An alarmingly high suicide rate continues to haunt the Fiji Islands. It is important to draw the attention of Fijians to this continuing stain on the “friendly Islands”.
We can all play a part in reducing these statistics by being more aware, more supportive and knowing where to find more expert help.
What do we know about suicide in Fiji?
The statistics on completed suicides in Fiji on an annual basis are a significant underestimate because they are the police statistics only, and do not include people who are taken to a hospital, clinic or elsewhere by other means.
Worryingly, Fiji is considered to have one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
In 2012, the youngest completed suicide was 8 years of age. Unlike many other countries the number of female completed suicides in only slightly less than the number of male completed suicides, probably because the most common methods used to suicide in Fiji almost always result in death.
Why do people attempt and complete suicide?
There are a multitude of different reasons.
Generally someone who attempts or completes suicide does not have any hope for the future or belief that his or her situation can improve. The shame of a perceived failure or mistake for the family, community or individual, may feel overwhelming.
Globalisation is creating a significant toll on mental health worldwide. In Fiji some of the factors impacting on this are;
- In order to earn income people move to the cities thus connections with family and community are less frequent and more difficult. It can also make the maintenance of some aspects of culture more difficult to teach, live and celebrate.
- The influence of alternative lifestyles on young people can reduce respect for their elders and cause intergenerational tensions.
- The roles of women and men are changing and this can lead to stress for both parties as they try to adapt to these changes in society’s expectations, family expectations, and each other’s expectations.
An increasing factor in youth suicide in Fiji seems to be parental expectations for academic achievement, and students feeling they have failed their parents if they don’t succeed.
People who experience mental Illness are also more likely to suicide. Experiencing a mental illness can cause distress and alterations of perceptions and experiences of stigma that can lead to a suicide attempt.
Myths about Suicide
There are some widespread beliefs about suicide that the evidence does not support.
People who talk about suicide won’t do it.
Talking about suicide is usually a cry for help, and if it is not responded to then a tragedy may occur. Others think that people who are thinking of or planning to commit suicide don’t talk about it or show any signs and that it happens without warning. This is very unlikely; most people show signs or behaviours even if they do not directly speak of their thoughts.
People who talk about suicide are denigrated sometimes as attention seeking, but remember it is more from the point of view of “help me” than just “look at me”.
People who do not succeed on their first suicide attempt will not try again.
On the contrary they are more likely to try again and to complete.
Some people believe that only certain types of people attempt or complete suicide, but suicidal thoughts can affect anyone from any religious or ethnic group, age or in any circumstances.
Sometimes people think failed relationships or being unlucky in love is the reason for suicide, others think that failed relationships are so common it could never be the only reason.
Effects of a Suicide
The effect of a completed suicide is like a stone thrown into a pond, with the ripples extending further and further. It is not just immediate family and friends that are affected, but communities as well.
Every loss of life deprives family, friends, community and country of the potential of a human being to contribute to society in the many and diverse ways that human beings do.
What can you do?
“If in doubt check it out” is the best approach to use. If someone you know or you feel that further help is needed you might like to consider one of the following:
Youth Champs 4 Mental Health
P: 7689 583 or 9425 632 or 833 0755
P: 3630 400 or 9402 541
Lautoka P: 665 0438
Nadi P: 623 3934
Suva P: 301 0191 ext 1320
Labasa P: 881 3111
Stress Management Ward
CWMH 331 3444,
Lautoka 666 0399
Labasa 881 1444
Your local nurse or doctor, faith or community leader, relatives or friends who you feel will be sympathetic and supportive. Reach out to the people you love and who love you.
Information on this page has been taken from an article written by Anne Rauch, Organisational Development Adviser, Fiji Alliance for Mental Health (FAMH) for World Suicide Prevention Day, 2014.