Child abuse survivor Jason Haitana has been recognised for his efforts in the mental health sector by being nominated for the PWC New Zealand Lived Experience Leadership Award at the 2021 HeadFit Awards.
The award is to acknowledge someone who has experienced mental distress, and mental illness and has shown leadership, to reduce the stigma around talking about mental health.
Working for the National Association of Mental Health Service Consumer Advisors (NAMHSCA), the finalist for the award said the mental health conversation has well and truly moved away from the “harden up” approach of the past.
Haitana was sexually and physically abused from the ages of 4 to 10 by members of his family and wanted to turn his life around by helping those in similar situations he has been in.
"It gives people hope. I love that four-year-old boy I used to be, and I keep him safe by acknowledging him. I’m all that’s left of him, so I honour him in my work.”
Haitana says being a finalist for this award, has given him a sense of purpose, as he knows people who work in the mental health sector, are not often recognised for their efforts.
“It shows that people with lived experience can achieve some huge milestones for themselves, as I have and continue to do."
Speaking with the winner of the award, Michelle Ortega, and fellow finalist Hannah Young, Haitana said they have also been through a lot and have a dedication to helping others.
Haitana said despite the award process being delayed due to Covid 19, he was able to acknowledge just far he has come.
“The work I do in Northland gives me the platform to go into the national space. But I can’t do that without being grounded in my work here. I believe you have to sort your own house out before you sort someone else’s out.