Suicide Prevention

This is the first of a series of articles, which are written around the celebrations of World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) and World Mental Health Day (October 10) to raise awareness on issues concerning mental health.


There is evidence that people do not relate well to the term “mental health”. When we hear the term, we think “mental illness” and negative words associated with it like “madness” and “stigma” and “discrimination”. So when we talk positively about people’s emotional/psychological/spiritual health, experts around the world advocated that we use the term “wellbeing” or “emotional wellbeing” to describe good mental health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

In Fiji in recent years there has been a shift away from a focus on illness alone, to more attention on wellness, both in policy and health practice. Fiji is a leader in this field with the creation of the National Wellness Centre in the Ministry of Health. Illness and wellness are now considered to be more than simply two ends of a continuum, but separately operating dimensions. It is the same with mental illness and emotional wellbeing. Emotional wellbeing is seen as a very important part of wellness. A person can still have high emotional wellbeing even if she or he has a mental illness, or a physical illness.

It is strongly believed by modern medical scientists that some serious mental illnesses are caused genetically or biochemically. These include psychoses (common symptoms are being out of touch with reality evidenced by hearing voices and believing things that are not true) and major depression. Only a small percentage of the population suffer from these illnesses. So both researchers and clinicians are moving away from viewing mental health in terms of the presence or absence of symptoms. Instead, they have been trying to discover what it means to be in good mental health, and what we can do to nurture our own mental wellbeing. For most of us, this is our challenge in the ever-changing world with its many pressures.

Countries including Fiji, New Zealand and Great Britain are teaching that there are 5 ways to wellbeing: Give, Connect, Be Active, Take Notice (or be curious), and Keep Learning. We will talk about these in a future article.

World Suicide Prevention Day!

Last week on Sept 10  was World Suicide Prevention Day.


Suicide is a major public health concern in Fiji and the Ministry of Health & Medical Services is concerned with the alarming numbers reported for suicide each year.

In Fiji, an average of 120 deaths by suicide are recorded every year. From July 2012-July 2015 a total of 422 deaths were recorded when compared to 161 road traffic deaths for the same period.

With 10th September marking World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) the Health Ministry hopes to create awareness on the fact that suicide is preventable and that talking about it and seeking help can be a life-saving action. The theme for WSPD is Reaching Out and Saving Lives.

The Hon. Minister for Health & Medical Services and Chair of National Committee on the Prevention of Suicide (NCOPS) Mr Jone Usamate said, “We must address the stigma relating to suicide. We must do this to prevent further tragedies.”

“In Fiji, we tend to shy away from discussing mental illness and it is almost a taboo subject”.

Mr Usamate added that suicide is having a major impact on the lives of Fijians so such taboos must be eliminated and the matter must be addressed transparently and without any stigma attached.

“Everyone needs to be healthy mentally and it is everyone’s responsibility to support people who are going through difficult times. There is no health without mental health”, Mr Usamate added.

With the alarming suicide cases reported, the Health Ministry remains committed to put in place strategies towards suicide prevention.

The National Mental Health Unit has conducted trainings with almost 500 health nurses and doctors in all divisions on suicide prevention. A core role of the National Mental Health Unit is promoting mental health wellness and increasing knowledge on positive coping mechanisms and promoting help seeking behavior. These strategies attempt to lessen the impact of mental health problems in the country and thus suicide.

The Health Ministry also continues to work in collaboration with key stakeholders through the National Committee on the Prevention of Suicide.

2015 also marks the first endorsed Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Policy in Fiji and the official launch of this policy will be during the World Mental Health Day celebrations in October.

Meanwhile, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that over 800, 000 people die due to suicide every year and it is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds. There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.


Athlete Profile- Hector Smith


September is physical activity and mental health month so we thought of touching base with some of our returning athletes from the recent Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea to get their thoughts on physical activity and mental health.


Our next athlete is Hector Smith who represented Fiji and won Gold as part of the men’s hockey team.

What are the first images that come to mind when you see ‘physical activity’ and ‘mental health’?

I imagine running and seeing a person talk to themselves.

Okay, what about the first words?

Sports and stress.

Along with your brother who we profiled last week (Adrian Smith) you’re a gold medallist from the Pacific Games so clearly physical activity is very important to you. What about growing up as a kid, before playing at international levels and even now, outside competition?

Very important – My dad was a great influence in making sure everyone was healthy.  

So what do you notice most about yourself when you’re not physically active or you’re feeling ‘down’?

Besides feeling lazy, I get sick, frustrated and angry easily.

What about bouncing back to reach your goals?

I try to talk to friends and get things off my chest to keep a positive mind.

You have 2 boys and a girl, how do you promote physical activity at home with your family?

I try and keep it simple like cutting down on screen time, doing stuff outside and going for walks with family.

Finally, what message would you give Fijians about physical activity and mental health?

Be active as a family together! Everyone should do something!