Malapoa College School Counselor, Marisai Vusonilawe and nurse Norah Marie Simon from the Mind Care Unit.

Having lost two students to suicide in the space of two years, Malapoa College is fighting harder than ever for a robust counseling service in the college.

Malapoa College is among the two schools that have weekly visits from the Mind Care Unit. In the last 3-4 years, the College has seen an increase of students dealing with depression, recognizing that it did not have supportive resources it took a counselor to help students maneuver mental health, said the Principal of Malapoa College, Shem Simon.

“We have partnered with the Mind Care Unit at the Vila Central Hospital. The plan was to have counselors in place, and then have the counselors train all 86 of our teachers to be able to identify signs of mental illness in students and the right processes to help. Unfortunately, COVID-19 stopped the process,” said Mr. Shem.

There are not enough resources being put into the work the work that goes towards the holistic approach that is taking care of mental health. The workshops that Malapoa has started was cut short abruptly by COVID but there is still so much work to do, said Marisai Vusonilawe, the School Counselor for Malapoa College.

Ms. Vusonilawe has worked in the counseling field since 1993 and 2022 is her 3rd year counselling at the college.

“Every day about 4 to 5 teachers and students visit my office for counseling. I find that for all the issues that are discussed, the home is the cause of the troubles as students find difficulties interacting with their other communities when the home foundation is shaky because students live what they see,” she shared.

Most of the people that visit the Mind Care Unit Range are between 20-30 age range while only a few teens are being brought in by their parents or guardians.

“Yet we see that mental health affects teens a lot, this is where counseling in schools can help the Unit,” said nurse Norah Marie Simon from the Mind Care Unit.

“By referring students to us and working with them, we can avoid a situation worsening.

“Children are isolating themselves. In the past we had no choice but to socialize and play outside, but now with the age of technology students are somehow stuck on their screens and isolated,” said Nurse Simon.

“The hospital has seen an increase in people struggling with anxiety and depression, most patients that have come in have attempted suicide.”

Both women have worked in fields dealing with mental health for over 10 years. They attested to the fact that there is a lack of resources in this field, despite the urgency to equip students, teachers and the population on mental health and how to care for it.

“If there were enough resources, especially when it comes to transportation, home visits and delivering a much-needed service would be more effective in helping those who need it badly,” said Nurse Simon.

Principal Shem emphasized this need for resources.

“What we need is to get support from the authorities, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Training that will put personal into schools that will help achieve a robust counseling service for students.”