"For me this medal represents every single person in Aotearoa who has ever struggled with their mental wellbeing."

That's how Martin Sloman from Paraparaumu Beach feels about receiving a Queen's Service Medal for services to mental health.

"I am unbelievably surprised and incredibly humbled to be the custodian of this honour."

Martin was coming to the end of a 20-year IT career in the United Kingdom when he decided it would be more fulfilling to become a counsellor.

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He immigrated to New Zealand in 2009 and worked as a mental health coordinator/counsellor for Compass Health.

One of his initial concerns was the number of male suicides and how few men were seeking support.

By 2010 he co-founded Whirlwind, a men's mental health charity which seeks to enable men to positively embrace their mental health through sharing stories.

Whirlwind is helping men positively embrace their mental health.
Whirlwind is helping men positively embrace their mental health.

The forum has over 300 active members and has a public face which reaches thousands more.

"I wish to pay tribute to the courage of the men of Whirlwind who have learned to support each other and their community and accepted that it is OK not to feel OK.

"Whirlwind could not have been born without the creative brilliance and enthusiasm of co-founder Ryan Edwards."

Martin, who runs his own counselling business, has also advised the Kāpiti Health Advocacy Group on men's mental health issues, including the need for increased counselling sessions and a mental health crisis team in the district.

The mental health field had many challenges but he had remained passionate about it.

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"I just think we can do so much better.

"It's such a huge area.

"In a world where there are so many pressures on us, technology wise, career wise, education wise, all these pressures are there, and more and more people are struggling with that, but until recently we haven't really done enough to recognise that looking after our mental health is a key and fundamental part of our living experience.

"If we're going to be living fulfilled and happy existences we need to look after our mental health in the same way we look after our physical health.

"And we don't have the systems and the collective self responsibility yet to do that properly, so we need to make those changes because there are too many people who are falling off the end.

"Everyone deserves the chance to lead a fulfilled life and it doesn't have to be as hard as we're making it."

Wellbeing started with family and he said he was fortunate to have his own mental health "unconditionally supported by my wife Debbie and children Adienna and Talyessin as well as my wider whānau of friends and colleagues".

"It is my belief that it is within our community family where we can make the greatest progress in supporting our mental health.

"This needs to be supported by systems that are organised and resourced appropriately of course.

"This community is rich in the values of kindness and compassion and with encouragement we can harness this to create greater mental resilience for ourselves and each other."

Reflecting back was important too.

"The things we used to do in communities years ago, like making sure your neighbour is all right, checking up on our friends, looking after our families, we need to go back and start doing.

"They're natural things but we've become so pressured and isolated in our world that we don't do it enough anymore, and are too busy trying to make everything work.

"So connection to those who are around us, and who are close to us is huge, and out of that comes the ability to maybe express how you are doing."