Children in Fiji told to take anti-suicide pledge
All school children in Fiji have been told to make a pledge against suicide in ceremonies across the country.
All school children in Fiji have been told to make a pledge against suicide in ceremonies across the country on Friday.
The government says youth suicide is at crisis levels following the deaths of three children earlier this month.
Sally Round is in Fiji and told what is happening.
SALLY ROUND: All Fiji's schools have been told by the education ministry to abandon their regular programmes for the day and concentrate on the suicide issue. They've been asked to present things like skits. Do written exercises like poems and essays and songs, even role-playing, acting out a situation where they take on the role of a parent or a sibling and act out how it might feel to lose someone close. They've also been asked to take a pledge not to commit suicide and live their lives to the full. The minister Mahendra Reddy says it's a way of getting students to speak out if they're having problems rather than agencies and experts talking around the issue. The awareness campaign comes after a call by the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for government departments to improve their response to what he's described as something of a crisis among young people and children.
KORO VAKA'UTA: It does seem to be a big campaign. How big is the problem of suicide in Fiji?
SR: Fiji has a population of about 900,000 and it records about 120 cases a year. This year there have been 89 deaths so far but the worrying trend is among children and there have been 10 cases so far this year of under 16 year olds. The police say they have seen a sudden increase of suicide or attempted suicide. Health workers describe it as a major public health concern with causes mainly down to relationship issues and there is also concern about a copy-cat phenomenon. Now there are many initiatives and agencies in Fiji dealing with suicide because it has been around for a while, it's not a new phenomenon. But the government seems to be taking it on as a bit of a new cause and the health minister said taboos like talking openly about it must be lifted and of course there is this new campaign by education officials.
KV: What sort of reaction has there been to this new government campaign and these measures?
SR: I am not sure as far as this suicide prevention campaign, whether the schools are actually all taking part in this and to what extent. That is a bit hard to gauge but I have seen some feedback talking about the absurdity of the call. One parent horrified that their six year old came home with the news that they'd be talking about suicide but there is also the view that taboos need to be lifted around bringing mental health issues into the open.
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