Spreading a message of hope
For a man standing up in front of a room full of people, it was an eye opener to hear comedian, broadcaster and mental health advocate Mike King say he hates meeting new people — because he is always scared that they are not going to like him.
Mike was at Tenon Taupo¯, presenting on behalf of the Key to Life Charitable Trust. During three separate sessions that reached all Tenon employees, plus another one for employees’ partners and families, he talked about his own mental health, saying he has had self-esteem issues throughout his life. He felt he was a disappointment to his father. He was teased and bullied at school. He lacked confidence.
He talked about the inner critic, the little voice everybody has in their head that undermines logical thinking and has people second-guessing everything they do. But when it gets out of control, it can do real damage.
“In people with no self esteem our inner critic is a bully, constantly smashing us..”
Mike’s I Am Hope talks aim to empower people to recognise that the stage before mental illness is when a person’s inner critic becomes overactive.
“Everyone has an inner critic but no one talks about it. By holding on to our problems we turn a little problem into a major problem.”
He says it’s a myth that everybody should be happy every day.
“Life is full of ups and down and having an episode of being down is exactly like having the flu. You have to accept that this is a low period, a lot of things have happened and everyone’s the same as you.
“So it’s about preparing people for life experiences, making it okay to go through stuff and thus gaining fortitude. It’s like living through a storm. So I come in and I talk to people
about my mental health ups and downs, my journey through my life, the mistakes I made, the effect it had on people I love and enable them to recognise themselves in my journey and empower them to change. It’s a nonjudgmental way of having people look at their own life.”
Unhelpful “harden up” attitudes towards people with a mental illness or who are having suicidal thoughts are a major part of the problem New Zealand has with suicide. Trust ambassadors, including Mike, travel around the country sharing their stories to counteract shame, fear and loneliness.
Mike’s message I Am Hope comes from the fact that many people are in some sort of distress but those who are in crisis feel there is no hope.
“Everyone says that mental health has changed, that you’re more free to talk about issues but anyone
who’s in crisis, how do they know who’s safe to talk to? There’s no identifier out there that people are safe to talk to.
“Most people don’t ask for help because they are worried about judgement, gossip and they’re worried about what people will do with the information.”
After every Tenon session people could collect a I Am Hope wrist bracelet, as a way to show that they are a safe person to talk to.
“People wearing the bracelet just say ‘I won’t judge you or shame you or try to fix you’. I will take you to help if you need it.”
Speaking after the first sessions, Mike said he had found the staff there really open to discussion and talking.
Tenon HR manager Mel Hunt says bringing Mike to speak was to raise awareness and greater understanding and support networks for families, encouraging people to have healthy conversations.
Mike King presents his I Am Hope message to staff at Tenon Taupo¯ last week.