Editorial comment | Challenges of our young

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Men of Nakorotubu in Ra perform a traditional meke during the official opening of the Great Council of Chiefs meeting on Bau Island on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Picture: PAULIASI MATEBOTO

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) co-ordinator Shamima Ali believes there is still a lack of a unified response to the needs of troubled teens and young people in the country.

She was relating this to the alarming suicide statistics we have recorded so far — an average of 110 a year with an attempted suicide case every 36 hours.

Ms Ali suggested there was very little available for them in terms of addressing mental health and counselling.

“It’s fraught now. It’s not like my time when I was a young person. Things were in place. We still had issues but there are so many things that young people are being bombarded with and social media being one of them and that has taken its toll on people,” she pointed out.

She spoke about bullying, peer pressure and “the pressure to be something they might not be ready for”.

There was a great need, she said, for experienced counsellors to assist those who were going through difficulties.

She said there was a lack of a uniform response to children and their needs.

“There’s a lot of talk, there’s a lot of meetings and so on but there isn’t a concerted effort to address those issues.”

A holistic approach, she insisted, involving all sectors of society — including Government, education, workplace and family, was needed to assist children and young people.

In saying that, we reflected on a message that was delivered at a church service on Bau Island on Tuesday to welcome delegates to the Great Council of Chiefs meeting.

Methodist Church Bau Division Superintendent the Rev Ilisavani Bosekoviti believes poor parenting, absentee guardians and non-existent leadership were some of the reasons Fijian youths were indulging in kava and alcohol.

His speech was directed at the chiefs, and he urged them to be attentive to the challenges faced by youth.

On September 2018, we raised the issue of suicide numbers in Fiji.

At the time, it was greater than deaths on our roads which was a shocking turn of events.

There were 70 cases recorded from January to September that year.

Psychotherapist Selina Kuruleca said at the time that the number of Fijians resorting to taking their lives showed many underlying factors.

Families, she said, needed to be educated.

Young people and communities needed to learn interventions and how to address issues surrounding suicide, including bullying, anger management, stress management, alcohol and drug abuse.

It’s always heartbreaking when someone decides that their problems are just too difficult to handle and that life is painful.

A young person committing suicide is especially difficult for those who love him or her.

It can be frustrating when one considers the fact that they are still at the most productive stage of life, with the world before them.

Suicides slam the door shut on dreams and aspirations.

As families and friends struggle to make sense of suicides, our challenge is to try and understand it, appreciate the potential signs and how to effectively deal with them.

We also have a challenge to appreciate the many other problems of our young, and assist them to address their concerns.

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