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Graduate's crusade to restore mana of men struggling with mental illness

Unitec Bachelor of Social Work graduate Jason Matia (Te Aupouri, Te Rārawa) is on a mission to combat the shame and stigma many men face when struggling with mental illness and trauma.

 

Jason is both a victim and perpetrator of family violence and knows all too well how detrimental the mental impact of trauma can be for families if left untreated.

He says, “I carried all the truths of abuse through life. I watched my father abuse mentally and physically abuse my mother and  too was subject to this in turn becoming a perpetrator of domestic violence myself. It was normal growing up and I ended up losing my family and access to my kids for two years . I had to prove I had changed and went to counselling for a year, then after that I met a social worker who turned out to be a Unitec graduate.”
His experience set him on the pathway to studying at Unitec and what he learned throughout his study inspired him to help support and stop other men making the same mistakes he did.

“When I started I had nowhere to live so I stayed in my car in Henderson and all I did was study.It’s a hard hitting degree where you have to peel back a lot of layers of your own life. I realised I felt like I had no power growing up but I took advantage of the power I had over my partner and that led to e hurting the people I love. I stopped blaming my father and forgave him and realise now I was a child being raised by a child.”

Jason believes restoring the mana of men is key and is thankful for the support he was given by staff at Unitec who kept him on track despite wanting to give up many times.

"Paula Bold-Wilson, my lecturers all the staff really, they supported me and made sure I stayed focused. It’s taken nine years but now my ex-partner and I are on amicable terms, and she’s supportive of me seeing my kids. My long term goal is to set up a mens refuge centre where they can seek support and learn how to respect women, and healthy ways to deal with what they’re struggling with.”

E hoki ki ō maunga kia purea koe e ngā hau e whā o Tāwhirimātea - Return to your mountain and be cleansed by the four winds of Tāwhirimātea

Since graduating, Jason’s returned home to Te Taitokerau to work as a Male Community Advocatewith Mid North Family Support which has provided free services to whanau in the region for more than 30 years. Jason’s manager Doreen Rihari says “We knew we needed to create real change for men who use violence towards their partners or their children. Our particular focus was with men who have been victims of sexual or physical violence themselves. We wanted to know how to help them desist from violence, and achieve healing and restoration of mana.”

Despite limited funding the service allocated dedicated resource to supporting men and employed Jason as Kaitautoko/Community Advocate – Men, they’ve also engaged advice and guidance from experienced and respected Kaitautoko, Matua Mikaera Korewha and Ken Levingsohn. David Cross  – a Registered DAPAANZ practitioner has also joined their team of Kaiwhiriwhiri/ Counsellors.

Jason knows all too well how important the services he is now contributing too are and is thankful Mid North Family Support has created an opportunity for him and others to exact real change and make a true and meaningful difference.

“Men don’t know how to open themselves up to other men, they don’t know how to communicate and they bottle all this stuff inside because its not manly and thats a huge thing for me. There’s a real poverty of mind, and generational issues, and its hard to change that mindset.”

He and the deidacated whānau he Works with are already making great strides and his first task was conducting an in-depth assessment of the availability and effectiveness of current services for men in the region.

.“I have an unorthodox approach but needed to identify gaps in services and in some cases I went and asked for help myself and there was nothing. It was risky, but it paid off and now we’re seeing a growth in understanding that these are essential support services.”

Jason fully understands the road to recovery is a never ending journey and how important dedicated support is for everyone involved, he hopes his experience and his willingness to share it will help encourage more men to seek help when they need it.

“I’m thankful to Unitec for what I’ve learned and I need more male Māori social work graduates to join us and support this mahi so am eager to continue our relationship and buils the right support for our people.”