Mental health advocate, comedian and New Zealander of the Year Mike King has been honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours, becoming an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
The New Zealand Order of Merit honours system identifies Kiwis who have made significant contributions to the nation. The honour acknowledges King's campaign for tackling mental health and suicide prevention.
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King, 57, was named Kiwibank's New Zealander of the Year in February. Chief Judge Cameron Bennett acknowledged King's "determination to shine a light on the effects and impacts of mental health, particularly among Māori and young people".
"Mike's in your face, brutally honest and hugely funny," Bennett said at the time. "It's that courage and resolve that makes him so relatable to at-risk rangatahi that others can't reach."
King ended a successful television and comedy career to focus on advocating for better mental health awareness in New Zealand, educating Kiwis on mental illness, addiction and suicide prevention.
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King said he was 45 when he sought help for his dependency on drugs and alcohol, and mental health issues he had suffered with since adolescence.
"In people like me - people who have constantly thought themselves not good enough - our inner critic is a bully. It wants to isolate us, so we're eventually sitting there going, 'What's the point?'" King told The AM Show in August last year.
He founded The Nutters Club in 2009, which developed into the Key to Life Charitable Trust. The Trust works alongside mental health professionals and communities to provide crucial support, reduce the country's suicide rate, and change the discourse around mental illness.
"The problem we have in New Zealand society and around the world is the problem isn't the person in crisis. It's the rest of us who aren't in crisis, but whose often judgemental attitude is having the biggest effect," King told The AM show.
"There's one sign only that people are suicidal - if they tell you. And they're only going to tell you is if you have kindness in your heart and make it okay for people to talk."
New Zealand has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.
King said that while fixing the health system will take time, the biggest change will come from Kiwis becoming more accepting of mental illness.
Dr Hinemoa Elder was also recognised in Monday's Honours List. The youth forensic psychiatrist has been appointed as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to psychiatry and Māori.
Where to find help and support:
Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)