Why Mike King’s criticism is so politically damaging for Labour


I’ve known Mike for about 20years. His passion and drive to respond meaningfully to the pandemic of suicide is breathtaking. The grief he wades through on a weekly basis from Whānau who reach out to him at their most raw and painful requires a strength and courage beyond my reckoning.

He is at the coalface of suicide and his voice matters. The systemic failures he sees are a reality that is constantly hidden by bureaucrats who desperately sanitize our suicide statistics.

That he has handed back his medal with all the privileges it bestows is an admission that he can’t in good conscience continue to support the same bureaucrats empowering the same vested interests to produce the same results.

He acknowledges it isn’t Jacinda’s fault but it is politically damaging that the Government have not responded to his criticism.

The Government knew Mike was angry before he went public, they have screwed up by not listening to him.

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This is a damning indictment of a public service serving itself rather than the will of the people and a Government powerless to force culture change for real community engagement.

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  1. Well I hope that this IS politically damaging for Labour. Trouble is, they depend on Public Relations performers to tell them what to say and possibly how to think, and that is not good enough for our young people. If they can’t do better than Bill English, then they’re pretty damn hopeless.Shame.

    • They have acknowledged and committed a massive amount of money to this area so it’s not as if the government is avoiding the subject.

      As with a lot of policy Labour try to implement, the sticking point is the people who are supposed to deliver it. I would apportion blame at the stifiling State Sector Act 1988. Chris Trotters April 6 2021 blog, “Insufficiently Qualified to Object” in the TDB was to me, right on the money

      That is the problem and that is what needs to go because it’s blatantly obvious policy snd delivery are polar opposites. Especially if the imbedded bureaucracy don’t agree.

  2. I will always have respect for those with a strong conviction and moral compass irrespective of their political leanings.

  3. The public servants who gave him that medal must be annoyed and confused in equal measure, as such a bauble would silence anyone in their ranks. Good on Mike King for calling out injustice wherever he goes.

    • In the 1960/70 period we had people like you who were predicting the end of the World due to the Nuclear bomb or famine or overpopulation or oil running out yet here we still are . What people like you seem to forget is the resilients that has alow mankind to rise to beat the odds for centuries . I am not a denier of globe warming and it undoubtedly will effect the lifes of many but to suggest the only way out is suicide is dangerous.
      I have suffered depression since experiencing a problem with my heart . I had to give up work and stop my dancing . Suicide is a solution as a way out but my love for my boys and my partner kept me going . Fortunately I had the funds for private councilling to give me the weapons to face this curse . People like Mike and John are to be congratulated for their effort to make people feel not left out and that support is there .

      • Ha!

        The reason the youth now have no future is because people like you ignored timely warnings given from the 1950s onwards that the global extraction of oil would peak around the year 2000 -which is exactly what happened!.

        The fact that global system continued to run whilst depleting the last of the easy oil is no indicator that it will continue to run on the last dregs of recoverable oil.

        Isn’t interesting that Antonio Guteres, the Secretary General of the UN, recently said that the human species is on the path that leads to extinction. And Fahti Birol, head of the International Energy Agency said similar just a few days ago.

        By your reasoning, you can start a journey in a car with a full petrol tank and never bother about looking at the gauge again.

        Of course the car keeps going! Until the tank is 99% empty. And then it splutters on for few more hundred metres before coming to a standstill.

        A bit late to check the gauge when you’re hundreds of kilometres from the nearest petrol station, and that doesn’t have any fuel either.

        See ya at the bottom of the cliff, because this society won’t last another five years. That’s guaranteed.

        It probably won’t last another two.

        • I am 72 and have heard people like you many times telling me we are doomed but we are still here . If you study history many pridicted the end of the World during the centuries as man has made there steps forward displacing the norm and some people prospered while others feel by the wayside.
          See you in 5 years and we will talk again you can rely on that

    • 2 sides to every story, there is enough evidence to show that eternal life is offered to all people (at some future time) although the same evidence tells us that most will refuse the offer.

  4. The reality in many communities is–people present with anything from anxiety, addiction, suicidal thoughts, to a severe meltdown event, and they get an appointment often six weeks away! Meanwhile if they act out their issue or despair, the cops appear as responders and likely brutalise the person further.

    Sure cops are not properly trained to handle mental illness and alienation, so we need to spend the promised millions NOW and have mobile mental health units, and secure facilities in every province and every school.

    At base for many, mental health issues arise from poverty, degradation and crap lives. So as well as fully resourcing mental health needs–which have been well identified in countless studies, reviews and Commissions–a state house mega build, handing a giant can of whip-arse to MSD and establishing a basic income are urgently needed.

  5. Wanting help from govt with your mental health. The saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. How about govt works on conditions that would cause one to seek counselling.. Like conditions brought about by poverty and bad schools. Schools that close down for 2 day to hold a gang funeral for example. How are those children supposed to feel safe..msybe some are beaten at home..that is normal in their world. Then the school is no longer a safe place

    • Doctors hand out psychotropic drugs like their bonuses depend on it yet mental health is brutally underfunded. Looks evil to me.

