TRAVELLING 4000km in 25 days on 50cc scooters, visiting 48 towns, talking to 70 groups and delivering a message of hope to thousands is mental health advocate Mike King’s latest endeavour to raise awareness about mental illness.
“The aim of the tour is to change attitudes towards mental illness, normalise thoughts and encourage people to be more empathetic,” he said.
Mr King and two of his support team set out from Bluff on Monday on motor scooters on the “I am hope” month-long tour the length of New Zealand to spread the message – change attitudes, change the world.
He and his team of volunteers will visit dozens of intermediate and secondary schools and community halls along the way, talking to more than 20,000 school children and adults, before arriving in Cape Reinga on March 30.
The tour was launched at the Ascot Park Hotel on Sunday, attended by about 70 people, including members of the public, health service representatives and the fire service.
Speaking at the launch, Mr King said during the tour he would talk about his personal experience of mental illness in an attempt to “normalise the inner critic” present in everyone, and empower others, particularly young people, to seek help with their problems.
His team would also hand out wristbands containing the words “I am hope” for people to wear, which would signify to others “I will not judge you, shame you or ask stupid questions. All you will get from me is unconditional love and support”, he said.
Nine scooters had been donated by Suzuki and Harley Davidson and painted with “I am hope” messages by well-known New Zealand artists including Dick and Otis Frizzell, Dean Buchanan and Lester Hall for the tour.
At the launch, Mr Hall said he had wanted to be involved because it was a “really strong and wonderful cause”.
The scooters would be auctioned off at the conclusion of the tour, with proceeds used to continue the work of The Key to Life Charitable Trust, a community peer support group founded by Mr King to change the way New Zealanders think, act and feel about mental health and suicide.