Comedian-turned mental health advocate Mike King says the profiling of mental illness is dangerous and ignores people who may be in serious need of help.
King told Newshub he was staggered by the response to Gumboot Day, an initiative which asked Kiwis to wear gumboots for the day on Friday and aimed to raise money to provide young people with free mental health care.
"I looked on social media once yesterday and we had taken over. Gumboot Friday has taken over."
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But, he said, Friday's event was never the be-all and end-all for the cause, just the first step in opening up the conversation and de-stigmatising the sensitive issue.
"It's one of those things that will continue for a long time, it's not one of those things that stops, people will continue to give… It's about normalising the conversation."
He said a huge issue with mental health advertising is that usually it targets people who are already in a "crisis", but should instead focus on the people contributing to the negative stigma of mental illness.
"Every time I've been in crisis mentally, the last thing I want to do when I'm feeling really vulnerable and broken is go and talk to someone who I perceive as normal and expose myself. Where is the messaging to those of us who are in a good place but whose attitudes are preventing people from opening up and talking. Where is that messaging?"
He said part of the problem lies with the experts who send out this messaging being disconnected with their audience.
"No one's asking us what we feel the issues are and no one's asking us what we feel the solutions are, they're coming in and saying these are the problems 'just do as we say, shut up we're the experts, we know what we're doing'. It's disempowering people."
He argued academics and clinicians need to start listening to the people on the ground.
"The academics and the clinicians and the experts, they're like 1950s husbands who are telling the family I know best you do as I say and just sit in the corner quietly. That has to stop. It has to stop."
King said there was a misconception that had been pushed for too long characterising mentally ill people as being down and not themselves.
"The profiling is someone who can't get out of bed, someone who's weeping, someone who's not listening to their favourite music. That's the flu. People with the flu have those symptoms and it's causing us to ignore the people who appear to be happy."
He said this inaccurate profiling causes people to dangerously "ignore all those people in the community who are just really good at putting masks on."
King says he is hugely optimistic about the future of Gumboot Up NZ and the movement to de-stigmatise mental illness.
"It's about creating positive conversations around a really negative subject and normalising something that everyone struggles with."
Click here to donate to the fund to help Kiwi kids get free counselling and mental health treatments and create positive change by normalising healthy conversation about mental health.