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‘It’s taking away the stigma’ - Joe Daymond using comedy to open up about mental health

Merewai Durutalo

Māori Fijian comedian, Joe Daymond, sharing openly his battle with depression.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The bright blue lights in a small auditorium shine among empty seats at the Basement Theatre.

For 28-year-old, Māori Fijian comedian Joe Daymond, this is familiar ground.

He shares the experience of landing a contract in Hollywood last October, fulfilling a lifelong dream of his and the subject of his undivided attention.

“A surreal feeling, let alone, pretty much from October when I signed to December. I spent two and a half months there this year; it has been really eye-opening.”

Daymond has been busy, travelling back and forth between America and Aotearoa about “three or four times” this year.

He says the opportunity of a lifetime has also changed his perspective on life.

Thinking it over

“It was actually everything that I had imagined, but it didn’t give me the feeling that I thought it would, after the most recent stuff that I did when I was there for three months. I did everything that I ever dreamed of doing but I came back.

“As dramatic as it sounds, I’ve had to sit down and think about the next few things I want to do in my life. That’s literally the process I’m in the middle of now.”

He is currently taking time for himself after touring the US. He is no stranger to sharing openly his battle with depression with his large fan base online - nearly 100,000 TikTok followers and more than 60,000 on Instagram.

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week next week, Daymond is reflecting on his own struggles and hopes to break the stigma around mental health.

A 2018 report by the Health Promotion Agency found 21 per cent of Pasifika people reported having experienced mental illness, with 34 per cent of Māori reporting the same.

Daymond remembers the time he was on stage at the Rythm & Vines festival two years ago, handling a crowd of 30,000 people.

‘Make some noise’

“I rocked up on stage; the guy brought me on, and the first thing I said was, if you’ve got depression, make some noise! Make some noise if you have low self-esteem!”

The Wellington native uses his personal struggles to bring humour to others.

“It’s something real to me that I suffer from... I guess that’s. the sort of approach. I just bring my struggle, and I try not to speak for anybody, but I speak for myself, and then I just hope that there are people out there that maybe relate to it in some way.”

While he uses humour to talk about his struggles, he says some people say he makes light of the struggles others go through.

“I use it as comedy, and if anything, the thing that I’m trying to do is not make a joke of it.

The thing people always say is that you’re making light of it, but why is it offensive?

“It’s taking away the stigma and putting it out in the open. If you see 30,000 people cheering at the idea that they suffer from low self-esteem that does way more for you than not acknowledging it.”

Hero image: Māori Fijian comedian Joe Daymond. Photo / Merewai Duratalo

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