For two years he sat outside the school staff room so that other kids wouldn’t pick on him.
Then one day he was invited by the cool kids to be a part of their group. From that day, he turned from being bullied into a bully.
Sharing his story of low self esteem, drug and alcohol abuse with students of Botany Downs Secondary College, mental health advocate Mike King spoke about how he always waited for approval from his dad. It never came.
“I thought my dad was the coolest on the planet and I wanted him to look at me with pride and say, “That’s my boy!”
“Instead, I was this ugly child with a really big head and no self worth,” said King, the founder of Key to Life Trust.
“They teased me at school. But when I was accepted in the cool gang, they started to use me to pick on vulnerable kids.”
Addressing Year 12 students in the school auditorium over two interactive sessions, King – who is on an I Am Hope nationwide tour – was reaching out to students about mental health.
Peppered with humour and stark honesty, the former stand–up comedian’s personal narrative was both damning and inspiring.
“I knew it was wrong but I went against my instinct and tried to pick on my best mate because the cool kids asked me to. My biggest fear was rejection. That’s how I moved from being sidelined to becoming the school bully.
“By the time I was 13, I had a war going on in my head. It’s also the reason why people like me are attracted to drug and alcohol. Alcohol takes away the shame, embarrassment and hurt, and gave me the confidence to be the real me.
“At 17, I was into drugs and this is the life I lead for the next 30 years.”
King went on to become a chef and later a popular stand-up comedian as well as an actor in dozens of TV shows.
“However, those were very dark days with me being completely smashed and having plenty of public meltdowns.”
The wake-up call came when his wife called to say that media were waiting outside their children’s school wanting a comment from them on how they dealt with their dad’s unruly behaviour.
“That’s the time I finally decided to see a counsellor. It’s then I realised that my head was like a boiling cesspool of thoughts. I used drugs and alcohol to put a lid on it. But unfortunately, it’s all the people around you that suffer. They get burnt because the pot is boiling.
“The reason why I am telling you this is every person puts a lid on a boiling pot, instead of finding out what the stressful situation is.”
The secret to good mental health, he said, is lifting people up and making sure everyone is included at school and in communities.
“Be kind to other people and let them know that they have a value in your life. Lastly, be open and ask for help.
“Chances are 80 per cent of young people will have a major crisis before they leave school. But that’s normal. “The reason why no one knows about is because no one talks about it!”