Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports

Semo Village, Friday
Nadroga 04 August 2017

The Executive Director – Lifeline Fiji
Invited Guests
Members of the Media
The vanua of Semo
Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula vinaka and good afternoon to you all.

I want to thank the organisers of this event and Lifeline Fiji for the warm traditional welcome this afternoon. I also acknowledge the vanua, elders of Semo and young people for their contribution and ensuring that their cultural customs and obligations are intact and appreciated by young people. It is indeed a privilege to be joining you all this afternoon in celebrating Lifeline Fiji’s 4th Birthday.

I wish to congratulate Lifeline Fiji in reaching their 4th year of operation as a fully-fledged Non-Government Organisation, even though you have existed for more than 20 years. I commend your persistence in providing a ‘lifeline’ for Fijians focussing on Suicide Awareness and Prevention. Suicide is indeed a growing concern in Fiji. It is also a global concern as most international countries confronts suicide on a larger scale.

Ladies and Gentlemen, suicide is a potentially preventable public health problem. In 2014, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. That year, there were nearly 43,000 suicides, and 1.3 million adults attempted suicide, according to statistics. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages 10 to age 34. It was also obvious that men take their lives nearly four times the rate of women, accounting for 78% of suicides in the US.

Studies have also shown that a person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes. By the time I finished delivering my speech, a person may have already committed suicide for reasons we can’t even fathom. It is still common in most countries that older people are more prone to committing suicide, however, it is also true that younger people think and plan the task more often. Global statistics show that young people are also affected, with 160,000 under the age of 25 commit suicide annually. Suicide has grown to becoming the second biggest killer of young people worldwide.

On average we lose 248 Fijians to suicide annually. Stakeholders estimate that for every completed suicide there are 20 attempts made. The youngest person to complete a suicide in Fiji was an 8-year old. In Fiji, data shows that more men are completing suicide and between 16 to 25 years of age being the most vulnerable. It is estimated that a Fijian attempted to commit suicide or commit suicide in every 36 hours. This is indeed alarming for small developing nation like ours.

We as program implementers, NGOs, faith-based organisations, youth leaders and the community at large should seriously ponder on ‘why they do that’ and take their own lives. It is a challenging task and one we may not be able to fully resolve. The challenge is real and a collective effort at all community level is needed to ensure that we reduce or avoid suicide being committed by any member of the community. Suicide is preventable and the onus is on the community to educate itself on detecting early signs and symptoms of suicide. Communities can play a critical role in suicide prevention. They can provide social support to vulnerable individuals and engage in follow-up care, fight stigma and support those bereaved by suicide.

Social, psychological, cultural and other factors can influence, push or lead someone to suicidal behaviour; and the stigma associated with suicide often pressed them further to feel vulnerable to seek help or assistance from families, friends or an organisation. Early identification and treatment for most low-and middle-income countries where resources and services are scarce continues to be a challenge. I acknowledge the existence of Lifeline Fiji and the services they provide via its Toll Free Line or the Crisis Support Centre.

I am told that you have assisted 5080 Fijians via the Crisis Hot Line, out of which 40% were high risks or on the verge of committing suicide. This statistics is worrying – noting the increase in suicidal thoughts among Fijians. I am also told that Lifeline Fiji have assisted 10,329 Fijians in communities through Psychological First Aid and Emotional Wellbeing programs. These striking facts and the lack of implemented timely interventions make suicide a serious global health problem that needs to be tackled imperatively.

Communities are to be empowered so they can reach out to vulnerable individuals and provide them a sense of belonging and a feeling of connectedness to be part of their community. Communities are to be empowered and educated to implement specific suicide prevention strategies relevant to them. I urge all stakeholders present here this afternoon to double their efforts and strengthen networking with key agencies so communities can be engaged in suicide prevention. This should be a priority.

Indeed there is a need for a comprehensive multi-sectoral suicide prevention strategy that can be adopted by communities and every organisations to enhance these suicide prevention efforts.

I wish to affirm that faith-based organisations can play a very effective and important role in suicide prevention. Life is a sacred gift, and suicide is a desperate act by one who views life as intolerable. Such self-destruction is never condoned, accepted and has tangible negative impacts. They can be effective agents of change and foster self-belief, sense of self-worth, cultures and norms that are life preserving, especially to youths. By providing perspective and social support to their members and the broader community, they compassionately help people navigate the great struggles of life and find a sustainable sense of hope, meaning, purpose, and even joy in life.

The Ministry is committed to developing Fijian youths through skill-based and empowerment training and its programs and to enhance integrated, holistic and sustainable youth development. We want to ensure young Fijians realise their full potential and contribute effectively to nation building. The Ministry’s focus is on building the values that lead to success through investing in young people through its youth and sports development programs. Such initiatives like yours augur well with our efforts is ensuring youth development and progress are sustained for the betterment of our collective future.

I wish to again congratulate Lifeline Fiji, its executives and wish them well for the many years and days to come.

Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavad, Shokran and thank you all very much.

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