Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Jayjay Lagaaia Sali & Maarateina “Teina” Fameitau are raising awareness around Mental Health for the Pasifika Community in Hastings.
The Pacific Youth Health speakers opened up about their experience losing a loved one to depression in 2011. The loss became a catalyst for Teina and Jayjay in their journey to spread awareness around mental health.
Teina says, “he meant so much to us. We couldn’t believe how blind we were, to even notice he was going through struggles. At the same time we were so uneducated around Mental Health. So I couldn’t see the symptoms, or we couldn’t diagnose him with anything. And this is where our passion for Mental Health comes from.
We have a lot of cultural struggles and barriers holding us back from talking about Mental Health and what better way to raise awareness then by participating in a challenging walk up Te Mata peak in Hastings,” adds Teina.
Jayjay says, “we want to push our Pasifika people in our community to have the tools to face those challenges. Especially our youth.”
A key focus behind this initiative is to normalise conversations around mental health, especially culturally where there is a lot of resistance.
“Reaching out for help and sharing your feelings. Being vulnerable can be seen as a sign of weakness, and that creates a stigma in the Pasifika community that it does show weakness that is often frowned upon,” says Jayjay.
The duo are keen to continue conversations within the community to get to the point where they hope it can break the cycle around generational trauma for future generations. They want people to feel they can speak more openly in a healthy environment.
Within the Hasting’s community, the boys have travelled to different local high schools presenting their initiative around mental health awareness and engaging with students, to share their experiences.
“We visited Sacred Heart, and St. Johns. Meeting and talking with the students was a heartbreaking moment. We engaged with the students, and asked if you could turn to your parents if you were having Mental Health issues, would you? And the vast majority of them said no.” Says Teina.
“It’s heartbreaking because as parents you want to be there for them, and feel like you’re close enough with them to share these struggles with you but ultimately there is still that barrier in between the relationship that is too uncomfortable to really address” He adds.
In their presentations they were able to pick on some of the other issues facing Pasifika teens. They were able to recognise common traits among Pacific students, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, the pressures of social media and cyber bullying but more so the insecurities around self-identity.
Jayjay expresses “A New Zealand born Pacific Islander is different from a Pacific born islander. There is a stigma around that, calling the New Zealand borns “Plastic”. And this springs from certain cultural aspects, because they may not be able to speak the language, they can’t do Fa`a Samoa things or understand the aganu’u.”.
“And that high expectation they have to live up to. Instead of putting them down, why not help them learn the language, or help them to learn the aganu’u”.
Jayjay and Teina continue to spread awareness and are about to embark on their next big challenge. They ask the public to help raise awareness by supporting them in their initiative to walk up Te Mata Peak in Hastings.
The event takes place October 1st