NZ's mental health system is 'broken' when you have to 'prove you're suicidal' - Mike King
Anti-suicide crusader Mike King has told 200 NZ First supporters that any politician who thinks mental health isn't an election issue is "stupid, naive and shouldn't be in the race".
King was invited to the NZ First convention in South Auckland on Sunday at the request of leader Winston Peters, who said he wanted to know what people like King wanted politicians to do about mental health issues in New Zealand.
King told the captive audience that 40 per cent of students had a suicidal thought before they left school and 80 per cent of those youth who had "recurring suicidal thoughts" didn't ask for help.
A show of hands revealed most in the crowd were surprised by those statistics.
Telling young people not to talk about suicide or discuss mental health issues was the wrong approach, King said.
"It's like telling a six-year-old they can't think about lollies. Then all they can think is lollies, lollies, lollies."
Having a suicidal thought was perfectly "normal" and King said trying to put labels on thoughts was like "putting labels on weather".
"Sunny day, good day. Rainy day, bad day. Not if you're a duck, not if you're a farmer."
It was those who had recurring thoughts about suicide that the public should be worried about.
A decade ago someone could walk into a hospital and say they needed help "and the help was there".
"Nowadays you have to prove you're suicidal."
"What kind of system is it that you need to attempt suicide to get help?"
He challenged politicians to listen to those with mental health issues to find solutions to what is a "broken system".
"Anyone who doesn't think (mental health) is an election issue is stupid, naive and shouldn't be in the race," he said.
Ahead of his keynote speech to the NZ First party conference on Sunday morning, King was invited to speak at eight schools in the South Canterbury region on self esteem and keeping their "inner critic" in check.
However, Opihi College in Temuka, then retracted the invitation. They told King he was no longer welcome, after being contacted by South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) suicide prevention co-ordinator Professor Annette Beautrais.
King said Beautrais advocated a "silent" approach to tackling suicide. According to King, Beautrais was in one of the last pockets of academia who still believed in trying to bring down the stubbornly high suicide rates by burying their heads in the sand.
Beautrais, who has worked in suicide research and prevention for many years, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.