By Lisa Williams-Lahari - firstname.lastname@example.org
The director for psychiatric services in the Cook Islands says strong stigma and shame around mental illness means more than half of those referred to him by health colleagues will not show up.
Dr Rangi Fariu says even in a recent pa enua consultation in Aitutaki, where he conducted free mental health checks alongside a visiting eye doctor, locals dashed for the door after their eye updates and avoided their free mental wellness checks.
He says it's important to see people earlier so steps can be taken.
"They don't want to be seen with a mental doctor, they don't want other people to see and be branded as auouo (crazy) or neneva (stupid)."
It was an issue raised at the 20th Cook Islands Annual Health Conference last month.
Dr Rangi Fariu. Photo/ PMN.
Dr Fariu says more Cook Islanders are running up large debts that require two or three jobs to cover, and its affecting their marriages and mental health.
"We have this tendency to compete with Jonses, we see someone with big houses, better houses, bigger trucks, better trucks, we want to be the same too," he says. "I find that a lot of these young ones taking out big loans and cannot service the loans."
He says the trend of keeping up with the Jonses is pushing families, especially young couples, to the brink.