Suicide Rate In Pacific Islands Among Highest In The World
Samoa, Guam, Micronesia rates double the global average
NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, August 14, 2014) – Suicide rates in Pacific Islands are some of the highest in the world reaching up to 30 per 100,000 in countries such as Samoa, Guam and Micronesia, doubling the global average, with youth rates even higher.
The Independent European Daily Express reported on International Youth Day August 12, which this year focused on ‘Youth and Mental Health’, that young Pacific Islanders have highlighted the profound social and economic challenges in a rapidly changing world.
"Youths committing suicide seem to get younger and younger by the year," said Lionel Rogers of the Fiji based Youth Champs for Mental Health.
He said stressors contributing to the growing trends of suicide are unemployment, social and cultural expectations, family and relationship problems, bullying, violence and abuse.
The Pacific Islands has an escalating youth population, with 54 percent of people in the region now aged below 24, and those between between 15-29 years are at the greatest risk of taking their lives.
Tarusila Bradburgh a coordinator of the Pacific Youth Council believed the burden of multiple issues that affect young people in the Pacific Islands are enormous and many are not well equipped to cope.
"A decade ago there were an estimated 331,000 annual suicides in the region, accounting for 38 percent of the world total."
Anne Rauch a development advisor of the Fiji Alliance for Mental Health said there was significant under reporting of suicide deaths.
In 2012, there were 160 reported suicides in Fiji with the majority under 25 but accurate statistics were not available. Under funded and under resourced mental health services are struggling to address the issue, with suicide representing 2.5 percent of the disease burden Western Pacific region, nearly double the rate of 1.4 percent worldwide, she said.
Meanwhile, an equal challenge facing the vast majority of Pacific youth is poor prospects of employment and fulfilment of aspirations generated by exposure to global lifestyles through the digital and mass media.
In small economies of most Pacific developing states high population growth of up to 2.4 percent is far outpacing job creation thus greater access to education for many is not translating into better changes of gaining paid employment.
In Tokelau, a national Health Department report claims a significant factor in youth suicide is relationship breakdowns, including between parents and children.
There were 40 attempted suicides in the territory with a population of 1,500 during a 25-year period ending in 2004, with 83 percent of fatalities people under 25, and physical punishment of youth by their elders contributing to 67 percent.
In Papua New Guinea there are an estimated 80,000 school leavers each year but only 10,000 secure formal jobs while youth unemployment is an estimated 45 percent in Solomon Islands.
UNICEF warned that denial of economic and social opportunities leads to frustrated young people and the result can be a high incidence of self-harm with the loss of the productive potential of a large section of the adult population.