As we roll into Christmas, which is about 8 weeks and a few days away, I think of all the good times we will have. As we gather around our Christmas tree surrounded by our loved ones, gleefully opening our presents as we greet each other with hugs/kisses. A time of sharing and a good excuse to exercise gluttony for the scrumptious food we will indulge ourselves in. All the palolo caught by Samoans this week will not reach Christmas no matter how determined you may be to save some for your overseas guests, palolo will not even make it to Santa’s sleigh. On the other hand, we will also remember those who are not with us, sharing stories of how they would brighten the room if they were present. Sadly, we will also remember those who have gone on before us and not because they were taken too soon but because they took their own lives ahead of time.
Suicide is on the rise again, 2 men committed suicide a few days apart just last week. One man took his life after a village council in Savai’i intervened as a result of abuse against his daughter. Additionally, a second man took his own life over financial difficulties. Both men were in their late 50s and what a tragedy. We may not know the true steps that lead them down this road but I do know that they won’t be coming back. Death is inescapable, it is final and there is no return from the grave. They will never have another chance to be among the living. Their families will not laugh around the table with them come Christmas, they will not again hear the laughter of their children or feel the touch of their spouses. If they have young families, their young children will never know their father. Can you imagine what agony their families are going through, the agony felt by a wife, a daughter , a son, their parents, their friends? Having had someone so dear to them taking their own lives so soon. If I’m being politically correct, I shouldn’t say taken because they weren’t taken, they chose to end their lives. A decision they made by themselves and carried it out successfully.
Suicide is not new to Samoa. Sadly, Samoa became famous for this in the late 1990s ranked number one in the Pacific and number 3 in the world for the most completed suicides (Budvietas, 2012). Something a country like ours should never be proud of.
I include some of the more in depth studies and articles about suicide in Samoa ~
Suicide in Samoa, Terry Bourke 2001
Suicide in Samoa, Terry Bourke 2001
Some of the findings from previous studies
Suicide should be defined as
An act that is utterly selfish, cowardly and completely utter disregard (no respect) for human life. When a life is ended abruptly and sometimes painfully by one, one overlooks the agony that will shake their loved ones, forever leaving a void in their hearts,those who are left behind. Their pain and suffering, the questions that they ask themselves over and over again of what they could have done to prevent their loved ones from committing suicide.
Faataua le Ola Co-Ordinator Papalii Carol Ah Chong said that 'suicide and mental illness, such as depression, are issues that we still must talk about openly-if for no other reason than that it saves lives. The more people in Samoa talk about these issues, the more we can prevent people walking down a path from which there is no return. Awareness and education are the cornerstones to addressing the problems of suicide and mental illness'. I agree with her and here are some ways that I think will help those who are considering suicide.
If you have problems
- Talk to your loved ones. I know this is probably the hardest thing to do, although your loved ones are those that you can truly trust. They know you well and even if they do not understand you completely, they will hear you out and have your best interests at heart. Teenagers, talk to your parents. You might think that the world is against you and that your problem is unique. Wrong. Every teenager goes through a transitional change in their lives, they have speedy hormones that are to be the reason for most of their problems including acne. I know because I was a teenager once and I went through some tough times just like the rest of you. I’ve lived! That being said, your parents will hear you out and they should be able to help guide you to someone else if they can’t help you themselves.
- Seek help. This is another big obstacle for us Samoans because we do not want to talk to strangers about our problems for fear they will tell others or they will mock us. That is their problem. If you share your problems with a counselor and they do that , aside from being fired for disclosing Dr-patient information, that person will get their dues in the end. At least you told someone and it is their professional responsibility to help you.
- Talk to your spiritual counselor, pastor, youth leader, someone who is a role model, and someone who can be trusted with your feelings, your secrets and your fears. Seek their advice.
- There exists Fa’ataua le ola, lifeline and can be dialed for free from anywhere in Samoa, call then on 0800-LIFE or 0800-5433. This might be the best option for you if it’s extremely difficult for you to talk to someone face to face. This way you will remain anonymous to the person at the end of the line and these people have been professionally trained to help you. They should in turn be able to offer you advice, comfort and words of encouragement or refer you to someone who will help you.
- Talk to God, pray about your problems. God will never give you more than you can bear, and if he said that then believe in it. He is the ultimate counselor, he knows you inside out.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive, who will support and encourage you when you feel down. Be the change you want in the world says Ghandi. Don’t change yourself to suit other people’s idea of how you should be, peer pressure exists everywhere right up to the ripe age 80 am sure. This I know because I work with people who are still conflicted and seem to be easily persuaded to do things under peer pressure, some well beyond their late 50s.
- Find something that is worth living for, find your passion and find a reason to LIVE!Don’t live for someone else, live to fulfil the purpose that God created you for. Be brave enough to live, have the courage to unshackle yourself from the fears of this world, fight for your life like you did when you were coming into this world. If we entered this world fighting to live, we should fight to remain in it for as long as allowed.
- Think of all those whose lives will be empty without you in
it. The quote ‘To the world you may
be one person, but to some people you are their world’ comes to mind. Everyone has someone that loves them. If
you feel that no one does then I know someone who loves you beyond
comprehension. If your parents do not love you and they should, then I
know someone who does, genuinely and with a sincere heart. One who laid
down his life for us. One who knows
you inside out, who knows the number of hairs you have on your head and
the number of cells it took to form you. He even knows the exact moment
that you were created in his thoughts, who knew you before you were in
your mother’s womb. He is captain and keeper of your soul, one who
knows your past, present and future, your every step and who will sustain you. The one who made you, the Creator, Jesus.
Romans 8:35-39New King James VersionWho shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
- Lastly be kind to yourself. Some people are kind to others but not to themselves. Love others like you love yourself, meaning we ought to love ourselves too, to be able to love other people like we do ourselves. I’m not saying we should be narcissistic or self-centered, there is a difference between being kind and making yourself the center of the universe.
I was very inspired when I saw the Miss Samoa Pageant this year. Not only were the girls competing for the title they also had the chance to showcase their talents. One girl stood out to me during the talent quest. Teagan Moore was very brave when she presented her testimony about her battle with deep depression and her victory over it. We need more young people like this, who are to be role models for our youth. Those who are not afraid to admit their failures, their shortcomings,their health problems so that they can reach and help others. They have put themselves last so that the message will reach those who need it at that exact moment. At first I thought, wow poor Teagan, she will not win the crown because she was too open but then again all our steps are guided and all our days are numbered. There was a divine reason why she did what she did and why she presented her message, her vulnerability appealed to me. Miss Samoa pageant put aside, I think she was a winner!
With that, I leave you now with some words of advice. No I am not a medical expert or a counselor but I have studied psychology, medicine, organizational behaviour and I am an expert at living, so:
Don’t take your loved ones for granted, hug them a little tighter before you head off to your normal day because you never know when they will leave Earth. No one can guarantee their next breath or step . If you see someone that is feeling down, talk to them, communicate. Ask them how they are feeling, let them know you care and that you are there for them. Let them know that tomorrow will be a better day and that life is still worth living, that there is hope. Offer them help or refer them to someone that can help them. Let's work together for a suicide free Samoa. Please whatever you do, CHOOSE LIFE, LIVE!