Closing the 'big disconnection' in Pacific families needed for suicide prevention

Closing the "big disconnection" within Pacific families needs to be a priority in suicide prevention, according to a youth organisation, Zeal Education Trust.

Project Manager Tau Faeteete says closing the gap between different generations in Pacific families is a priority place to start.

"This generation is involving faster than ever, and our older people are struggling they don’t know how to keep up, technology's fast, everything is fast.

"We talk about that village model, we really need wrap around programmes - how do we work together with the families because I’m seeing this big disconnection between these generations," says Faeteete.

The Porirua-based Trust runs workshops supporting Pasifika youth and is one of eighteen organisations which have received almost $1 million from Pasifika mental health specialists Le Va.

Last year the Mental Health Foundation praised Pasifika ​organisations and communities for their work in suicide prevention, with Pacific rates dropping from 8.91 per cent to 7.07 per cent​.

However, Zeal's Regional Manager Hadleigh Pouesi says Covid-19 presents new challenges for Pasifika youth.

"The issues we are seeing really present with the young people is a lot of things sparked from the lock downs, Covid-19 restrictions but also stuff that stems from before all of this started.​

"Housing is massive being able to provide really safe and healthy environments for our young people to grow up in. Mental Health and Wellbeing is huge and being able to provide supports over the struggles of growing up as Pasifika in a New Zealand environment," says Pouesi.  

Addressing these issues will take "innovation and community-led" solutions, according to Le Va Senior Manager Leilani Clarke, who says there's a lot of work that be done at a grassroot level.

She says: "Innovation is really encouraged, it’s to allow that dialogue from the mouth of babes, letting them have their voice and providing that safe space for them to actually dialogue with us - what are their needs and what are their concerns, so we can better understand."

Faateete says using creative ways to engage with Pasifika is exactly what they're doing. The Trust run a programme called Lupe that uses Photography as a way to get youth to tell their stories.

"They’re taking photos and being creative, but the real work is in the mentoring, replacing the lies with the truth, because when you come from tough neighbourhoods it starts to form your belief system."

Through Le Va's Suicide Prevention Fund Zeal Education Trust has been able to expand the reach of their services.

Pouesi says: "In Auckland, we’re mainly based out West, but this fund has given us the ability to reach out to South Auckland and work with some amazing stakeholders and provide the same level of support for West Auckland, for South Auckland."

He's excited to continue that work in the Pacific Youth space.

"We can be the gate at the top of the cliff not the ambulance at the bottom, it's a great opportunity for us to explore the good things that our Pasifika young people are drawn to, connect to and build those support systems around them."

​Clarke agrees: "If we’re able to inform our communities with the right information and right skills and tools to prevent suicide before we get to that specialist care then that’s a way forward for us as a Pasifika community."

But Faateete says young Pasifika need to make sure they're reaching out.

"If you’re not okay, get some help, find someone you can trust to talk to because what you’re going through there is help for it."


Photo file Zeal Education Trust Caption: Project Manager Tau Faeteete