10 Jun 2013

Fiji police urge compassion as suicide rate climbs

6:18 pm on 10 June 2013

The Fiji police are urging more compassion within families as the force records a significant rise in the suicide rate.

In the first four months of the year, police recorded an 18 percent rise in suicides and attempted suicide.

Sally Round reports:

SALLY ROUND: The police say on average there are up to three suicides a week, mostly among 16-to-35 year olds. But some of the 50 victims this year have been under the age of 16. A police spokesperson, Ana Naisoro, says the issues underlying suicide can be easily solved.

"ANA NAISORO: Further analysis has seen that most of the root causes are due to relationship problems or just issues of family differences and so forth, and people have felt that they have no other option but to resort to such means. For example, they've been told off by their parents or they're prohibited from going somewhere, certain privileges are taken away from them that they resort to those type of actions."

SALLY ROUND: Empower Pacific is one of the organisations providing counselling for families and attempted suicide victims. A clinical practice leader with the organisation, Alita Waqabaca, says Fiji's suicide rate is very high among educated Indo-Fijian women in the 20-to-30 age group. She says wider socio-economic problems filter down to families and there's a high expectation from parents to get a good job or move overseas.

ALITA WAQABACA: It's associated with a lot of insecurities and just instability. It could be within the home or other social factors. Right now I guess with the political climate that we're into, there's a lot of instability - jobs, could be just a sense of well-being, I guess, when it comes down to whether people have the freedom to express themselves.

SALLY ROUND: Sometimes Empower Pacific counsellors are seeing up to four cases a week of attempted suicide. A youth activist,Tura Lewai, says he sees a direct correlation between the suicide rate and the political climate in Fiji.

TURA LEWAI: You have to look at the leadership. You have to look at the climate in which these young people grow up in. You have to look at the helplessness that is rife among young people, because they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I've seen it for myself where friends and families have taken their own lives. It takes away a person's right to be heard, a right to be themselves.

SALLY ROUND: The police have been making efforts to address the high rate, they're so concerned. Ana Naisoro says community policing officers have been told to bring up the issue when they're out and about and to urge parents to better understand peer pressure and other influences on young people.

ANA NAISORO: They've been told that they need to bring these issues up, because usually some of these issues are not really openly discussed when they talk about suicide and attempted suicide cases. But this is something that they've been instructed to do - when they go out, they have to speak especially to parents to be more compassionate towards others.

SALLY ROUND: Meanwhile efforts are underway in Fiji to have a professional register of counsellors to help address increasing rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.