Call for unity over mental health in Fiji amid covid-19 virus pandemic

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Fijians now mostly study at home in the covid pandemic era ... the Health Ministry says about 90 Fijians have died from suicide this year while there have been 82 attempted suicides. Image: RNZ

By Christine Rovoi, RNZ Pacific Journalist

A Fijian psychologist is calling on people in Fiji to work together to tackle issues associated with mental health amid the covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing a prayer vigil to remember the victims of suicide in Suva, Dr Selina Kuruleca said people must assist one another and reach out to those struggling due to the pandemic.

The Health Ministry says about 90 Fijians have died from suicide this year while there have been 82 attempted suicides.

Dr Kuruleca, who is chair of the National Committee on Prevention of Suicide in Fiji, said suicides were responsible for the majority of deaths of younger Fijians.

“The highest number of deaths in young people or youths between the ages of 15 to 29 is deaths by suicide. These are preventable deaths. There are more deaths from suicides than there are from road accidents or drowning,” Dr Kuruleca said.

Dr Kuruleca urged community and church leaders to reach out to their members and help those suffering depression or other mental health-related issues.

Fiji marked International Suicide Prevention Day last week with September named the country’s Mental Health month.

Traumatic for those left behind
Last week’s vigil was organised by Lifeline and supported by Psychiatric Survivors Association, Youth Champs for Mental Health and the Fiji Council of Social Services.

Speaking at the vigil, Dr Kuruleca said death from suicide was traumatic for all those left behind and it should never be an option.

She encouraged those present at the event to support those families that had been impacted by the suicide of a loved one.

Dr Kuruleca urged people not to judge but show action that they cared for them.

“Make a commitment today to be persistent in your compassion, to be genuine in your advocacy and to be mindful of our realities,” she said.

“Everyone needs to work together – from Empower Pacific, Lifeline, youth champs for mental health, medical services pacific, women’s crisis centre, women’s rights movement, the LGBTQI community and of course, our faith-based organisations.

“We all have a part to play and we must play it.”

The theme of the Mental Health Month is Working Together, she said.

  • Fijians who need help can call the 24-hour child helpline on 1325, domestic violence on 1560, Lifeline on 132454 and Empower Pacific on 7765626 if they need counselling or want to talk to a counsellor.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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