Bay of Plenty MP and former National Party leader Todd Muller has been left stunned and humbled by a flood of feedback that has rolled in since going public with his personal mental health journey.
Muller, who revealed his struggle with anxiety and panic attacks to the Bay of Plenty Times last week, said the response since his story went public had been staggering.
Muller opened up about the moments leading up to, and after, his high-profile exit as Leader of the Opposition.
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On May 22, Muller secured the position of leader of the National Party, ousting predecessor and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges in the process. Just 53 days later, Muller made the shock announcement he was stepping down from the role for health reasons.
It was something he had not discussed in detail, until Saturday.
"The local feedback has been the most stunning," he said.
"I was out privately on Saturday night locally, then again at the Pāpāmoa markets and lots and lots of people were coming up and shaking my hand, wishing me all the best but also thanking me for being so open. That, to me, is the thing I found so humbling from all of this."
Muller revealed in last week's interview he had already had a taste of people showing him their support during the last few weeks. Since Saturday's story, this had skyrocketed.
"I think the volume is the surprising thing - Just the number of people aware of it. And the article itself, the people now feel comfortable to come forward and say 'g'day' to me and acknowledge that and reflect in a personal way about either their own journey or their family members who may be having similar experiences."
The overwhelming support has reaffirmed Muller's view that the stigma often associated with mental health was not what it once was.
"There's something that has changed for the better. That's what John Kirwan and Mike King have started ... that is testament to them. The positive impact I've had comes from their courage. They are the trailblazers in this area."
Using his own high-profile to do likewise had not been part of his plan, he said.
"For me, it was just, I felt our community were asking 'what happened?' and 'was I okay?'. I just felt for me, personally, the right thing to do was to be able to share elements of that."
Muller has now begun his campaign trail, helping erect hoardings around the district and putting together a doorknocking plan.
"Now I can keep doing what I'm doing."
Like Muller, NZME has also been inundated with positive feedback.
In a phone message, one woman spoke of Muller's journey hitting close to home.
"I want to thank the people who organised and placed the article about Todd Muller in this morning's paper ... I have a member of my family who's suffering in a similar way and I ... am going to convey some of the messages that came out of that because I too am suffering as a result," she said.
"I want to thank the people who did the interview with Todd. We get to read and realise what others, what they are experiencing and also convey that message to my family members about what I've read so thank you so much."
Another reader said Muller's story would help and inspire others as "life can carry on after healing".
Where to get help
• Free 24/7 National Anxiety Helpline (0800 ANXIETY; 0800 269 4389)
• Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633 ¦ Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.