11 Nov 2008

Concern for suicidal youth in Fiji following 8-year old's death

8:51 pm on 11 November 2008

Fiji's Ministry of Education says it's very concerned about the suspected suicide of an eight year old boy from Sigatoka.

The boy was found dead late last week and police say there's no indication of foul play.

The ministry says socio-economic issues, bullying, abuse and academic failure are issues that school-aged children encounter daily.

It says it needs to better address this issue, but adds it requires a whole community approach to put an end to this rising phenomenon.

Meanwhile, Fiji's St Giles Psychiatric Hospital says children and youths need to understand that there is help for them if they face difficulties.

Suicide rates are very high in Fiji, with 170 people having taken their lives last year.

The hospital's acting medical superintendant, Odelle Chang, says many children take their lives because they can't cope with exam pressure, while exposure to suicide is also to blame.

She says there's no hotline, but if children can't seek help from their parents or teachers, they can talk to their church leaders, friends or relatives.

She says schools are also introducing coping strategies into classes.

"Children at a young age do have thoughts about death and dying. But suicidal thoughts in anyone are a passing phase and so it's being able to get that help. One of the things we've tried to address is to build up their resiliency and life skills. This has been incorporated into the new [school] curriculum."

Odelle Chang says some schools also offer counselling.