Tuesday, August 21, 2007

SELINA KURULECA talks about stress in Fiji

IN all facets of life people face stress but hardly anyone knows how to deal with it.
And while more and more people are seeking treatment for its symptoms, others have found other ways one of the most extreme methods is when people are stressed into taking their own life.
A study shows 67 people committed suicide last year, although this was lower than the previous year (2005), which recorded 77 suicides.
Ask Selina Kuruleca, a psychotherapist who has been in the profession for the past five years and has done studies of her own to reveal the above statistics with the help of the Fiji Police Force and the Ministry of Health.
"The reason fewer suicides happened in 2006, in my opinion, was that we had wider awareness on the issues linked to suicide," she said.
Some of the factors identified in a national survey as causes of suicide include:
Boyfriend/girlfriend problems;
domestic problems;
extramarital affairs;
mental problems;
arranged marriage;
losing face/stigma;
unwanted pregnancy;
premarital affairs;
health problems;
education failure;
widowhood; and
She said this time last year she saw only 34 clients for psychotherapy, compared to the 82 clients (48 more than last year) already this year.
"People are coming as far as Rakiraki and Ba to see me," she said.
Ms Kuruleca said more civil servants and teachers were being treated or diagnosed with stress because of the uncertainty they faced in their jobs and the fact that they had had a 5 per cent pay cut.
"In my private practice without disclosing any confidentiality I have seen an increase in senior civil servants or their partners because of the economic pressure.
"Their husbands have been laid off and they ask what are we going to do now' or their husband is retiring at 55 or 58 this year and they ask themselves what are they going to do?
"We have had many of civil servants and a particular segment of the civil service coming to talk to us and I have heard from teachers as well of similar concerns.
"They have all their years of experience and they are just told they are going to be laid off.
"There is an incident of a particular teacher who walked into his office on Monday morning of the school term, got a fax thanking them for coming and saying that they had to take leave because they are 57-years-old and that would be it. How do you think they will think if they have been in civil service for 37 years and have been told they no longer have a job?
"Having said that, the role of the civil service is not to provide a job for someone but to serve the public.
"If you are not skilled you need to move on or upskill yourself or familiarise yourself on the procedures of Government."
She said there were more attempted suicides this year compared to last year.
"I have a seen more people in the tourism industry and they are not in a good situation because they have been among the worst hit," she said.
"It started with cutting of hours and then number of people but I have seen that many businesses have picked up."
She said she had seen an increase in extra marital affairs. "You know how people start off in a grog session then pick up a partner in the process," Ms Kuruleca said.
"What started off as an innocent grog session or innocent hanging out session developed into something else because people are looking for an outlet that points to marital strife.
"Most of the people who have suffered strife in their workplace whom I have seen are civil servants.
"Many companies, when implementing the five per cent pay cut, did not impose cuts on their staff, but those companies that did cut their pay executed a 15 to 30 per cent cut.
"I think when civil servants were crying they did not get all the support because other sectors said civil service cut was not as bad as theirs," she said.
Ms Kuruleca said Fiji-Indians still dominated suicide statistics but Fijians were catching up.
She said people should start detecting the signs of stress when they experienced sexual dysfunction when you are not eating properly, when you do not sleep properly, inability to separate personal to professional life, unexplained weight loss or gain, not knowing when your day has gone, getting frustrated over every little thing.
"We often say we let things fester we argue and say it's okay but after a while it explodes and the old argument comes up again," she said.
Ms Kuruleca said when people felt constipated a lot, "there is something you keep in your system ... a lot that you need to get rid of".
She said diarrhoea, unexplained skin infections or rashes were a sign of stress.
"Someone I spoke to said boils started to pop up antibiotics were not working. We spoke about her problems and a week later she was drinking beer again and was happy," she said.
Ms Kuruleca said many children were getting into sniffing glue, smoking marijuana and bullying problems were surfacing more than before.
"This is the other side that people need to take into consideration," she said.
"The stress that parents are bringing home from their workplace may be passed onto their children and this is where these things happen."
She said only recently The Fiji Times wrote about children who stole $200 just to buy glue.
"We like to say that we did worse but how many of us actually did worse," she said.
"If you come home at 11pm and your children are asleep that is where problems will happen.
"The elevated levels of stress the body responds the same way to these problems."
Her advice talk to someone you trust and do a lot of exercise "their needs to be exercise available or a fitness program for an office".
"Somewhere where office members can sit down and release that stress," she said.
She said when people drink sweet things and eat too much it is because the body wants more energy.
"This is why it is important that we all eat healthy," she said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online