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‘I have sleepless nights’ – New Zealand war hero Willie Apiata opens up about his personal struggles

Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata says he opened up about his personal struggles for mental health advocate Mike King's I am Hope tour in the hope he can help others.

In a recent interview with TVNZ1's Marae, the former New Zealand SAS soldier said it wasn't easy being so open about his experiences as in the Defence Force.

"I can hear and feel all the sounds, the pressures, you know, everything I was experiencing at that moment just from talking about it," Mr Apiata said.

"I have my good days and my bad days and you know when I talk to the public and tell my story it takes me back … like I was there yesterday."

Mr Apiata was awarded the Victoria Cross for New Zealand back in 2007 for his bravery under fire in Afghanistan.

In 2004, the then corporal in the New Zealand Special Air Service Troop was on patrol when his troop was attacked.

Under fire Mr Apiata risked his life to save one of his comrades injured in the attack.

Mr Apiata says the night of the attack has caused him many sleepless nights.

"It all comes to me in my dreams and you know there are songs that will trigger it."

Visiting a psychologist once a month enables him to speak about his experience and how it is affecting him.

"I talk to somebody about it and they just need to listen."

Mr Apiata has also spoken to the public about his struggles - joining Mike King as he toured the country talking to crowds about mental illness.

"All the groups I've spoken to, it's about connecting them to their emotions and trying to relate my story to something that may happen in their lives.

"You know we all have traumatic episodes that happen in our lives. And you know my family and myself we've lived through those – family violence through alcohol and they old days of how things use to be; separated families, it all affects us in some way.

"And also my career as being a soldier in the Defence Force, the action that happened that night it'll live with me for the rest of my life."