American Samoa places focus on mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Not all of the consequences of the coronavirus are felt through an economic or political impact. Some are the result of the extended lockdown. American Samoa and the local Department of Health are now taking more proactive steps to raise awareness and prevent suicides. On Friday, August 14, Department of Health official, Si’itia Soliai Lemusu stated that a quick response is important, as there is a “outbreak” that is impacting teenagers and young adults in the territory. She also acknowledged the importance of understanding the changing issues that young people face today.
Additionally, she stated that there are trained professionals that want to help in a time of need. She is working with the government of American Samoa to establish a 30 to 60 day island-wide campaign to raise awareness and promote taking care of one’s mental health.
This speech, given on television, was followed by the creation and staffing of a 24 hour suicide hotline. The aforementioned trainings focused on ensuring that those who would be responsible for answering calls had the skills and knowledge necessary to speak with those in crisis. This service is important, as of the 7 people who called the American Suicide Prevention number between July and December 2019, none were able to receive help in American Samoa. Mental health and suicide prevention are deep topics that are difficult to speak about. The establishment of this hotline is an excellent way to ensure that people do not feel alone. The Department of Health announced the creation of this hotline on Facebook, stating “YOU ARE LOVED and YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” This hotline should allow for improved care for residents of the territory and ensure that people have access to care.
To contact the American Samoan hotline, please call 252-3502 or 770-1571. To contact the hotline in the United States, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).