Q+A: Mike King interviewed by Jessica Mutch
Q+A: Mike King interviewed by Jessica Mutch
Critics have nothing to fear says Mike King
High profile mental health
campaigner Mike King says his speaking tour in schools is a
top of the cliff approach and his critics who fear he talks
too much about suicide have nothing to fear.
Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme this morning, Mr King told Jessica Mutch he would continue campaigning in schools despite criticism this month that his work did more harm.
“Our approach is top of the cliff and so far back from the edge of the cliff, no one even knows we are talking about suicide,” he said.
“We have a generation of young New Zealanders who think they are the only ones who have this inner critic because no one ever talks about it.”
He believed social media had empowered people to talk about mental health much more openly.
He told Greg Boyed and the Q+A panel that parents spending more time with their children was a very effective way of helping children’s mental health.
“We are now risk managing our kids’ lives, we are not in our kids’ lives. We are not doing the one thing that our kids want more than anything. They want their opinions to be valued, they want what comes out of their mouths to mean something to the significant adults in their lives. And we don’t have time to listen, all we have time to do is fix,” he said.
King, who was originally invited to speak at eight South Canterbury schools in May, was uninvited by two schools ahead of his visit last week after the schools had communicated with the Canterbury DHB’s suicide prevention co-ordinator.
Interviewed by JESSICA MUTCH
JESSICA Our youth suicide rate Is one of the highest in the world, and report after report shows we are failing to shift those dismal statistics. Comedian Mike King has become one of our most high-profile mental health campaigners. He's on a speaking tour of schools, talking to students about keeping good mental health and he joins me now. Thank you for your time this morning.
JESSICA We are really cautious, usually, in New Zealand in the way that we talk about suicide. What’s your approach with these students?
MIKE Our approach is top of the
cliff and so far back from the edge of the cliff, no one
even knows we are talking about suicide. What I do is I go
round and normalise the inner critic. That little voice that
we all have in our head that undermines our decisions and
constantly puts us down that everyone has but no one ever
talks about. And we have a generation of young New
Zealanders who think they are the only ones who have this
inner critic because no one talks about it. For our kids,
they are living in a world of perfect adults where everyone
is perfect, and no one ever talks about their flaws and no
one ever talks about their faults and no one ever talks
about their doubts, and they’re a generation who thinks
that they are the only ones that have these problems. They
feel completely invalidated. They feel completely lost and
disconnected from my
JESSICA Does it normalise suicide, though? Because some people say talking about suicide makes children more likely to think of it when they are feeling like that.
MIKE Look, that myth has been dispelled in so many papers across the world and in New Zealand, but there are a staunch group of academics and clinicians in New Zealand who are still holding on to that theory and refusing to let go and they are the ones who are causing the problems. Look, of course there are young people out there that can be triggered by something like 13 Reasons Why, but those same kids can be triggered by a look from a dog walking down the road, from the look from another person in a playground. If we refuse to acknowledge and talk to the 99.9% of the population and give them the tools to help people for the sake of that 0.1%, I think we are really missing the point.
JESSICA 13 Reasons Why - do you think parents should be letting their kids watch 13 Reasons Why? I’ve seen some of the episodes, and it does glamorise suicide to some extent.
MIKE Yeah, to our generation, Jess, it glamorises. When that programme first came out, all of the experts in New Zealand and those who are paid to run our suicide prevention programmes said it glamorises suicide, it glamorises pack rape and all kids should be banned from watching it. Well, if that’s not the greatest advertisement for a child wanting to watch a programme, then I don't know what is. But it’s interesting that our generation think that because my children’s generation… My two girls, they read the book when they were 10 and 11 and they watched the programme at 15 and 13, and to them and their peers, it is a show about the judgemental society that we live in, and they came away from that show thinking, ‘I have to change the way I think, I have to change the things that I say, because one little thing from me could be the trigger that sends someone over the edge’ so it’s really interesting, and again it shows the growing gap between the two generations.
JESSICA You have run into some troubles that’s played out in the media this week with some South Island schools who weren’t initially very keen on your approach. Does this happen to you a bit?
MIKE Let’s get it straight. They
invited me first, and then after they were approached by one
of the old-school campaigners who put doubts in their mind,
they cancelled. It came from a completely uninformed view
and it is something that is still there and is very
damaging. Do I have any issues with the schools? Absolutely
not, you know, schools are in the best place to decide what
is good for their students and what is not good for their
students. In saying that, you know, our kids need a voice. I
have been touring around the country for the last three and
a half years. I have spoken to over 150,000 kids, and the
overwhelming concern for them is we don’t feel validated,
we don’t feel like our generation cares, we don’t feel
like my generation is actually listening to them. They
deserve a voice. They deserve to be
JESSICA Because we spoke to the DHB and they said, ‘Look, we didn’t direct schools not to invite you.’ But is this what you come up against? That people are resistant because it is such a sensitive topic?
MIKE No. This is one woman. This is one woman. This isn't a campaign by DHBs or anything like that. The DHB head, Nigel Trainor, didn’t even know it was going on until I alerted him to what this one woman was doing.
JESSICA Fair enough.
MIKE We should not be
side-tracked by one
JESSICA Because one thing I did want to ask you about is you resigned from the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Panel. Do you not feel like you need to effect change from within rather than doing it on the outside?
MIKE Absolutely not. I think I am more effective on the outside than on the inside.
JESSICA Was it the bureaucracy?
MIKE Look, so, I was part
of an external advisory group, but I was the only external
member of the group. Every other person at that table was
either from DHB or are funded by the Ministry of Health.
Look, social media has changed the game. It has changed the
game. It has given people a voice, and without social media,
mental health would not be on the
JESSICA It is on the agenda now, isn’t it? Especially coming up to the election.
MIKE It’s huge. People
have finally got a voice. People feel like they are being
heard. Elections, for me, are like custody battles for
children where both parents are running round offering their
kids lollies, but the kids are going, ‘You’re giving
this to me now, but as soon as the custody battle is over
and one of your wins, you are both going to ignore us.’
Whereas social media is giving us a voice. We can finally
look politicians in the eye and say, ‘This is what we
JESSICA Look, we are going to have to leave it there, but thank you very much for your time this morning. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
Please find attached the full transcript of the interview and here’s the Link:
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