Comedian and mental health educator Mike King is bringing the I AM HOPE TOUR to Tauranga to address youth suicide by shedding the stigma associated with it, and empowering communities to connect with their youth who are struggling.
As part of the four-week campaign, Mike and seven others will ride Suzuki 50cc bikes from Cape Reinga to Bluff, to raise awareness, encourage openness and to listen without judgment when others come to them seeking help.
The eight positive mental health advocates will scoot off March 1, travelling more than 4000 kilometres and visiting more than 50 towns.
Mike will give public talks to engage, activate and motivate hundreds of thousands of people to act when they see someone struggling by encouraging building trust and how to deal with someone who isn't coping.
Mike says his success in addressing the unacceptably high rate of suicide in New Zealand is due to his unorthodox method of opening up and connecting emotionally with young people exposed to its highest risk, making the topic more accessible.
“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 ok to feel down, lonely, and sad, but that there's a light at the end of tunnel, there is hope.
“Our youth want to feel connected, understood and not judged. We know that shame is a huge factor in talking about depression and mental illness. We're here to say there is no shame in battling mental illness and 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.”
I AM HOPE is 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, in a bid to ease the pressure of withholding the pain and prevent self-harm.
It is designed to break down one of the most significant barriers for those with any level of depression, especially teenagers.
Famous Kiwi artists such as Mr G (real name Graeme Hoete), Dick Frizzell and Otis Frizzell have painted the campaign scooters, each depicting their own interpretations of the I AM HOPE message.
Leading life insurance and wealth management company AMP Financial Services is proud to be partnering with the Key to Life Trust and to be getting behind the I AM HOPE TOUR to help Mike spread his message of hope in schools and communities across New Zealand. I AM HOPE is also supported by Suzuki, Trailerworld, and other businesses.
Local community groups and service providers wanting to be involved in the tour are encouraged to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: I AM HOPE Free Public Talk
When: March 26, 7pm
Where: Baycourt Community & Art Centre