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Dear Editor,

I am writing this in hopes that this will be an eye and heart opener for our leaders, community, villages, churches, and people to what is happening right before our very own eyes. As our island is in this season of elections and campaigning, my hope is that we don’t neglect or overlook the most important part in all of this; and that is people.

This year has been tough for many. This global pandemic has challenged us greatly and for some, it has clarified purpose. But in the midst of the hype, the propaganda, and the push of things; my hope is that we actually deal with the things we have talked about for years. This year alone, we have faced a huge amount of loss amongst our young people in American Samoa to suicide.

A subject so sentimental and sensitive for many, but we have come to the breaking point. If we haven’t noticed, it is happening more and more each day. I truly believe that our young people are the next generation of leaders. However, we are in dire need of a vision for a solution to be set in place and we must take immediate action towards helping our youth. As beautiful as our culture and tradition may be, that can no longer conceal this perpetual issue. While that may have raised us, it won’t save us.

I absolutely believe in the very truth that God is who we need and I also believe He has given us the tools and creativity in ways to combat this. My hope is that the leaders of our island, our government, churches, and our villages work together in bringing actual solutions to this. Our people are crying for help and this is why we need to push this towards the light because someone somewhere is in desperate need of that light. Mental health is a real place for many and we need to take action right away.

We need to develop policies and plans to guide government action on mental health issues. We need funding for initiatives, programs, and services that help those experiencing mental illness. We need funding for research into mental health issues to develop new approaches to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. We need funding work towards suicide prevention and preventive health initiatives that focus on mental health. Suicide rates in the Pacific islands are among the highest in the world. What happens at the top eventually trickles down to families and it’s time that we move forward and towards a better Samoa.

The moment we magnify culture and tradition more than the value of people, we lose the sole purpose of our lives. There are silent cries all across the island. The silent cries in Facebook statuses, instagram posts, and tweets. The cries in the Samoan man who feels like he has to maintain a tough exterior because showing emotions towards things that actually hurt is a sign of weakness. It is in the underpaid teacher who loves what he/ she does but is financially stressed. It is in the student who sees that coming to school is an escape from his/ her broken home. It is in the first responder who is bashed daily on social media. It is in the single parent doing their best to raise a family. It is in the soldier who is dealing with PTSD. It is in the Samoan pastor who feels the pressure weighing so heavy on him. It is in the nurse who loses a patient. It is in many.

We can’t afford to keep going in circles. We have the choice to not go another ten years talking about this. We can instead go into the next ten years seeing better results and healthier minds and hearts. We want to see change and we don’t need to wait for a certain position or title to help someone. We have that opportunity everyday. It’s a fight we are in together. If we aren’t sure what our purpose is in life, maybe a great way to finding that out is helping others. Let's do this for our children and families. We can do this!

Pae Tuiasosopo