Mike King returned his New Zealand Order of Merit medal because "fixing the country's broken mental health system doesn't appear to have started".
It has started but it'll never be fast enough to satisfy Mike. He knows fragile people sometimes can't hang on.
Handing back his NZOM is a very public display, prodding the government to hurry up and address the multiple needs of those struggling with mental health issues.
This work is not for the faint-hearted. It needs people of courage like Mike King to speak up and join forces with other fearless leaders to continue to advocate for those most in need.
It's not easy knowing clearly what you think needs to be done.
And when things don't appear to be actioned quickly enough or when promises made are not kept then, disappointment sets in. I know. I've wanted to throw in the towel at times.
When I saw the domestic violence figures rising, after working hard to bring them down, I doubted whether I was making any headway at all. Who was listening? What about all the information put before the public, surely awareness was being raised.
New Zealand appeared to be going backwards.
Watching Māori health statistics continuing to head in the wrong direction remains a major worry for me as a District Health Board member. I thought we could do more, like setting national and local Māori health targets.
But with everything prescribed by the Ministry of Health that was never going to happen. Little room for local solutions. Its "one-size-fits-all" approach never worked. I wanted to walk away.
Being involved in shining the spotlight on some of the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki last year resulted in a flood of calls and messages. In the end, far too many for me to handle. I had to redirect them because families needed help as soon as possible. They wanted someone to listen, someone to care.
A good friend said to me, when I shared my frustration last year, "What if you walk away, what happens then?".
He has worked in the social service design and delivery area for the past 30 years. Seen it all. Probably could have walked away too on numerous occasions but never did. We can't afford to quit. We just have to double our efforts.
Mike King has that special rapport with people. And people with mental health issues know who they can trust. Mike wants them to receive help, now. He knows there are people, sitting in high places, who could do more. He knows they are being paid to provide services but aren't.
I suspect he's sick of the excuses. I get that, having heard all the reasons over the years why help can't be provided. If only those in a position to help would realise how their inaction is impacted lives.
Mike has done an excellent job in raising awareness of suicide. Most of us know of someone who has taken their own life.
About 600 New Zealanders do each year. This is a tragedy and an indictment of our society. Mike is asking the government to care more and do more. In the past many DHBs under spent their annual mental health budget.
This only added to the problem when the need for services was growing exponentially. And it will get worse before it gets better. I hope Mike will continue his mental health work.
It matters to those who are suffering. Walking away is not an option.
- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is chairwoman of the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, a Lakes District Health Board member and Rotorua District councillor.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• 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)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.