top of page

Weaving psychology into South Pacific societies

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

There are 38,000 psychologists in Australia - and only 218 are Indigenous (Sana Qadar, All in the Mind).

I don't know what that translates to if we took stock of how many expatriate vs local experts we have in the South Pacific, but there is a direct correlation between the minimum number of psychologists in the country and the importance placed on such an imperative part of society - a person's mental health.

This is definitely not a thing we openly discuss, in the Pacific, particularly in Melanesian culture.

I am a Micronesian and Melanesian, but have been raised predominantly within my father's Melanesian society.

In this age, society and generation, we don't speak to a professional about mental health issues. In Melanesian Solomon Islands, there is a social stigma associated with one's coping ability to stress and trauma.

As a result, our men:

- very rarely (if ever) openly cry in public.

- don't speak about their problems.

- (and some women) view domestic issues as personal (this is changing, given the 2014 Family Protection Act's enactment and subsequent enforcement).

I'm married to a Polynesian (Solomon Islander) though and I've come to realize two things, after five years of marriage and some part of this time, living with my in-laws.

1. Emotions are not as restrictive in their society, but;

2. There are higher rates of suicides in their communities.

There is strong evidence-based knowledge now, that trauma is inherited into future generations - what is known as 'inter-generational trauma'.

Inter-generational trauma is what happens when the trauma of the previous generation filters into the next, and the generation inheriting the trauma actually does worse off than the generation that actually experienced the trauma for themselves.

This seems to be manifesting in higher suicide rates.

A less confronting issue to suicide, but possibly just as problematic, is self-harm.

Now I am neither a psychologist NOR an expert in either of these fields, but I think they are extremely important issues that we cannot dismiss. They are linked to mental health and I think the mental health agenda should be re-visited in this day and age of the pandemic and lock-downs.

The Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian ways are of life are intricately woven into the fabric of my family unit, and I want to talk about how we can help both societies (and my peers within them) confront and live with the pressures they face every day.