  6. I do applaud Mike though. He was also a spokesperson for animal welfare after doing a complete 180 on pork industry after seeing what went on. Hes incredibly humble

  7. Not many political points to score in addressing a mostly male problem by our most diverse government ever, unfortunately.
    They certainly found some (needed) money down the back of the couch for cervical cancer when one of their own was suffering.

    Good on you Mike for fighting hard and the good work you do.

    • “They certainly found some (needed) money down the back of the couch for cervical cancer when one of their own was suffering.”

      I’m all for political debate but that was an absolutely disgusting comment.

      • Bert – I agree – I thought that it might just be me who felt that way – and her comment is in no way mitigated by tacking on a back pat to Mike King. This is part of the odious divisiveness of identity politics which permeates everywhere now – creeping in just like a dirty Dickensian fog – but Dickens wanted to address social ills, not create them.

        • I think you are confused about what identity politics is.
          Suicide: 600-700 deaths per year, Mr King notes lack of action.
          Cervical cancer 50 deaths per year, funding found.

          Please discuss, and yes identity politics is all over this but not in the way you suggest.

          • Cervical cancer is a diagnosis and can be treated immediately. Suicide can not be diagnosed, only the causes, which makes funding cervical cancer very easy, not so much suicide.

            Trevor may be able to confirm given his lived experience.

      • Simple fact unfortunately.

        Don’t kid yourself you want to debate facts: 98 percent of your posts are harsh put downs of anyone questioning the government.

  8. Labour have already said they can’t fix all the problems we have in one term and I think with Covid nobody can.

  9. Labour have already said they can’t fix all the problems we have in one term and I think with Covid nobody can.

  10. This is one of those areas where the will of the government is disconnected from the bureaucracy that is supposed to deliver that will, thanks to the States Services legislation that ensures ministers are kept at arms length.

    It’s like watching the Ministry of Health trying to respond to Covid but on steroids.

    This is no easy fix, mental health a victim of government austerity over years with a lack of expertise and massive unreasonable workloads endemic.

    The whole of government needs an overhaul. Urgently!

    • Yes agree with ya XRAY and would like to add we need change the system and educate the workers as many are not fit for purpose.

      • Covid is pa – What system needs changing? How do you know that this not all part of the eugenics of neoliberalism? I don’t.

        Many workers aren’t fit for the purpose ? Isn’t this Bill English, knight of the realm’s territory ?

  11. Labour is suffering from a severe dose of sychophantism.

    This makes way for (obvious) blind spots.

    They’re fully not aware that they have any so this will be their downfall.

    MMP dealt them a golden opportunity and they’ve blown it.

  12. Our whole health system is screwed from top to bottom.
    It doesn’t matter where you look it has been allowed to deteriorate to almost the point of dysfunction.
    Pharmac funding and Mental health are at the extreme end of the dysfunction both Labour and National led Govt’s are responsible for it. So lets put the blame at both of their feet.

    • I also agree, however I will quantify by asking the question, how to you stop suicide when someone is determined and has made their mind up. Who is responsible, government? Who saw the warning signs and if they did how do you resource 24/7 monitoring of that person. For many staff in mental health we are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, i.e. someone has already been diagnosed with a mental illness. For those whom suffer a mental illness, it is the result of trauma in their life. This could be psychosocial or biochemical. Biochemical meaning from birth or a medical event. Psychosocial meaning being in a social environment that is detrimental to your mental or physical health, mental, drug induced, family violence or Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In other words everyone places blame at government feet but there are just so many factors when dealing with the onset of mental illness. The ambulance at the top of the hill is a little more complicated. I have mentioned in other posts, if we continue down the path of increasing our population, we will increase numbers with mental health issues along with every other social need, including housing. We need to take stock increase targeted funding and slow the population or no amount of funding will ever be successful.

      • Well said Bert. So often we expect the government to be sble to fix what are community problems. Obviously government policies have some impact but to me we need to reconnect on family & friend level if we are to reverse these sad statistics.

      • To me government of both sides have an input into suicide and family breakdown by not sorting out the housing problem. Families constantly on the move from huose to house do not get the chance to build up relationships with doctors or teachers who would notice the signs of family stress.

  13. one of the narratives here is a push for coalition , and i suppose the with Greens there would be better drug reform and decriminalisation however Labour should be doing this regardless especially for better / affordable access to medicinal CBD they need to act now

  14. Yeah Mikes a good guy, he was a great comedian too, but this issue of suicide- particularly of our young men would take the sheen off any comedian. And its time this country wised up and listened.

    In a country which boasts about being ‘first world’, yet an apathetic country which sits on the laurels of its past glorys before 1984, yet clings to the very system that causes all this hopelessness and young male suicide,…that is a bullshit country.

    And its not just young men either, its the isolated farmer , the lonely inner city middle aged man. And there’s plenty of women who succumb to it too. Helen Clarke did the big ‘girls can do anything’ bit yet left the menfolk to fend for themselves earning shit wages on the minimum income.


