Reducing suicide rates in NZ's Pacific community.
A New Zealand-based Pasifika organisation working to reduce suicide rates in New Zealand's Pacific community has signed an agreement with the princess on Tonga to help with measures there.
A New Zealand-based Pasifika organisation working to reduce suicide rates in New Zealand's Pacific community has signed an agreement with a Tongan princess to help with measures there.
Last week Le Va signed an agreement with Princess Angelika Latufuipeka Tuku'aho to cooperate with suicide prevention measures in both countries and to share experiences.
The chief executive of Le Va, Dr Monique Faleafa, told Jamie Tahana that little is known about suicide in Pacific communities, and the Princess' involvement will really help confront a taboo subject.
MONIQUE FALEAFA: The basis of signing a memorandum agreement with the princess of Tonga, Princess Angelika, is really so we can acknowledge each others working relationship because the Princess is the patron of the national suicide prevention in Tonga, Le Va leads New Zealand's pacific suicide prevention program, so we're going to be working together on our Tongan communities.
JAMIE TAHANA: So does that mean Le Va will be doing work in Tonga and vice versa? How will it work in practical terms?
MF: Because suicide prevention in general is a relatively new area of evidence and research, no one is really sure, not just in the Pacific but around the planet, what really works, what is really effective and which point of intervention is best to prevent suicide. So we have some evidence but we don't have very good evidence around, certainly Maori or Pacific approaches to suicide prevention around the world even in the South Pacific countries. So what we aim to do, in general, we want to make sure that our families and communities know how to treat suicide and respond to it in the right way if it occurs. But at the same time, we need to really build the evidence, quality research and information, so that our communities are really informed to implement their own initiatives in their own way in a way that suits them. We know with suicide prevention, it's not a top down process even though we needed permission from the top down with Tonga, we can only address suicide, and suicide prevention from within our own communities.
JT: I'm assuming like other countries it's a very taboo subject in Tonga, how do you go into those communities and bring this about?
MF: It is a tapu subject and it is a tapu area to talk about which is why we need to acknowledge to the Princess Angelika for her forward thinking, she's really young and youthful and she really knows that in order to address suicide and suicide prevention, certainly in Tonga, we need to go through young people. So it's almost more acceptable to work with the youth on a tapu subject. In saying that, for our New Zealand Pacific program which is really new, we consulted up and down the country really widely with a lot of different ethnicities, with the young and old, with the New Zealand born and the island born, every single fono that we had they were ready to talk about suicide, even the clergy, the ministers of the church, in fact they're saying we're not only ready, we need to address this with a sense of urgency. So I think that myth that talking about suicide causes suicide is actually also becoming an accepted myth amongst our own communities.
JT: In the Pacific community in both New Zealand, and the South Pacific, how much of a problem is suicide compared to other areas of the world, ethnicities and such?
MF: That's a really good question, we still don't measure death by suicide, or suicide attempt very well so no one really knows for absolute sure but what we do know within New Zealand, is that in the Pacific, death by suicide has been increasing and it didn't used to be a disproportionate issue at all, but we're really worried it's becoming that. We also know that suicide attempts in New Zealand for Pacific are three times that of the general population and our most recent data does show that we know it's a recently disproportionate problem because Maori and Pacific young males are the issue in terms of needing to address the problem. In Tonga, and some of the islands, they are connected in with the World Health Organisation, the WHO, studies, so they're actually measuring amazingly accurate compared to New Zealand. Tonga has much better data than us, they've been measuring with the Spark program for an number of years but they haven't had the support to give the data the analysis required so that's one area we think we can assist in, is just helping them analyse the data so that they have a really firm foundation to create a suicide prevention program that's going to work for them.
JT: So is that one of the first steps you're hoping to take with Le Va being involved in Tonga now?
MF: Yes you know, I think, as there is in many Pacific countries, funding gets started and stopped, and one thing that we know is constant, is that we have Tongan families both sides of the Pacific ocean here, that are so connected through social media, just through globalisation, and when there's a death by suicide in one country there's a huge ripple effect in both countries with our collective communities, so we think that suicide prevention then needs to address both sides of the Pacific and needs to have a ripple effect in both countries and if we're doing something that works, we need to share it with Tonga, and if Tonga's doing something that works we hope we can learn from them as well.
JT: Your program in Auckland, has been going for about a year and a half now, are you starting to notice anything, have you worked out where you're going with it?
MF: Yeah, absolutely, what we're noticing is the leadership within the Pacific communities, particularly local geographical locations throughout New Zealand, are stepping up into a natural role that they play anyway, church ministers, sports clubs managers, people that in the Pacific community are helping our communities anyway are now saying thank goodness we've got a Pasifika hub to go to, firstly to be informed about what the issues are and then to undertake training. So we're going to be training these leaders in their own community to go out and lead suicide prevention with their own people.
JT: And is that something you're hoping to replicate in Tonga?
MF: I think what Tonga will do is up to them but we're certainly open to them using anything we have if it's going to help.
JT: Are you hoping to branch it beyond the Tongan community into other communities, other countries even?
MF: Yeah, we actually didn't have a long term view like that but we've received communication just in the last two days from other countries saying, we've seen this in the media can we also have an agreement to work together.
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