Venue pulls pin on Queenstown 'tuff love' mental health seminars for teens

by Kim Bowden - Jul 08, 2024

Questions have been raised about a series of seminars aimed at young people and their parents scheduled for Queenstown.

John McMahon is advertising he will be bringing his Motov8ing Boys and Savage Angels events to town early in August.

However, the venue set to be hosting the events is now distancing itself from them, after media reports that content delivered at other South Island venues was inappropriate and potentially harmful.

Australian-based Mr McMahon had locked in two nights at the Wakatipu High School theatre for his seminars - the first targeting boys, the second girls, aged 11 to 17 years old.

But today Wakatipu High School says its venue is no longer available, and it has contacted the organiser to advise them of such.

A spokesperson for the school says the booking came via a third party and was made in April, prior to a Christchurch event that has received some backlash.

"The booking and event is not affiliated with the school or promoted by the school," the spokesperson says.

In May Christchurch reporter Chris Lynch reported on concerns raised by mental health professionals after Mr McMahon presented workshops in Christchurch and Nelson.

One Christchurch attendee, a doctor of psychology, called some of the content "disheartening and misleading" and other parts "troubling and unprofessional"; a Christchurch attendee claimed Mr McMahon was preying on vulnerable parents of teenagers to make a lot of money.

Mr Lynch also reported Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson had flagged concerns about the content too, urging parents and schools to question the level of support provided as part of any mental health workshop as well as the validity and content of presenters.

The Mental Health Foundation has been approached by Crux for additional comment for this story.

Promotion for the Queenstown events includes a warning for would-be attendees: "These events are not for the politically correct because young people and parents don't think politically correctly when going through a tough time. We fully intend to say things that we know will challenge and upset both young people and parents so don't come along expecting it to be all marshmallows, unicorns and fairy dust because it will be anything but that."

Mr McMahon goes by the nickname 'Rev', a reference to his love of motorbikes.

He draws on his own experiences as a child with drugs, gangs and attempted suicide during his seminars.

He often signs off social media posts by saying, "I TUFF love you".

Mr McMahon has not responded to a request from Crux for comment.

But in a social media post today he pushed back at negative comments made about him on social and other media, saying he thinks some people are "triggered" by his messaging, including people "caught up in virtue signalling to the masses", people "who celebrate mediocrity and participation the same as excellence and domination", and people who "value inclusiveness and acceptance over boundaries and standards".

Minister for mental health Matt Doocey declined to comment to Crux on the content of the seminars or the credibility of their presenter for this story.

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