    Here’s the real answer to all your failed humanistic doublespeak, – a dose of humility and simple faith whereby people are valued without all the ‘schisms’.

    Sister Janet Mead ~ The Lord’s Prayer ~ 1973

    • Doctors hand out psychotropic drugs like their bonuses depend on it yet mental health is brutally underfunded. Looks evil to me.

    • Good and useful article Dave.

      Life is difficult at best because of existential questions such as our mortality–we are on a one way journey from birth. How people adapt to that reality, and try to cope with it is the main, or at least very significant question in life. Another question is Climate Disaster. For many, denial seems the best tactic. But young people are leading Climate Strike action.

      For younger people without the experience of decades–that shit happens and you will likely survive it–ending their life can be a sharper option. Capitalism accelerates that tendency, as commodity fetishism (consumerism) generates desire for all manner of “stuff“, and denies basics such as adequate and affordable food and shelter to so many. There is also slow suicide by all manner of destructive and self sabotaging human behaviour.

      A socialist society would have to reduce a lot of those stressors.

  15. Do people want the Labour Govt to micromanage every aspect of their lives for them? It’s impossible for the Govt to solve everyone’s problems, as Martyn & everyone else on this blog, seems to expect? Unfortunately, if someone is determined to take their own life, no amount of counselling, either by Mike King or others is going to stop them from committing suicide! People need to take responsibility for their own actions & that’s not the Govt’s or anyone else’s fault? Just like John Kirwan’s Mental Health gig, what is Mike Kings stake in his Suicide prevention Programme? How is his Foundation funded? Is he just upset that the Govt won’t stump up $5 million a year to fund his organisation rather than through the Health system & DHB’s? John Kirwans Depression.org’s nailed it & it’s become a nice little earner for him, his is Govt funded & enabled him to buy fancy clothes & Baches & to live in Mission Bay! Mental Health provides a blank check to those in the know, so what’s Mike Kings actual beef here? Is it Financial issues behind his throwing his toys out of the cot by handing back his award? We are not being told the real story here & Martyn can badmouth & stir the pot against Labour, all he wants, but this Government can’t do everything for you, there’s a thing called personal responsibility? You are accountable for your own actions & don’t blame or look to the Govt to solve all your problems for you!

    • So what’s the weather like in Dipton today, Bill ? You’re sounding a little scrappier and simpler than you used to. Having to write your own words now ? Kids did ok in their private schools did they? Nice.

  16. Bert,
    Agree with most of what you say which doesn’t alter the fact Jacinda Ardern promised to bring about improvements and she hasn’t.
    No point in promises if you have no plans to implement them.
    Agree this is an extremely complex issue.

    • John, every single government make promises, John Key promised and failed, Helen Clarke promised and failed and so on and so forth. Ardern promised on the back of this…


      National and Key’s top 10 broken promises..

      1. GST was increased to 15 per cent.

      2. The wage gap with Australia has increased by $32 a week.

      3. 100,000 New Zealanders have left for Australia.

      4. Budget 2011 cut over $400 million from Working for Families by reducing payments through changing abatement rates and thresholds.

      5. National is already spending the money from their partial asset sales policy and Treasury has already hired an Australian investment banking firm as an adviser on the asset sales.

      6. The underclass has grown with 32,000 more children living in benefit dependent households over the past three years.

      7. National passed legislation that halved the KiwiSaver member tax credit in year starting 1 July 2011.

      8. Only a fraction of the jobs promised from the national cycleway have materialised.

      9. Early Childhood Education subsidies were changed.

      10. The 2010 ”tax switch” has not been fiscally neutral, as promised.

      The POINT as you say is to be elected, I’ll hold back my opinion until when Ardern leaves parliament.
      Remember this John, when Key was asked what his legacy would be he quoted” not passing the flag referendum”. Think about that for a moment. He could have said “my failure in health, education, social ills, the housing crisis, dirty rivers, dirty politics, but no all we got was a vanity flag project. That, right there, is why I am extremely anti any right wing government.

  17. Kiwiantz
    Agree with much of what you say but at the risk of sounding repetitious why does the Labour Government campaign on being able to deal with these issues?

  18. Ok Bert take your point.
    Still very disappointing that politicians make promises that they have no plans on how to implement.

  19. I don’t care about Mikes medal but am more concerned about the affect the political and media comments have on the poor staff. It must be one of the most difficult jobs around. It is a 24/7 job and probably lowly paid. I know – I have had to deal with whanau members and no matter what whanau support we gave it couldn’t resolve the matter. We have had to get police in at all times of the night. When mental health staff dealt with them they had to rely on medication and admission to hospital. Its sad to hear about those parents on death-watch feeling helpless when their son/daughter is feeling suicidal.
    Mike is probably right in that they need more staff preferably qualified staff but also in meantime more staff to mentor/speak with those patients. But at the end of the day rather than us speculating, Im sure the MOH is systematically establishing a structure and staffing levels to best address the current situation.


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