End stigma against mental health, F.L.O. advocates

World Mental Health Day was commemorated on Saturday as a chance to boost education, awareness and to combat social stigma against mental illness in Samoa. 

Fa’ataua Le Ola (F.L.O) took the opportunity to raise awareness about why Mental Health Week in Samoa was important in the fight to  end the stigma surrounding the issue. 

F.L.O. said the week, a national, annual event, was a chance for all people to discuss and reflect on mental health issues.

“In valuing life, our mission is to provide information, services and support to assist in the prevention of suicide," a statement from F.L.O. said. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the problems of mental illness particularly acute for people suffering from mental illness and their caregivers, the statement said. 

“Global research shows that Covid-19 has generated more mental health issues for 80 per cent of people living with mental illness and has made their mental health worse,” the statement said. 

F.L.O Executive Council Chairman, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, said that the organisation connects with organisations such as: the Ministry of Health (M.O.H) Mental Health Unit, Goshen Trust, Salvation Army, and others to promote World Mental Health Week.

“Together, our goal is to reach out to people in Samoa and abroad, and encourage them to battle, not succumb, to their mental problems,” he said.

Lime Green was the theme colour for the day and  the F.L.O board and staff members happily sported the colour on Saturday.

The F.L.O office was also decorated with lime green balloons, and a World Mental Health Day banner hung in front of the office premises at the John Williams Building.

The F.L.O.’s Executive Director, Papali’i Tiumalu Caroline Paul-Ah Chong, said they wanted to send a message that everyone matters, not just those we love but also strangers and anyone who may be in need of health. 

She urged people to look out for warning signs that someone may be living with mental illness, signs such as long-lasting sadness, or irritability; extremely high and low moods; excessive fear, worry or anxiety; social withdrawal; and dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits. 

“We all, at some point in our lives, find ourselves in circumstances where things are seemingly out of our control, and these are often the things that we care most and worry about,” Papali’i said.

“But Philippians 4: 6-7 offers us a semblance of comfort and peace. 

“Oftentimes, life can be terrifying, particularly when we are taking risks or are challenged by crisis.  

“Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 6 states: ‘Do not be anxious about anything…’ and 4:7 ‘and God’s peace…will keep your hearts and minds safe…’ 

“As Christians, we have a way to acknowledge our anxiety and plead in our despair, knowing that we are not alone, and that is through reading the Word of God and by the power of prayer.  

“The Bible encourages us to focus on what is good and kind, to show empathy and gentleness, and to make sacrifices for others, even when it hurts.”

F.L.O’s theme song for World Mental Health Week 2020 is “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Papali’i said the song is an expression of faith that better times lie ahead. 

F.L.O’s executive and staff invited everyone to help them combat the curse of discrimination, rejection, judgment, shame and condemnation that is placed on people suffering from or living with mental health problems.

F.L.O has a 24 hour a day / 7 day a week helpline: 800-5433.

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