Kiwi's need to stop being so judgmental and looking at what we're doing wrong and instead begin to be more positive and look after those around us, mental health advocate Mike King says.

The New Zealander of the Year also slammed the current "monetisation" of mental health, and those trying to make a quick buck off people's poor state of mind.

The Chief Coroner yesterday released the country's suicide deaths, which alarmingly showed they'd reached their highest level since records began 12 years ago.

There were 685 suicides in the year to June 30 - 17 more than last year, when there were 668.


Māori and Pacific Island suicides both jumped with 169 Māori people dying by suicide in the year to June 30, up 27 from 142 deaths last year.

Mental health campaigner Mike King says money won't solve the suicide rate. Instead, people need to start asking those around them if they're okay. Photo / File
Mental health campaigner Mike King says money won't solve the suicide rate. Instead, people need to start asking those around them if they're okay. Photo / File

Pacific Island suicides also rose, from 23 to 34 deaths. The rate of suicide among Pacific Islanders is lower than the national average but has jumped markedly this year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated the Government's position that there was not enough evidence to support setting a national suicide target, a stance backed by King.

"A target implies we have a tolerance for suicide, and we do not. The goal is for no one to be lost to suicide," Ardern said on Monday.

King was critical of mental health "experts" who were constantly calling for a cash hand-out to fix the suicide rate.

It wasn't an issue that money could fix, he told the Herald today.

The two key factors as to why society had become such a judgmental and hyper-critical society were the "explosion" of opinionated journalists, "where everyone is sticking the boot into everyone else" and the proliferation of risk management.

"No matter what job comes across our desk in the morning, we have to ask ourselves what's the risk to me, what's the risk to our fellow employees ... the problem with that is this. We are now focused on everything that can go wrong, we're now focusing on the problem, we're now focussing on the 1 per cent of danger that is out there.


"Ninety-nine per cent of what we all do every day is perfect, but nobody cares about what we are doing right, we're always focused on the 1 per cent that can go wrong.

"When you are constantly criticised, for not doing one thing, and offered no praise for the 99 per cent of what we do right, you go home feeling unloved, you're feeling undervalued, you're feeling put down and you're feeling frustrated.

"When you get home that frustration has to go somewhere, so when we get home we take that frustration out on our kids."

He said no amount of money would fix New Zealand's horrific suicide rate.

"If you're shocked, if you're being funded by the taxpayer to look after suicide in this country ... and you're shocked by those statistics you should be fired.

"You know what I was shocked about? Is that they weren't higher. I'm out every day listening to people who are telling me about loved ones who they've lost in the last month, fortnight, week, days. It's ridiculous.

"You've got to get out there and listen to people."

There were currently 3 voices in the conversation - those of the clinicians, the academics and the people.

"But the people are being shut out of the conversation and being told by the experts 'you don't know enough about this, we're the experts'. Well, guess what experts, you're failing at your job."

King said all the experts appeared to care about was money, the "monetisation of mental health".

Now society was being fed the false impression that they had to be happy 365 days a year.

"We've got a mental wellbeing industry out there that is constantly telling people that you should be happy 365 days a year, that other people are happy 365 days of the year, that it's possible to be happy 365 days a year and if you're not happy 365 days a year we'll sell you some shit that'll make you happy.

"It is true and no one is calling them out on it."

The reason people were taking their own lives was because they felt disconnected, he said.

"Their inner critics have told them that they're useless, they're hopeless, and nobody cares so what's the point in hanging around.

"They're disconnected from the world and think nobody cares. Guess what, the solution to disconnection isn't money. The solution to disconnection is connection."

He said people needed to stop waiting around for the Government to do something when they should be looking after those around them.

"Ask yourself this question, what are you doing to make it okay for your mates to reach out and ask for help? Eighty per cent of people who have suicidal thoughts, never ask for help.

"It's because they're worried about what society will think, what society will say and what they will do with that information."

He said it didn't make sense for people who were in crisis to have to reach out and ask for help; those who weren't suffering should be reaching out and asking those around them - friends, workmates - if they're okay.

"Why aren't we asking everyone who's not in trouble, have you checked in on a mate today? What are you doing to make it okay for your mates to reach out and ask for help?

"If you haven't had a mate talk to you in the last 6 months about their feelings and problems, guess what, you're the problem. Look in the mirror, pal."

He was also critical of the social profiling of the latest statistics as it being a "brown, economic problem".

"Every life matters. All you are doing by profiling is creating anger and resentment and creating a false picture. who think it's a brown, economic problem."

He said the biggest shift in suicide prevention came after the sudden death of journalist Greg Boyed last year.

"It was huge, oh my God. Here's a well off, successful, white guy with lots of friends and a beautiful family who took his own life and all of a sudden everyone was like "Omg, he's one of ours ... suddenly it's everybody's issue but now we're back to where we were before, that it's a brown economic issue.

"People need to be aware that this is not an ethnic or economic problem, it is a New Zealand problem and it affects everybody."


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 police immediately on 111.


• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202