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NZ’s Pacific communities make a stand against suicide

Tuesday 22 September 2015 | Published in Regional


PORIRUA – Pacific communities in Porirua, north of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, are taking a stand against suicide in their community.

On Saturday, a suicide prevention Fono, organised by various community health groups, was held in the city.

While suicide or depression are not topics widely discussed by Pacific families, on Saturday, at least 250 people from the Tongan, Tokelaun, Cook Islands, Samoa and Niuean groups came together to hear how they could help the young people in the community deal with these issues.

The provisional suicide statistics for Porirua this year stand at nine. Wayne Laai, shared his story of losing a family member to suicide, he says it had a massive impact on his family.

He says as a young Pacific person, living in two worlds, is not as easy as many people believe.

“Because if you really think about it, youth have to battle with culture at home and then our culture at school.”

The Fono’s guest speaker, Mike King, opened up about his own battle with depression, addictions and his ongoing journey to recovery. He says silence is not the solution.

“It takes positive society attitudinal change, that’s what needs to change, whenever we see suicide among the young people, we think it’s a generational thing, and it is a generational thing, it’s our generation that are not talking about it and making it taboo.”

He says the voices of young people need to be heard.

The Toko Collaboration Group was formed as a result of a spike in Tongan youth suicides in 2012, and a call from Tongan communities for a Tongan specific response.

The group has worked with the support of Tongan communities to deliver bilingual youth suicide prevention workshops to Tongan youth and their families.

The group’s Alisi Tatafu explains: “The programme is a collaborative effort with the parents and the youth, and they listen to one another in a really creative and innovative space, and they come up with their solutions.”

Rochelle Nafatali, who presented Pacific youth suicide statistics, says just asking someone how they are and listening is a good way to start.

“And from then from that so many people are relieved that someone has noticed their pain and then they will share and that begins to open up the line of communication and people are then able to refer people onto the services and places that can help.”