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Reaching out to make a difference

Written By : JOAN TEAIWA. Mental illness refers to a group of brain disorders that affect thoughts, mood, memory and/or behaviour. Mental illness is a disability that prevents people from
20 Nov 2010 12:00

Written By : JOAN TEAIWA. Mental illness refers to a group of brain disorders that affect thoughts, mood, memory and/or behaviour. Mental illness is a disability that prevents people from engaging in normal everyday life.
It is estimated that one in four people worldwide are affected by mental illness at some time in their lives.
Mental illnesses include clinical depression; bipolar disorder (depression alternating with mania/euphoria); anxiety disorders; schizophrenia (hearing or seeing things which aren’t real); and personality disorders. Some symptoms of mental illness are difficulty concentrating; reckless behaviour; loss of desire to do normally pleasurable activities; feeling excessively worried; confused thinking; and suicidal thoughts or feelings.
People experiencing any or all of these symptoms are advised to seek medical help as soon as possible. Their families and friends can encourage and help them to consult medical professionals such as doctors and nurses, as mental illness is treatable.
An important part of the recovery process is having adequate social support not only for the consumers of the mental health service but also for their carers.
This identified need led to the inception of the Psychiatric Survivors’ Association (PSA) in 2004. PSA is led by and exists for people living with a mental illness in Fiji. It is a support group which aims to help people live a normal, healthy and balanced life. Most members of PSA are recovering outpatients of St Giles Hospital and their carers.
There are five membership categories: ordinary (survivor); associate (individual supporter); affiliate (organizational supporter); honorary (person who has given special support to PSA); and co-opted (person with special skills who is asked to help PSA temporarily). New members are welcome, and only a nominal joining fee is requested. There are no annual fees.
PSA meets on the last Thursday of every month, usually from 11am to 1pm at the FNCDP Complex on Brown Street in Suva.
This is for socialization, information-sharing, and encouragement to persevere in taking medication, undergoing counseling, and engaging in various types of therapy.
Assistance in applying for income-generation activities and support is also given when possible.
PSA welcomes inquiries about its activities and has an office in the FNCDP Complex on Brown Street next to the Hilton Hostel. It is affiliated to the Fiji Disabled Peoples Association (FDPA) and the Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons (FNCDP).
Its office is presently open mainly on Mondays and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm. Daily opening would be possible with more support from public and private grants and donations and assistance in kind.
The office phone contact is 3319043. PSA is also on the FDPA website and can be contacted indirectly through e-mail:
The following is an excerpt from a poem by the founding president of PSA, Luke Taveta.
It expresses the positive attitude which can be gained through adherence to medical advice, socializing with understanding people, and strength of spirit gained through faith.
From ‘March of Life’ by Luke Butler Taveta (1996):
“We march in cadence through the journey of life…
What matters is the present, the now…
In cases of disruptions to our normalcy…
There are contingency plans to be activated…
Day in, day out, life goes on…
We meander through the vicissitudes of life. In all its twisting and turnings…
We may learn to live again.”
*(This writer of this article is a member of PSA and member of Fiji Alliance for Mental Health)

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