Young Samoans seek mental health help despite cultural taboos

The mental health of many people has been affected during recent Covid-19 restrictions, and those in the Pacific are no exception.

But one positive side effect of the pandemic is that many people, particularly young people in the region, have started to open up and seek help, despite cultural taboos surrounding mental illness in some countries.

In Samoa, 19-year-old Okalani Mariner was in high school when she started struggling with her mental health.

"For me, my depression was fuelled by academia," she said.

"And sometimes it did lead to really bad bouts of depression, because not only did I feel alone, but I also felt like I didn't have any help.

"But it wasn't something that I acknowledged was depression."

She looked for help and after a long search, started therapy a year ago.

Mariner is among a growing number of young Samoans who are seeking help.

Now an ambassador, she supports other young people to navigate their mental health, but she and others have to fight against a number of cultural taboos surrounding mental illness.

"In terms of mental health, it's still very new and there's still huge stigma," said clinical therapist Moana Solomona.

"And a lot of it is around our culture; there are still people, many people who don't believe there is depression in our culture ... and it's still seen as a sign of weakness."


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