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American Samoa mental health partners host hybrid Mental Health Summit

Some of the participants from the Youth Mental Health Pre-Summit
Source: Mental Health Summit press release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A cross-section of government and non-profit agencies invested in promoting mental health in the community, hosted the 4th annual Mental Health Summit on September 28 and 29 held at the American Samoa Community College Multipurpose Conference Facility. New this year was the introduction of a Youth Mental Health pre-summit that was organized by and for youth and young adults on Saturday Sept. 24. 

“It is time to normalize conversations around mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the importance of mental health and wellness to overall wellness,” said Dr. Jueta McCutchan, one of the organizers for the Summit.

Speakers featured during the Youth Mental Health pre-summit included a presentation about the factors affecting youth mental health in American Samoa with Emma Mew, Joshua Naseri, and Leiema Hunt; developmental assets, looking at internal and external factors that can be helpful for youth with Karallyn Fitisone, and healing from loss after suicide and the value of activism with Lanea Tuiasosopo. Tasiaeafe Hiner also introduced a module on healing through the arts.

Veterans, caregivers, their families, and the general community were invited to the Mental Health Hybrid Summit that took place on the 28 and 29. Topics included discussions on the mental health impacts following COVID-19, including issues related to Intimate Partner Violence, Postraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder, and trends in local mental health hospital admissions.

Ipu Avegalio-Lefiti, a veteran and staunch advocate for victims/survivors of domestic and sexual violence, shared her story of victimization and healing that left many in the room tearful and hopeful. Staff from the VA Pacific Islands Healthcare System presented about telehealth for rural populations; wellness and resilience, and burnout and self-care strategies were also highlighted and community based organization shared their plans to study resilience factors for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.

Planning partners included: Empowering Pacific Island Communities/Pacific Youth Community Development, American Samoa Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, J&E Productions, Tautua, Anchor for Wellness, ASG VA Office, Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Services Division, Department of Youth and Women Affairs, Back on Track, Vet Center, and VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic.  Special acknowledgment to the Department of Education School Lunch Program, who supported the Youth Mental Health Summit refreshments for the participants.

More information on the summit activities or to access the recordings can be found on the American Samoa Mental Health Summit facebook page.

Some of the participants from Day 2 of the Mental Health Summit, that take place on September 28 and 29 at the ASCC Multipurpose Conference Facility where a cross-section of government and non-profit agencies invested in promoting mental health in the community. [courtesy photo]