Cup of Conversation - Meet Mike King from The Key to Life Charitable Trust

Cup of Conversation - Meet Mike King from The Key to Life Charitable Trust

Our latest Compostable Canvas series, Cup of Conversation, has been created as a way to support mental health charity, I Am Hope. With all proceeds from the series going towards their continued work in our community assisting young people, aged from 5 to 24 years old, in gaining access to fully funded, professional mental health support and counselling. 

Because right now, three families lose a loved one to suicide every two days in New Zealand. These figures can no longer be ignored or swept under the carpet by those who champion the ‘stay silent on suicide’ mantra currently in effect across Aotearoa. 

Cup of Conversation is about generating awareness and encouraging regular conversation about mental health with friends, colleagues and strangers. With the hope of empowering our communities through conversation and education, encouraging others to become an integral part of the solution, driving the intergenerational attitudinal social change needed to reverse the incidence of suicide and depression we’re currently experiencing. Because conversations about mental health should be as common as your daily coffee routine.

We caught up with with the founder of The Key to Life Charitable Trust, Mike King, to learn more about the mahi he and his team are doing around Aotearoa to help our young kiwis and their struggles with mental health. 

Founder of The Key to Life Charitable Trust, Mike King with youth music band T6ne at the opening of Struggle Street Studio in December 2020.

Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. Firstly, could you please give us a bit of background about yourself and The Key to Life Charitable Trust? 

It all started by accident really. I was convicted of riding my Harley Davidson without a license about seven years ago and the Judge sentenced me to community service. I was asked by a close friend to talk to the kids at Taipa Area School in the Far North as they had 5 kids take their own lives over a 3 month period.

I had no idea what I was going to talk about when I got there.  At first, I thought I’d tell some jokes to cheer them up. Why? Because I’m an idiot. I soon worked out that these kids needed more than comedy so I began talking about my own life, my own failures and my own fears. For many of these kids, I was the first adult they had heard admitting they were far from perfect.  

From that point, I was asked to talk to more schools in the Northland District. Over the past five years, my team and I have spoken to over 300,000 youth and young people around Aotearoa. 

What is the vision and purpose of I Am Hope?

Our people are suffering from a crisis of confidence. I Am Hope is about giving our people the permission to talk about mental health and mental wellbeing thus overcoming the stigma associated with this topic. 

Every one of us has an inner critic; the voice inside our heads that beats us up, tells us we’re hopeless, we’re failures, that we’ll never achieve our dreams. The problem is none of us talk about it. 

If us adults are willing to openly talk about the inner critic then we are leading by example. As I said we are far from perfect. Yet we demand out kids achieve perfection. Our kids have inner critics as well yet they think they are the only ones having these thoughts. By demanding perfection from them we are feeding their inner critics. The best thing we can do right now is to let our kids know us adults are far from being perfect, that we make mistakes every day. We need to let out kids know it’s perfectly okay to make mistakes because that’s how we learn.

The opening of Struggle Street Studio in December 2020.

You recently opened the Hope HQ on Dominion Road in Auckland. Could you please tell us a little bit about this space? 

Struggle Street Studio is a not only our National Headquarters [Hope HQ] it is also a training facility for youth and young people who would like to gain qualifications as a Barista or a Barber. It’s also a drop-in centre for our kids to call into and catch up with each other. Initially, we were going to operate as a retail business but decided it would be a much better use of space for our young people who might find themselves in a difficult place to achieve a qualification.

Our hope is that it will offer a start for these kids to get into the workforce when they otherwise might not have that opportunity. Further down the track, we’d like to open another Struggle Street Studio in either Wellington or Christchurch.  

I Am Hope x Cup of Conversation series

Struggle Street Studio and I Am Hope National Headquarters. 214 Dominion Road, Mount Eden, Auckland.

The Innocent Packaging Cup of Conversation campaign dedicated to generating awareness and sparking conversation about our mental health and how we are feeling with all proceeds being donated to I Am Hope. How will the money raised help the I Am Hope Foundation?

The funding that is so generously given to us by Innocent Packaging with help pay for our I Am Hope team to travel the country and talk to our kids in schools. In the past several month’s our Youth Team, under the guidance of our Youth Manager, Tai Tupou, have spoken to over 20,000 young people in schools and the community. Getting around the country is expensive. We don’t charge for what we do so every cent helps us reach more kids. Our hope is to build our Youth Ambassador Network so we are able to have representatives in all regions.

I Am Hope Youth Manager, Tai Tupou (centre), at the opening of Struggle Street Studio.

Other than purchasing the Cup of Conversation series, what are other ways that people can get involved and support I Am Hope?

By talking to each other. As I said right now in New Zealand we have a crisis of confidence. Our people are afraid to open up and talk about their problems. They’re scared because they’re worried about what people will say, think, and do with that information. We need to give each other permission to speak about the difficult things in life, and most importantly we need to listen. 

If you see someone struggling then ask them if they’d like to maybe grab a coffee, go for a walk. If we show each we’re willing to help then we are leading by example. If our kids see us adults talking about the things that matter then they’re very likely to do the same. Spreading the I Am Hope message is about lifting our mates and our friends up and showing them that love and support are there if they need it.

Founder of The Key to Life Charitable Trust, Mike King with Innocent Packaging General Manager Fraser Hanson, at the opening of Struggle Street Studio in December 2020.

Thank you to everyone who has purchased the Cup of Conversation series, so far we’ve collectively raised $5,035.00 NZD for the I Am Hope foundation. If you’d like to get involved, you can purchase the Cup of Conversation series online by clicking the shop now button below.

If you or someone you know is struggling, there is free help available. Call or text 1737 to speak with a trained counsellor anytime - it's free and completely confidential. You can also call Lifeline on 0800 543354 or text HELP to 4357.


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