Community and family pressure factors in Fiji's high suicide rate | Pacific Beat

Community and family pressure factors in Fiji's high suicide rate

Community and family pressure factors in Fiji's high suicide rate

Updated 26 February 2013, 10:27 AEDT

There's major concern in Fiji over the continuing high rate of suicides particularly by young people.

Of the more than 160 suicides and attempted suicides in Fiji last year most were under 25 year olds.

Police also report that eight people who committed suicide and 20 who attempted the same were 16 years old and younger.

Lionel Rodgers, from Youth Champs for Mental Health says pressure from communities and families are a factor in youth suicide.

Presenter:Richard Ewart

Speaker:Lionel Rodgers, Youth Champs for Mental Health, Fiji


RODGERS: I'm sure the reason why many of our young people are turning to suicide is because of negative coping mechanisms. There are very few awareness programs that are going on in our country and these young people  due to the expectations of the communities and expectations of families, they're unable to cope. So there're not much programs going on whereby they get to be themselves and we're starting and speak out about issues that they're facing.
EWART: Now we were talking on the program only a matter of days ago about a similar picture involving the Pacific Islanders communities in New Zealand. One of the things that was said was that there is a reluctance to talk about this issues, that young people find it hard to talk to their parents about issues that might be affecting their state of mental wellbeing. That's a similar situation I would presume in Fiji, and if that is the case, I mean what can be done about it?
RODGERS: There's a similar situation here in Fiji. Now due to some recent research we found out that a lot of young people will face abuse and relationship breakups and loss of a loved one, they weren't able to show their emotions or speak about it because such as is the case we don't speak about such things. And we're trying to have awareness programs in the communities and high schools to get these young people, to build them up to be able to speak out and share their problems and to tell them it's ok, it's ok to talk to someone about these things.
EWART: Now I gather that Youth Champs is working with AusAid to try and secure more funding to expand programs dealing with these specific issues. But does the political situation in Fiji make it harder for you to obtain that kind of aid from Australia?
RODGERS: I'm not privileged to that information, I can't comment on that right now, I'm sorry.
EWART: But plainly you need financial assistance if you're to expand programs and introduce more programs to deal with the awareness issue and the educational needs?
RODGERS: All these programs, we have a lot of programs planned in the wider community and in schools, and we need funding, we need funding, we're seeking funding from almost all organisations that we know that could spare us something. But without this funding we're unable to do these projects, and unable to help these young people who are crying out for them.
EWART: Are the sort of issues that you're talking about with us now, are these broadly understood and broadly accepted by the people in power in Fiji? Do you have support from the authorities in the work that you're doing?
RODGERS: People are beginning to see the problem and they're starting to show an interest. They're offering support in terms of funding and giving us venues to have our workshops and offer support, public support.
EWART: In the immediate future what would you see as being the aim of your organisation? What one thing would you like to see change over the next few months ahead?
RODGERS: We're trying to decrease the suicide rate, we're trying to get young people to take on positive coping mechanisms, we're trying to build safe spaces for these young people to speak out, get these young people to share their problems and to speak with other people who are not strong enough who are going through the same thing. We're just trying to reach out to whoever needs our help to try and get them to come down and express their feelings and their emotions through art and dance and just by sharing their experience to help another young person.
EWART: And how much more difficult is it for an organisation like yours to reach out to young people who are not living in the urban centres?
RODGERS: It's quite difficult again funding once we achieve that we are able to reach out to them, but the geographical locations and things like that, we need funding once again to get to them.
EWART: And do you need to be quite inventive in terms of the way you go about getting the programs to the young people that you wish to target? Using for example things like mobile phones, I mean is that one way of getting information through particularly to the more far flung areas?
RODGERS: Yeah we're using mobile phones or we send out messages on the radio. We also have art exhibitions and … contests and concerts or big festivals where they get to have a … and introduce them to mental health and coping mechanisms. I think the easiest way to get to them is word by mouth.
EWART: So do you get the sense that you're starting to have an impact? That you are starting to make suicide an issue that people can talk about and feel comfortable talking about it?
RODGERS: Yes we are getting there, we are being as blunt as possible for these people in high authorities to see that suicide is there, get more awareness, get more articles out to the people, more radio play campaigns, just so that people know it's ok to come down and speak to a counsellor. It doesn't mean that you're not able to cope, but it shows that once you share with somebody, a problem shared is a problem halved. So you'll feel better straight after that.


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