The Ministry of Health and Te Kainga banded together to bring World Suicide Prevention Day to the community, and to raise awareness on the sensitive issue. The Cook Islands has an average number of two suicides a year, most which involve people between the ages of 15 and 24, though in 2008 a 70 year old committed suicide.
In 2005, three young men on Aitutaki took their lives and less than a year later, a female friend of theirs who couldn’t cope with the grief took hers.
Last year, one person committed suicide and another person took their own life this year.Te Kainga director, Mereana Taikoko says suicide is rarely a spur-of-the-moment decision and in the days and hours before people take their lives, there are usually clues and warning signs.
“The strongest and most disturbing signs are verbal: ‘I can’t go on’, ‘Nothing matters anymore’, or even ‘I’m thinking of ending it all’. Such remarks should always be taken seriously.”
Even the most determined person has mixed feelings about death, moving back and forth between wanting to die and wanting to live, she says.
But with help, Taikoko says a person can be supported back towards wanting to live.
“When someone talks about suicide it is a cry for help and not a wish to die. Help must be given.”
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The world-wide theme this year was ‘Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives’.
“It serves as a call to action to individuals and organizations to prevent suicide. This year, the theme encourages us all to consider the role that offering support may play in combating suicide,” says WHO.
According to a recently released WHO report, more than 800,000 people die by suicide across the world each year. The report notes that this estimate is conservative, with the real figure likely to be higher because of the stigma associated with suicide, lack of reliable death recording procedures, and religious or legal sanctions against suicide in some countries.
“We may not be able to pinpoint the exact figure, but we do know that each individual suicide is a tragic loss of life.”
To raise awareness on mental illness, particularly depression, and suicide in the Cook Islands, Te Kainga and Health teamed up for three activities.
The first was play a series of documentaries on Cook Islands Television, with the final two being aired this Sunday.
The information booth will also feature on Saturday at the Punanga Nui Markets.