Mike King brings message of hope to students at Porirua's Mana College video

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff.co.nz

Mike King talks to Mana College about the importance of youth talking about their feelings. He said 40 per cent of school kids have a suicidal thought before they leave school.

It took Mike King six weeks of counselling before he admitted his drug and alcohol problems to his counsellor.

King revealed his battles with depression, addiction and self esteem - washed down with his style of comedy - to a hall full of youth at Porirua's Mana College on Tuesday as part of a day-long conference about suicide awareness.

"The main reason most people don't ask for help is because they're worried about what you will say, what you will think, and what you will do," he told the decile 2 students.

Mike King talks to students during a suicide awareness day at Mana College in Porirua.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Mike King talks to students during a suicide awareness day at Mana College in Porirua.

His talk centred on normalising the inner critic, which meant telling students they weren't strange for having weaknesses, internal conflicts or dark thoughts.

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"We just say 'hey, you're not crazy, you're normal and everyone has this'."

Ezekiel Raui, 19, spoke to students about taking former drug-dealing mates from his Northland school to a regional chess ...
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Ezekiel Raui, 19, spoke to students about taking former drug-dealing mates from his Northland school to a regional chess tournament.

King said 40 per cent of youth will have a suicidal thought before they even leave school, and the vast majority of those who do think about suicide never talk about it.

"For far too long in the New Zealand education system it's been a bunch of old people telling young people what their problems are and what the solutions are," he said.

"Days like this are important so young people know their voice is finally being heard."

Mike King handed out wrist bands at Mana College that read "I Am Hope", which he encouraged youth to wear as a message ...
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Mike King handed out wrist bands at Mana College that read "I Am Hope", which he encouraged youth to wear as a message to others.

Ministry of Education guidelines state that suicide prevention programmes and "awareness raising" are not recommended for schools.

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New Zealand Secondary Principals Council chairman James Morris said that was the ministry's way of saying that doing so might present risks.

"I guess if something goes wrong the ministry can say, 'that was our recommendation'."

Mana College principal John Murdoch said youth have an important perspective on suicide and "we need to understand that ...
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF

Mana College principal John Murdoch said youth have an important perspective on suicide and "we need to understand that if we're to support them".

The day was made possible at Mana College thanks to about $12,000 in funding from the Te Waka Whaiora Trust - a mental health service supported by Capital & Coast District Health Board.

Northland-raised Ezekiel Raui, 19, former ambassador to the White House Tribal Leaders Conference, spoke to students about taking former drug-dealing mates from his Northland school to a regional chess tournament, which they won.

"What I love is normalising the fact that no-one is perfect and regardless of the situation, you can change it."

Mana College principal John Murdoch said the day was lead by student leaders and rangatahi (young people). It featured hip-hop, drama, art, song and poetry workshops.

"We know that people hurt and we want to let everyone know there are people you can talk to and people who love them."

"It's not a textbook. You cannot give students the skills for their life ahead of them through a textbook."

Mana's day-long effort was the largest scale event he had heard of around suicide, he said.

King handed out white bands that read "I Am Hope", which he encouraged youth to wear as a message to others.

"What you are saying is: if you want to talk to someone, you can talk to me. I will not ask you dumb questions, I will not try to fix you. All you will get from me is unconditional love and hope," he said.

"If we can get young people talking about little problems now - before they become big problems, before they become suicidal thoughts - the world changes. The whole world's a better place."

 - Stuff

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