By: Ryan Dunlop

Mental health advocate Mike King is taking part in the “I Am Hope” tour, which will see him travel the length of the country on a motor scooter to talk to communities about youth suicide. Photo / Supplied

To address youth suicide, mental health advocate Mike King is going on a 4000km journey by motor scooter.

The four-week campaign would see the former comedian and seven others ride scooters from Cape Reinga to Bluff to raise awareness and encourage openness within communities when others come seeking help.

He will visit 48 towns and give 70 talks over 25 days from March 1.

“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 okay to feel down, lonely, and sad, but that there’s a light at the end of tunnel, there is hope,” King said.

King’s unorthodox method of opening up and connecting emotionally with young people made the topic more accessible, he said.

New Zealand’s youths wanted to feel connected and not judged. He wanted to get across the point that “there is no shame in battling mental illness”.

“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.”

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

I AM HOPE was 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, King said.

The hope was to break down “one of the most significant barriers for those with any level of depression, especially teenagers”.

King was one of three finalists for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year awards.

Past competition winners include Taika Waititi, Richie McCaw, Sir Stephen Tindall and Dr Lance O’Sullivan.

The winner will be revealed on February 22.

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Source: NZ Herald


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