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Spare a thought for Samoa’s mentally ill

The Christmas season is almost upon us, and while the preparations begin for family gatherings, spare a thought for Samoa’s mentally ill, who won’t be celebrating at home this year.

Goshen Trust Mental Health Residence is a respite home. They offer a break for people managing mental illnesses and for their families too, and help everyone get through to a more manageable way of life.

Speaking with the Samoa Observer, some of the residents shared their hopes and wishes for the Christmas season. For their privacy as they recover, their names will not be published.

“For me, I’m just putting my health first,” said one young man. He has been staying with the Goshen Trust over a year.

“I’m just going to try get back to a happy normal life, and it’s looking good – just need to take one step at a time.”

Another resident who won’t be going home this year is alone in Samoa. His mother will be in New Zealand.

He said his Christmas traditions are special, and he’ll miss them.

“We always share, and those are my happy days. We have Christmas food, any kind of food,” he said.

“I thank Goshen for my family,” another resident said.

“They are a blessing from God who knows I can do anything.”

His New Year goals and hopes are to plant a vegetable garden in the Goshen residency grounds.

More lofty perhaps, another man’s goals were for the Goshen Trust to get a minivan for Christmas, to enable them to travel further for rehabilitation and recreational activities.

This month, they are lucky to have the Salvation Army take them to the Piula Cave Pools, Naomi Eshraghi, Goshen Trust director said.

The registered health supporters of the trust both said they hoped they could help make Christmas special for the residents, but they know it won’t be like a meal at home.

As an underfunded organisation, they can’t afford to provide all basic resources, let alone a festive meal.

“There is a great need for the basics to run it and keep Goshen afloat,” said one health supporter, who preferred to remain unnamed.

“This becomes even more important during Christmas as there will be special needs to help everyone have a feeling of home while in Goshen instead of going to their families.

Looking ahead at next year, she said she would love for people and businesses to come on board to support Goshen financially or with donations to help keep their doors open.

“Don’t forget us here,” she said.

Oftentimes, people are referred to Goshen when their families need a break from their psychological or psychotic episodes which unfortunately result in residents harming or offending their families.

“Some of their families might have been angry about before, but Christmas is a good time to forgive them, and have a new life,” said Saumaa Semaia, a registered health supporter.

Those who are going home this holiday season will do so for three days, and return to their regular routine in the residence.

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