An Open Letter To Ardern

Dear Prime Minister Tomorrow is the 3rd anniversary of Gumboot Friday and to celebrate I’ll be walking 100,000 meters in Gumboots around the Auckland Domain to raise $100k that will go towards our $5 million goal. If we reach our goal it will provide over 37,000 free non stigmatising counselling sessions for our kids. I say non stigmatising because under the current system the only way young people can get free counselling is to go to a doctor, be diagnosed mentally ill, and then go on a long waiting list before being met by an often burnt out mental health professional. As a mother, can you imagine being subjected to this in the future? Sadly this is the reality faced by thousands of kiwi mums and dads every year as they try to get help for their distressed children. Everyday I am contacted by families begging for help after being told their children don’t qualify for counseling because they are not suicidal enough. Every week I am on planes flying around the country meeting with distressed families whose children have been discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt with little or no support, often without even seeing a psychiatrist. Three years ago I remember standing on a podium with you singing your parties praises as you announced that you were spending $1.9b on mental health. As long as I live I will never forget that day. There was such a euphoric feeling in the air, full of optimism and hope and I believed with all my heart things were about to change, finally we had a government who cared. Three years on I feel like we have let everybody down. Tomorrow also marks the anniversary of the letter I received informing me that I had been made a member of the NZOM for services to mental health and suicide prevention. While I was honoured at the time, it no longer sits comfortably with me. Every day I look at myself in the mirror and ask “how can you wear this title when things haven’t changed and so many are still suffering? ”The truth is I can’t. I know none of this is your fault Prime Minister and I know you truly care about our children but the system is broken and it seems to our most vulnerable kiwis and their families that no one is trying to fix it. On that basis I stand with those families and with great sadness I will be returning my NZOM Medal to Dame Patsy Reddy before she leaves office. I know this is the last thing you needed to hear but I can no longer stand idly by hoping things will change and knowing they won’t. To paraphrase Martin Luther King “for incompetence to prevail all it needs is for good people to do nothing”Yours sincerely Mike King

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