Mental health advocate Mike King and his team are on a mission today to walk 100 kilometres to raise $100,000 to provide rangatahi with free counselling support.
It’s a part of Gumboot Friday, an initiative created by I AM HOPE and the Key to Life Charitable Trust.
“If we reach our goal it will provide over 37,000 free non-stigmatising counselling sessions for our kids. I say non-stigmatising because under the current system the only way young people can get free counselling is to go to a doctor, be diagnosed mentally ill, and then go on an excruciatingly long waiting list," King says.
King started walking laps alongside volunteers around the Auckland Domain at midnight last night. They will walk for 24 hours.
“We’ve got some inspirational tamariki from Huntly here. They’re not walking, they’re running 100km. So every time I get a little bit tired these beautiful little tamariki come running by going ‘Come on matua, come on matua,’ so it’s really, really cool,” King told Te Ao this morning.
Returning the medal
Yesterday King made it public that he will return his NZ order of Merit medal, which he received from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy last year for services to mental health and suicide prevention.
“While I was honoured at the time, it no longer sits comfortably with me. Every day I ask myself 'How can you wear this title when things haven’t changed and so many are still suffering?' The truth is I can’t. I know none of this is your fault Prime Minister and I know you truly care about our children but the system is broken and it seems no one is trying to fix it,” King wrote in a post on Instagram.
He says the mental health support system needs to change and he stands with the families who can’t get the help they need for their children.
“They’ve been turned away from frontline mental health services because they’re not suicidal enough. They think no one sees them. They think no one cares. So this is my way of saying I see you. I care and I’m going to do everything in my power to change the system so our tamariki, our rangatahi can get the help they so desperately need and so desperately deserve.”
But he says the responsibility isn’t just up to the government.
“The fact of the matter is, we are failing and I’m not saying just politicians. I am saying we collectively are failing whānau. We have a voice. We can use our voices and we can drive change. Politicians come and go on the votes so let’s all get in there and say we want a change.”
World record haka
King is also on a mission to make a world record of the most people doing a haka in gumboots as a part of Gumboot Friday.
The haka will be led by rugby legend Buck Shelford at 6pm, with a goal of at least 654 people taking part to honour those who have lost their life to suicide.
King says, “Last year 654 people took their lives so Buck is going to lead a haka to celebrate their lives. When people lose their loved ones to suicide they are actively encouraged to just move on. We want to say to these people, ‘We see you and we honour you lives.”
King has invited people to arrive by 5.30pm for the first practice. At 6pm the haka will take place.