Mental health services don't stop enough suicides: Mike King

(Mike King/Facebook)
(Mike King/Facebook)

Imagine having a suicidal son, taking him to your local A&E in need of urgent treatment and being turned away.

That evening, you go back to the same emergency department with your son, only to be trespassed off the property.

Hours later, he takes his own life.

That is a story mental health campaigner Mike King says is not an isolated case. He says the New Zealand mental health system is over worked and under resourced. He wants change.

Comedian-turned-mental health advocate Mr King and psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald have teamed up to create the People's Mental Health Review Campaign. They want to use people power to show Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman and the ministry what the pair call a "mental health system in crisis".

According to the Ministry of Health, 551 people committed suicide in 2012 despite 40 percent of them being treated by mental health services. Mr King says the statistic is startling.

"In my humble opinion, anyone who comes into contact with mental health services for depression or suicidal thoughts shouldn't leave the [doctor's] office and commit suicide."

The People's Mental Health Review will collect stories, positive and negative, of the country's mental health system to gauge if it is working or not.

"I know that the system doesn't even know what is out there, I know the system doesn't know what they are spending, they don't know what services are working and what isn't," Mr King says.

The pair is asking people to share their experiences of the mental health system, negative or positive, on their website. (

In a video about the campaign, Mr MacDonald says the argument will only be as strong as the stories that are a part of it.

"The collection of stories will enable us to present the truth of the matter about the state of the New Zealand mental health system, to the minister and the ministry, in the hope of convincing them that change is necessary."

Mr King says he doesn't want to pre-empt anything but he believes there will be a strong call for a "stocktake" of the mental health system.

"We just need to see what interest there might turn out that people say that our mental health services are great.

"We just want to know if there is a need for this - I believe that there is, Kyle believes that there is."

Mr King says he isn't anti-government, the current mental health services or the ministry, he just wants to find out the truth.

"We all want the same thing. We just want a better opportunity for those vulnerable New Zealanders to get help."

Dr Coleman says access to mental health services is a priority for the Government, however doesn't agree there is a need for an inquiry.

"There's increased demand for health services, including mental health, which is why we've put in an extra $568 million into health this year, taking health to a record $16.1 billion," Mr Coleman says.

He says the Ministry of Health is currently working with experts to identify where further support is needed.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.