Former chief coroner supports King
Former chief coroner Neil MacLean has come out in support of mental health advocate and comedian Mike King, saying South Canterbury schools have nothing to fear from his upcoming visits.
‘‘I know quite a lot about what he does and I’m very impressed with him and I think he is on the right track,’’ MacLean said.
MacLean said giving people an opportunity to talk about suicide, air their concerns and ’’to realise they are not alone can only be beneficial’’.
The interest in hosting King showed the community wanted to know more about suicide, he said.
King, who was originally invited to speak at eight South Canterbury schools in May, had been uninvited by two schools ahead of his visit next week.
King’s talks were centred on getting youth to talk openly about dark thoughts and reassure that everyone had an ‘‘inner critic’’. King said he believed talking about little problems helped to prevent them growing into suicidal thoughts.
Opihi College confirmed it had withdrawn on July 4, citing ‘‘internal reasons’’.
King said he had also been informed he would not speak at Geraldine High School.
King said he had been led to believe he was no longer welcome, after schools communicated with the South Canterbury District Health Board’s (SCDHB) suicide prevention co-ordinator Professor Annette Beautrais.
Six days after initial attempts to contact Beautrais, she responded to questions relating to the matter via an email passed on by the SCDHB’s communications manager.
Having been asked about the nature of her correspondence with schools, whether or not she had spoken at schools or ever attended King’s presentations and her background on and preferred approach to the discussion of suicide when it comes to youth, Beautrais responded: ‘‘In my role as suicide prevention coordinator for South Canterbury DHB I was asked to attend a local guidance councillors meeting.
‘‘There was concern around the increased profile of suicide following programmes such as 13 Reasons Why. My recommendation to schools was to ensure a focus on prevention and positive mental health messages.’’
SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor earlier said the concerns regarding King’s visit had been raised because the board wanted to ensure ‘‘a focus on youth resilience and making sure that schools were aware of what local support was available to them’’.
However, the board was now in support of King’s visits.