Karl is passionate about his work with Māori and Pacific young people in the Hawke’s Bay.
He’s worked as a mental health programme co-ordinator at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga for
the past four years, leading the Like Minds, Like Mine project, Te Pae Mahutonga, in
association with the Tu Ake Youth Academy.
He’s taken a unique approach to this mental health advocacy programme.
“Our aim is to increase our members’ sense of belonging and participation, so I encourage
Academy members to integrate their indigenous knowledge with creative expression to tell
their personal stories of mental distress,” he explains.
Karl is proud of how each young person uses a combination of music, art, photography,
dance and video to share their journeys. Their current campaign, called ‘I Am’, is a
series of video stories published on You Tube and promoted through Facebook.
He is careful to ensure the stories are delivered safely – for both the person sharing
their experience of mental distress and the people who will be viewing it.
Anti-discrimination messages stimulate discussions
The ‘I Am’ campaign incorporates the familiar message of 'know me before you judge me',
which not only echoes an early Like Minds, Like Mine advertising campaign, but also traditional Māori values with
regards to storytelling.
Karl has observed first-hand how the young people’s stories of resilience resonate with
everyone they engage with and stimulate discussions of awareness and destigmatisation.
“I am grateful for the time I get to spend with Academy youth. Their stories are a
constant source of hope and reflect the strength of the human spirit,” he says.
“The diversity of the group – culture, socio-economic background and gender
orientation – leads to a better understanding of one another and makes them excellent
ambassadors to talk to other youth.”
He cites their trip to the 2016 Secondary School National Kapa Haka competition as an
example: “We hosted a stall there and three or four of the 17-year-old boys talked about
the Academy’s video club, mental distress and how to overcome it. Speaking out like this
allows us to reach more people on a local and national platform.”
Social media the key to reaching youth
The project is not without its challenges. Often Karl has to balance the needs of the
Academy with the needs of his organisation – and he says he underestimated how much
effort it takes for the community to engage with them, but he is confident it is
“People understand the ‘know me before you judge me’ concept and message, so our work
reinvigorates that space around awareness and is storytelling that really resonates with
Māori and Pacific people.”
The group use social media so they can manage the messages and track the analytics to
show the programme’s reach.
“A lot of people don’t understand the metrics behind Facebook and having that knowledge
is one of our strengths for this project,” he says. “We also utilise video feedback from
those inside and outside the project.”
This year the project will be aiming to reach politicians, large business owners,
landlords and media with their messages.
Karl is already planning a stronger social media approach across multiple platforms to
engage and measure the effectiveness of the programme. He remains focussed on creating a
community where young people and other whānau can grow up without fear of mental health
Ko Takitimu te waka
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi
Ko Ngāi Te Rangikoianake te
Ko Kahuranaki te maunga
Ko Ngaruroro rāua ko Tukituki ngā awa
Ko Kahuranaki te marae
Ko Karl Wairama taku ingoa