Hundreds of people turned out to Baycourt in Tauranga tonight for comedian and mental health educator Mike King's I Am Hope tour.

The tour is addressing youth suicide by shedding the stigma associated with it and empowering communities to connect with their youth who are struggling.

Hailey Trappitt, a 17-year-old from Mount Maunganui College, spoke to those in attendance about her experience.

She spent six months in a psychiatric ward and tonight shared her story and struggles.

Advertisement

On stage, King also introduced all of the local services where youth can seek help.

The I Am Hope tour is a nationwide four-week campaign.

Hailey Trappitt, a 17-year-old from Mount Maunganui College, spoke to those in attendance about her experience. Photo / Supplied
Hailey Trappitt, a 17-year-old from Mount Maunganui College, spoke to those in attendance about her experience. Photo / Supplied

King and seven others are riding Suzuki 50cc bikes from Cape Reinga to Bluff to raise awareness, encourage openness and to listen without judgment when others come to them seeking help.

Local artist Mr G (real name Graeme Hoete) as well as other famous artists Dick Frizzell and Otis Frizzell painted the campaign scooters, each depicting their own interpretations of the I Am Hope message.

There are also I Am Hope wrist bands that signal the people wearing them are safe to talk to.

Read more: Break The Silence: Mike King's 'I Am Hope' bands encourage kids to open up

The concept is about encouraging "young people or people struggling internally to verbalise their struggles with somebody they feel safe with, in a bid to ease the pressure of withholding the pain and prevent self-harm".

The bands are designed to break down one of the most significant barriers for those with any level of depression, especially teenagers.

"We can help our young people when they feel like they've hit rock bottom," King said in a press release leading up to tonight's event in Tauranga.

"By listening to them without judgment, without perpetuating the old Kiwi 'toughen up mate' attitude, we can show them it's ok to feel down, lonely, and sad, but that there's a light at the end of tunnel, there is hope."

He said youth want to feel connected, understood and not judged.

"We know that shame is a huge factor in talking about depression and mental illness. We're here to say there is no shame in battling mental illness and 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," King said.

"We are here to empower them by stripping away shame from their thoughts and feelings, and letting them know they can make it through."

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider.

However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234