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Mike King, advocates and artists join hands

Mike King, advocates and artists join hands to save Kiwi youth from suicide

In a significant cross-industry collaboration spear headed by comedian and mental health educator Mike King, the I AM HOPE TOUR launches to promote addressing youth suicide by shedding the stigma associated with it, and empowering communities to connect with their youth who are struggling.

The four-week campaign will see King and seven others ride Suzuki 50cc bikes from Cape Reinga to Bluff, to raise awareness, encourage openness and to listen without judgment when others come to them seeking help.

Ben Kelsey, principal of Northcote Intermediate School where King has spoken at on numerous occasions to address sensitive issues such as suicide, mental health and the difficulty of speaking out, will also attend along with his entire year 8 students. The eight-positive mental health advocates, including King, will scoot off March 1 st , travelling more than 4000 kilometres to visit more than 50 towns. King will give public talks to engage, activate and motivate hundreds of thousands of people to act when they see someone struggling by encouraging building trust and how to deal with someone who isn’t coping.

King, who hosts the famous show The Nutters Club on Newstalk Zb along with psychiatrist Dr David Codyre, says his success in addressing the unacceptably high rate of suicide in New Zealand is due to his unorthodox method of opening up and connecting emotionally with young people exposed to its highest risk, making the topic more accessible.

“We can help our young people when they feel like they’ve hit rock bottom. By listening to them without judgment, without perpetuating the old Kiwi “toughen up mate” attitude, we can show them it’s ok to feel down, lonely, and sad, but that there’s a light at the end of tunnel, there is hope.

“Our youth want to feel connected, understood and not judged. We know that shame is a huge factor in talking about depression and mental illness. We’re here to say there is no shame in battling mental illness and many people suffer from it, but something can be done about it. We can help our young people by showing them that we care, and we’re there.

“We are here to empower them by stripping away shame from their thoughts and feelings, and letting them know they can make it through.”

Ben Kelsey, who has been with Northcote Intermediate School for 6 years says one of the most important aspect of talking to young people struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues is not only being approachable or easy to talk to, but relatable.

“Mental health and wellbeing is something we take seriously as a school. We were fortunate enough to have Mike King speak a number of times at Northcote. Mike shared his own story and important messages around mental health in a way that students could connect with.

“Mike’s use of humour also made the talk memorable and a great way of building trust between his message and our students. I am an advocate for the campaigns direct approach through honesty and connectivity.”

I AM HOPE is conceptualised as a wrist band to signal that the wearer is a safe person to talk to, to encourage young people or people struggling internally, to verbalise their struggles with somebody they feel safe with, in a bid to ease the pressure of withholding the pain and prevent self-harm.

It is designed to break down one of the most significant barriers for those with any level of depression, especially teenagers.

Famous Kiwi artists such as Mr G (real name Graeme Hoete), Dick Frizzell and Otis Frizzell have painted the campaign scooters, each depicting their own interpretations of the I AM HOPE message.

Leading life insurance and wealth management company AMP Financial Services is proud to be partnering with the Key to Life Trust and to be getting behind the I AM HOPE TOUR to help Mike spread his message of hope in schools and communities across New Zealand. I AM HOPE is also supported by Suzuki, Trailerworld, among others.

Local community groups and service providers wanting to be involved in the tour are encouraged to get in touch via iamhope@keytolife.com. END.

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