Mike King un­in­vited to speak to stu­dents

The Southland Times - - NEWS - RYAN DUN­LOP

Men­tal health cru­sader Mike King be­lieves a ‘‘mis­in­formed’’ fear­mon­ger­ing cam­paign is to blame for sev­eral high schools with­draw­ing an in­vi­ta­tion for him to speak to stu­dents.

King was in­vited to speak at eight schools in the South Can­ter­bury re­gion on self-es­teem and keep­ing their ‘‘in­ner critic’’ in check.

How­ever, Opihi Col­lege, in Te­muka, then re­tracted the in­vi­ta­tion. It told King he was no longer wel­come, af­ter be­ing con­tacted by South Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Health Board sui­cide preven­tion co-or­di­na­tor Pro­fes­sor An­nette Beau­trais.

King said Beau­trais ad­vo­cated a ‘‘silent’’ ap­proach to tack­ling sui­cide. Ac­cord­ing to King, Beau­trais was in one of the last pock­ets of academia who still be­lieved in try­ing to bring down the stub­bornly high sui­cide rates by bury­ing their heads in the sand.

‘‘At the mo­ment in this coun­try, you’ve got a bunch of old peo­ple, aca­demics and clin­i­cians busy be­hind closed doors dis­cussing what they be­lieve are the so­lu­tions for our youth and they’re ex­clud­ing young peo­ple,’’ King said.

‘‘My ap­proach is, wouldn’t it be bet­ter to ask them what the prob­lems are and what the so­lu­tions are?’’

He was dis­ap­pointed at Beau­trais’ in­ter­ven­tion, which he claims was not sci­en­tif­i­cally in­formed.

Beau­trais, who has worked in sui­cide re­search and preven­tion for many years, did not re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment.

South Can­ter­bury DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Nigel Trainor con­firmed it had raised con­cerns about King’s visit with the schools.

‘‘Since then we have had dis­cus­sions with Mike King which have high­lighted that our goals are aligned,’’ Trainor said.

‘‘We are work­ing with Mike King and will sup­port his vis­its.’’

Ron­calli Col­lege prin­ci­pal Chris Comeau said he had brushed off the con­cerns raised by the DHB.

‘‘While I can ap­pre­ci­ate their con­cerns, I think it would be far more ef­fec­tive for all of us to get in be­hind the visit and take ad­van­tage of Mike’s high pro­file to ad­dress the is­sue sur­round­ing men­tal health,’’ Comeau said.

‘‘Af­ter weigh­ing up all the in­for­ma­tion and re­search­ing the Light­house Trust, I feel quite com­fort­able with my de­ci­sion to host Mike King.’’

Last year in a TV in­ter­view, Beau­trais claimed sui­cide should never be men­tioned in head­lines or on news­pa­per front pages, wrongly at­tribut­ing this to Min­istry of Health Sui­cide Preven­tion Strat­egy re­port­ing guide­lines. In fact, the guide­lines urge me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions to re­port sui­cide in a straight­for­ward man­ner by pro­vid­ing con­cise and fac­tual in­for­ma­tion, and to pro­mote help and in­for­ma­tion ser­vices.

In May, King quit his role on New Zealand’s sui­cide-preven­tion panel, de­scrib­ing it as ‘‘a mas­ter­class in butt cov­er­ing’’.

He la­belled the Gov­ern­ment’s sui­cide preven­tion draft plan as ‘‘deeply flawed’’ and self-serv­ing.

Mike King

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