A completed suicide and several follow on attempted suicides this month on Ebeye underline ongoing mental health issues and needs in communities in the Marshall Islands.
The visit last week to Ebeye by Majuro-based mental health program staff working for the Ministry of Health and local NGOs generated wide community engagement on the issues. These included all high schools joining to observe World Mental Health Day, with events at each of the schools and a combined community rally and march around Ebeye to promote awareness.
Majuro-based Human Services Clinical Director Dr. Holden Nena joined the Ebeye outreach and was able to counsel patients referred to him following the attempted suicides.
A rally and march last Thursday were the culmination of many smaller events around the island.
“KALGov helped support the event by providing support, police escort and water for all participants,” said Nena. “Iroojlaplap Mike Kabua is fully supportive of our work in Ebeye and the vision to offer more services to people in the community.”
Among the many activities over the past few days in Ebeye:
• MIEPI and the Ministry of Health and Human Services offered free Mental Health First Aid training, certifying over 40 participants composed of doctors, nurses and hospital administration staff, local and national police officers, and principals. This was the first set of trainings offered in Ebeye. Certification is valued at $170/person but it was provided free for World Mental Health month.
• All high schools observed World Mental Health Day by hosting their own student-led assemblies to commemorate the event. This included students wearing green (the color oft the mental health ribbon), leading prayers and presentations on mental health and where to seek help for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
• Dr. Holden introduced the two new MoHHS-workplace policies: 1) Mental Health (to prioritize mental health of all employees) and 2) Drug and Alcohol Policy in the workplace for drug testing and reporting of use by employees, and protocols for disciplining/violations of drug/alcohol use at MoHHS). This included Dr. Holden hosting a series of workshops on how to conduct Rapid Drug Tests.
• IOM offered free Psychological First Aid and human rights and human trafficking workshops to those who were also certified in the Mental Health First Aid training.
• Community rally for mental health march held last Thursday starting from Jabro Complex to Wilmer Bolkeim Gym. Over 450 students, principals and adults from the Ebeye community joined in. Education Minister Kitlang Kabua and Acting Mayor George Luther spoke, encouraging people to talk more about mental health and to support and listen to one another. Dr. Holden gave an inspirational talk on mental health and the importance of breaking the stigma about seeking help.