Spread­ing a mes­sage of hope

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Front Page - Lau­rilee McMichael

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.

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Mike King presents his I Am Hope mes­sage to staff at Tenon Taupo¯ last week.

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