’ King later said. They will gauge how their par­ents will re­act by putting their feel­ings out as a hy­po­thet­i­cal third per­son. ‘‘And the par­ents will say, ‘oh that kid needs to har­den up a bit,’ and we don’t re­alise there is no other kid, their child is ac­tu­ally ask­ing for some­thing.’’

Sta­tis­tics show 80 per cent of peo­ple in cri­sis ‘‘never, ever ask for help’’. ‘‘We also know 40 per cent of kids at school will have a

‘‘We need to be more open and em­pa­thetic.’’

ma­jor cri­sis in their life be­fore they leave school and 80 per cent of them don’t talk, they’re afraid of other peo­ple’s judge­ment’’. Nine ‘‘work of art’’ scoot­ers donated by Suzuki and painted by fa­mous Kiwi artists in­clud­ing Dean Buchanan and Dick and Otis Frizzell will carry the rid­ers and the trust’s mes­sage more than 4000km. I Am Hope wrist­bands will also be given out - wear­ing one sig­nals to those strug­gling they can talk to the wearer without fear.

If you are wor­ried about your or some­one else’s men­tal health, the best place to get help is your GP or lo­cal men­tal health provider. How­ever, if you or some­one else is in dan­ger or en­dan­ger­ing oth­ers, call 111. If you need to talk to some­one, the fol­low­ing free helplines op­er­ate 24/7: DE­PRES­SION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 LIFE­LINE: 0800 543 354 1737 NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737 SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666 YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234


Mike King on a scooter painted by renowned Kiwi ab­stract painter Dean Buchanan.

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