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The Awareness Norm

Opinion:  Mental Health needs to be normalised to allow people to grow. 

by Adam Tafau     I     9 August 2020

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Sela Alo

I interviewed Sela Alo to gain insight on ideas of mental health, and we both expressed our journeys becoming more in tune with our own mental health awareness.


‘For me, it’s trying to be aware of my emotions, where positive or negative – and being able to manage that process’ this was a quote from an interview Sela did with Tai Tupou.  Mental health can mean a variety of things to many different people, but I believe there are some commonalities when mental health is spoken about.  One of the common associations with mental health seems to be that it is taboo, or seen in a negative light.  I believe it should have a positive vibe attached to it – more people should talk about the importance of being able to improve mental health.  You can go to a doctor when you have the flu, or the hospital when you break a bone, and no one would bat an eyelid.  But if someone wants to talk, or seek professional help to improve mental health – the action is seen as weakness, or the person might have ‘mental’ issues.  This needs to change, and improving mental health needs to be normalised.


 At the moment mental health seems to be on trend, and a very popular topic for various reasons – and it’s interesting to see who is just focusing on it as ‘the flavour of the month’ or people who are actively focusing on improving mental health for themselves and others.  I myself have experienced many tough times throughout my life, and it took many years for me to seek help and speak to someone.  Once I did, it was one of the most transformational experiences for me, and my life has consistently been on the up since then.  Of course, I always have rough patches, but I am also equipped with the tools to navigate the ups and downs, and I can express myself in a healthy way.  There needs to be more awareness to this especially in our Pasifika communities, as mental health doesn’t seem to be an issue that is commonly spoken about.  In NZ this is an issue, not only for Pasifika but the whole country, and it’s shown in some of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.  


So, what can you do to bring awareness to mental health? The first step is talk – talk to someone, and it doesn’t have to be anything deep and meaningful.  Just calling people to say what’s up, talk about the rugby, anything – this is the first step to being comfortable with conversation.  The power of talking to someone can to wonders – and you haven’t had to do anything out of the ordinary.  There are also many great advocates and services who do amazing work to bring about awareness, and also offer free services for people to talk.  I am always reaching out to friends and family just to check in on them.  I am also running the Auckland Marathon 2020 for the Mental Health Foundation New Zealand, so I can raise funds for the services to help individuals who use the services they provide.

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