Mike King uninvited to speak to students
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.