Mike King says being New Zealander of the Year is 'odd'

Mike King says being named New Zealander of the Year feels "odd".

The comedian was awarded the title on Wednesday for his tireless work in raising awareness around New Zealand's shocking mental illness and suicide statistics.

"It's such an un-Kiwi thing to take an accolade," he told Three's The Project on Thursday. "I'll give my mates an accolade, I'll give it to my family, but to take one is the most un-Kiwi thing in the world."

Despite our collective tendency to cringe away from self-promotion, King believes learning to take pride in our achievements is vital to staying happy and balanced.

"The biggest mental health epidemic in New Zealand right now isn't depression or anxiety, it's an over-active inner critic," he says.

"We need to focus more on self-esteem issues, in particular in young people, and building up their self-esteem. A kid with great self-esteem, a kid who has a great sense of self-worth, is not going to be terrorised by some idiot on Facebook who says 'you're a dickhead'.

"It's kids who don't already feel great about themselves who are the ones who are at risk from social media."

King brought along a white gumboot for the hosts of The Project to sign as part of 'Gumboot Friday', an initiative to raise money for free kids' counselling.

The annual day will be on April 5 this year, and everyone in New Zealand is encouraged to wear gumboots to work or school and donate money through King's Key to Life Trust.

He says their aim is to raise $2 million so that young Kiwis can get the help they need free of charge.

"Having depression is like walking through mud for 365 days a year," he explained.

"So for one day put on your gumboots, go to work, go to school, and let's donate some money for kids to have some free counselling."