Filipo Fifita

Portrait Photographer Auckland

My name is Filipo Fifita. I was born in Vā vā’u and raised in the main island of Tongā, specifically in the small village of Ma’ufangā. Growing up, my grandparents and aunties played a significant role in shaping my beliefs and perspective on life. They instilled in me the values of discipline and family obligation, which are deeply rooted in our traditional culture. These values are considered essential for navigating life’s trials and tribulations, as they emphasize fulfilling family duties and staying true to our faith.

However, everything changed when I migrated to Aotearoa, New Zealand, specifically to the Bay of Islands in Kerikeri, at the age of 10. In this new environment, predominantly inhabited by pākeha, I experienced a profound displacement that led to a loss of identity and hindered my sense of belonging. I longed to be back with my family in Tongā, and only later in life did I truly understand the impact of this disconnection from my roots.

To cope with this feeling of displacement and dampen its effects, I turned to substance abuse, primarily alcohol at first, but eventually spiraling into more harmful substances over the years. This personal and destructive pathway caused tears, pain, and had detrimental effects on my psychological and mental well-being, as well as on those around me. Looking back, I deeply regret the lack of empathy, compassion, and disregard for the well-being of others that I displayed during that time. If only I had possessed the mindset I have now, things would have been different, and perhaps we could share a laugh at my past foolishness.

It is important to acknowledge that I bear sole responsibility for not seeking the support and guidance I needed during those challenging times. In hindsight, I realize the significance of addressing problems and seeking help sooner rather than later before the people and things we cherish become casualties of our distorted reality.

Now, as an aspiring occupational therapist student, I am determined to advocate for better mental and physical health. My goal is to create a space where individuals can navigate their daily struggles and overcome the stigma surrounding men’s mental, psychological, and physical well-being. By sharing our collective voices and stories of overcoming struggles, we can work together to combat these issues and encourage others to seek proper help.

I believe that one day, we will triumph over the shame and stigma associated with seeking help. Together, we can create a society that prioritizes mental and physical well-being for everyone.


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