Offended by comments about suicide

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Dear Editor,

I want to say that as a mother that lost a son to suicide only two years ago, I am upset and offended by the father on TV that insinuated that all those that didn’t participate in the activities for Suicide Prevention day were somehow ashamed of how our loved ones died. 

It is that sort of thinking and talk that stigmatizes suicide. People only feel uncomfortable if those around them make them feel that way. 

How can this attitude encourage anyone feeling depressed to share their problems when they know they will be judged? What some people should remember before being so judgmental is that God sent his beloved son Jesus to die on the cross for ALL our sins. ALL means ALL!  

Also, the idea that suicide is a sin is arguably archaic.

These days people are more enlightened and knowledgeable. Most cases of suicide are attributed to mental illness (as my son) and it is their illness that is responsible, that pushes them to the point where they can become overwhelmed with mental pain and fatigue from their struggles, where they can no longer cope and in despair put an end to their suffering, to find peace of mind. It is so much more than just “a moment of weakness”.  

Mental illness is a varied, extensive & complex topic and people dealing with suicide in Samoa have to acquire some understanding and insight into this topic because most suicides all over the world, Samoa would be the same, are attributed to mental illness.

It is hard for people that have mental illness because their suffering is all mental and cannot easily be seen so people can miss it or cannot grasp it and are therefore less compassionate and sympathetic.  

I thank God for bringing Shaun home for his last four years so I could see him every day and observe up close and personal his courageous struggles, to appreciate what he went through. To lose a loved one is never easy and there is no preparation for it whether it be by suicide, cancer or a car accident. 

Samoa lacks and needs efficient mental health facilities and qualified & properly trained people who understand the problem of mental illness. Compassion & understanding of the issue of mental health is vital. 

We cannot in Samoa reduce the cause of suicide to simplistic rhetoric like, “ the devil made them do it in a moment of weakness”. That is a very sad way to see the problem of suicide and cannot possibly help in the search for solutions.  

For his last four years with us in Samoa, Shaun refused to leave our property. Our home & his immediate family were his sanctuary & his comfort zone. When we underwent major renovations to our home a couple of years ago, it meant many strangers coming into our home and around our home every day for a long period of time.

Shaun was always uncomfortable & anxious around strangers. We moved him around the house as work was done, but this made him feel a burden which he never was. Sadly our son’s sanctuary & comfort zone were shattered.

Shaun was never suicidal so it was something our family never anticipated. Anyone that attended his funeral would know we gave him a loving & dignified send off and I hope people felt the love there.

Certainly, there was no anger or blame or shame! I surrendered Shaun to God the day he died and have peace in my heart. We love & miss him and I think about him every day, but I am content to know he is at peace and in good hands until I see him again.

Just because I do not go around telling the whole world my son committed suicide doesn’t mean I am ashamed. 

The same with my family. People deal with their grief differently and shouldn’t be judged. Our loved ones that died so tragically shouldn’t be judged. It is cruel & unChristian of some people to do so. 

No-one condones suicides, but you cannot hope to find solutions to a complex issue unless you make a sincere effort to study and understand the various aspects of the issue and have involved people properly qualified in this area. 

I am sure Faataua-le-Ola does their best, but they don’t have the capacity to deal on their own with such a huge and complex issue such as suicide. 

Elaine Fepulea’i

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