Mike King breaks down discussing latest suicide rates, makes tearful plea to improve Aotearoa's mental health services

Mike King breaks down discussing latest suicide rates, makes tearful plea to improve Aotearoa's mental health services
Mike King breaks down discussing latest suicide rates, makes tearful plea to improve Aotearoa's mental health services. Photo credit: The Rock/ Facebook

This article deals with mental health problems, including attempted suicide.

A tearful Mike King has broken down on radio discussing New Zealand's latest suicide rates, saying the "system is f***ed up" and more urgently needs to be done.

At the end of October, the deputy chief coroner revealed New Zealand's suicide rate had dropped for a third year, but Māori continue to be disproportionately affected.

Anna Tutton released the figures to June 30, 2022 which showed 538 people died by suspected suicide, down from 607 the year prior and 628 in the year to 2020. 

The release showed the rate per 100,000 was 10.2 - statistically significantly lower than the average rate over the last 13 financial years. 

It is the third consecutive year that the suicide rate has dropped. 

However, speaking on The Rock's Morning Rumble, I Am Hope founder King said "the system is f***ed up and no one is doing anything about it".

"If you put your faith in the system, there is a better than evens chance that your child will die," King said.

"Because no one is coming. Now we can either sit around and we can whinge about it, or we can do one of two things about it - we can invest in our own system which is Gumboot Friday, and if you can't invest, stop being silent.

"You need to speak up about this. I am sick and tired of people coming up to me and saying 'I love your post Mike'. What, you mean the post where I wrote about the mum whose child has died? These posts aren't meant to be for you to love," he said passionately.

"You're not meant to love these posts, you're meant to be hurt by these posts, you're meant to be scared by these posts, you are meant to be horrified. You're meant to be angry.

"Stop being silent and leaving it for other people to do it because other people are tired. I'm tired of leaving my home on the f***ing weekend and having my wife crying because I'm not home," King said as his voice began to break.

"I'm tired of all these f***ing virtue signallers on social media telling me what I should be doing. I'm just tired, I can't do it. We have to f***ing do something.

"We cannot let the bureaucrats that run this country - and this is not a political thing. If you think that when National gets in, things are going to be different, you're living in Lala Land.

"If we don't do something about these arrogant bureaucrats, then no one is going to do anything.

"I hear parents talking all the time about kids leaving their socks on the floor, or dishes in the sink - there are hundreds of families out there who would give anything for their kids' socks to be on the floor, to f***ing have dishes in the sink. 

"It's f***ed up," he said, tears on his face. "The system is f***ed up and no one is doing anything about it."

Clearly moved by his words, the Morning Rumble hosts rallied around King, saying he was making a difference with fundraising events for Gumboot Friday, a charity providing free counselling for young people in New Zealand.

Following King's emotional plea on the show, his wife Jo took to Facebook to assure people he was "going to be okay".

"Mike rang me when he was on his way to the radio to do this talk. He was flat. He has been for days and he's overwhelmed and he's doing too much," she said on his Facebook page.

"This is how the talk went and when he told me after that he cried I was not surprised.

"For the record I don't just cry because he has to go off on the weekends. I've cried lately because I suffer from depression and the wheels fell off a month ago. Thankfully I'm back on my meds and feeling well and I'm able to support Mike again and he's going to be ok.

"We don't need messages of love. We need help."

Other commenters on social media urged King not to give up on his work in the mental health sector.

"You are making such a difference. You are providing hope. I can't imagine how much hard work you put in behind the scenes for I Am Hope/Gumboot Friday and it is appreciated," one said.

"Kia kaha Mike, it's a mammoth mountain to climb, there are some of us out there trying to spread the word the best we can," another said.

King has long been open about his frustrations over the funding of mental health services in Aotearoa.

In June 2021, he returned the NZ Order of Merit medal he was awarded in 2019 for services to mental health awareness and suicide prevention, citing a lack of progress in these areas.

It came after repeated criticisms of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Ministry of Health over a lack of investment in mental health services, and for rejecting Gumboot Friday's plea for funding to provide free counselling for young people.

It was also in June 2021 the Ministry of Health (MoH) rejected funding for Gumboot Friday, saying it had applied "outside the planned procurement processes".

In a statement at the time, MoH sector support and infrastructure deputy chief executive Robyn Shearer confirmed the ministry was unable to fund Gumboot Friday, nor any other charity or service at this time.

"The application from Gumboot Friday representatives was unfortunately sent outside the planned procurement processes. Procurement rules are designed to make sure there is a transparent, fair and equitable process, and to make sure there can be robust evaluation of applications." 

Gumboot Friday takes place on November 4, 2022, and people can donate $3 by texting Boots to 469.

Where to find help and support: 

Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)

Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584