Bryce Casey on mental health, bowling and being nominated for New Zealander of the Year

This article deals with mental health problems, including attempted suicide

This is part of a Newshub Q&A series with influential Kiwis who are making their mark on the world. 

The Rock host Bryce Casey has shared his plans if he wins the coveted New Zealander of the year award.  

In May, Casey took to the bowling lane for an incredible 58 hours of non-stop bowling. The effort was to raise money for Mike King's I Am Hope campaign, which offers free counselling to young Kiwis.

The 58-hour marathon represented every person who attempted suicide in 2018. Every minute Casey bowled represented one person who tried to take their own life - 3500 people in total.

Tens of thousands of Kiwis supported Casey's efforts, raising a whopping $366,602. 

Following his marathon effort, the radio host was nominated for the New Zealander of the Year award and, so far, has received more nominations than anyone else. 

Casey said he never imagined that would happen. 

"It's certainly not something I expected and it definitely wasn't the aim," he told Newshub. 

How did it feel to be nominated for New Zealander of the year?

Obviously, it's something to be proud of, but it's pretty weird as well.

It's pretty cool that some people were that happy with what we did that they thought it was worth their time to spend five minutes filling out the form. 

How painful was bowling for 58 hours straight?

The hardest part was mentally because I was really tired and I wanted to stop doing it. 

But we had a counsellor and he asked me why I was doing it? I said it was because I didn't want people to give up. 

Then he asked me what I wanted to do right now? I could see what he was doing and it made me realise that I wanted to give up because I was in pain. He explained that it will stop eventually and I was asking people to push through the pain because it won't last.

Once he said that I thought 'yeah okay' and kept pushing through. 

But pain wise it sucked heaps. I am still getting osteopathy for it now. You only have to look at a photo of me to know I'm not physically built to be doing three days of anything strenuous. 

Do you have any other fundraisers planned?

Yes. Whether it's the bowling I'm not sure. I've done the bowling three times now and every time, I say I will never do it again. I say no now, but we will see. 

Why did you choose to give the money to counselling for kids?

It's hard for everyone but everyone's been young once and everyone knows how much it can suck if things are piling up. 

How did it feel when you saw how much money you raised?

We never talked about an aim of how much we wanted to raise.

In my head, I really hoped that we would get over $100,000 and when we raised that on the first day, then I had the aim of getting to that $250,000 mark.

We ended up getting $366,000, which is amazing and it works out to be about 2500 hours of counselling.

That's the reason we did this, so young Kiwis of any social situation are able to go and have that counselling adjusted for, that's the thing that makes it awesome for me. 

Why are mental health and suicide prevention so important to you?

I've had it personally affect my life. I've had a family member who has done it [died by suicide] and three of my close friends. 

I've seen the lasting impact that it has on their friends and family for five, 15, 20 years down the track. 

I would tell people to ask for help and to be comfortable in the fact that you might be battling.

But then I was getting messages saying: "I went and saw a doctor and told them what was going on and they essentially prescribed 10 counselling sessions at $180 each, and I don't have $1800 so what do I do?" 

I didn't have the answer for that. 

You could be earning good money and you don't have $1800 sitting there, let alone people in far worse situations. 

What would you like to see change in New Zealand when it comes to our approach to mental health?

Better access to help. We talk about it and raise money for it but for a lot of the parts of the country, there are massive wait times or mental health facilities that can't even house the people that need it.

There needs to be an attitude change as well.

That's the big thing, not judging people who are struggling

Who would you like to win New Zealander of the year? Apart from yourself of course. 

There are so many deserving people. The Christchurch shooting hero Abdul Aziz is a standout. Also, Blair Vining. He's a guy with a young family who has terminal cancer and is spending his last years making sure people in the future have better cancer care, so that's beyond selfless. 

What will you do if you win New Zealander of the year?

The only thing I will do for sure, apart from being honoured and thinking it's awesome, is make my co-hosts Andrew Mulligan and Roger Farrelly refer to me as New Zealander of the Year Bryce Casey.

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