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On Scooters for 2,500 Miles to Raise Mental Health Awareness: New Zealand

Mental Health Advocate Mike King announces the “I Am Hope” Tour, a cross-country New Zealand journey on two-wheels to speak to communities along the way about mental health and youth suicide.

In recent years more and more light has been shined on mental health issues, with an effort being made to raise awareness and lessen the stigma(s) some feel are occasioned with the topic. While help from celebrities admittedly has some effect, even the best written, most thought provoking tweet, or most stirring Youtube video—or VMA performance—matters very little unless conversations are actually being had. At least that’s the mindset of New Zealand’s Mike King, a mental health advocate, Harley and two-wheel enthusiast, comedian, and host of something called “The Nutters Club Radio Show”, who has recently announced he and seven buddies will be taking part in a 2,500 mile, cross-country New Zealand trip, stopping along the way to give talks to the youths and adults in local communities.

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King’s “I Am Hope” Tour gets underway on March 1, 2018 and will include stops in almost 50 different towns where King and friends are scheduled to give 70 talks over the course of his 25-day journey. While you might assume that King and friends will be utilizing GoldWings or large BMW GS’s for their tour—seeing as it’s roughly the same distance as traveling from the west coast to the east coast of the United States—you’d be wrong. King and his pals will be piloting 50cc Suzuki, Vespa-style scooters over the course of the roughly 4,000-kilometer-trip where King's message will be heard by more than 20,000 people.

King’s approach to connect with young people has previously been successful and seemingly effective. "By listening to them without judgment, without perpetuating the old Kiwi ‘toughen up mate’-attitude, we can show them it's okay to feel down, lonely, and sad, but that there's a light at the end of tunnel, there is hope," King explained. The scooter-riding mental health advocate has been recognized for his efforts, and was recently named as one of three finalists for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year award, with the winner being revealed this Thursday, the 22nd. Forty-five of the meetings are scheduled in schools and are therefore private, but King and friends will be hosting meetings along the way at community centers that are open to the public where adults are encouraged to attend.

Eight New Zealand artists including Dick Frizzell, Otis Frizzell, Joanna King, and Mr. G (real name: Graeme Hoete) painted the scooters that will be used on the trip. King will be accompanied by seven other travelers that appear to be made up of comedians and/or musicians. Supposedly the whole “I Am Hope” campaign started as one of those “Live-Stong” style bracelet things that was made and sold to benefit/promote youth mental health issues, and so wearers could essentially silently convey to others that they are a “safe” person to talk to.

King spoke to local media in New Zealand about youth mental health problems and suicidal ideation, stating, ”Many people suffer from it, but something can be done about it. We can help our young people by showing them that we care, and we're there. We can help our young people when they feel like they've hit rock bottom. We are here to empower them by stripping away shame from their thoughts and feelings, and letting them know they can make it through."

For more info or to see a complete tour schedule, you can check out the “I Am Hope” Tour’s website.

Photos courtesy of Mike King //Original article:

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