On the World Mental Health Day, Haus of Khameleon (HOK) in partnership with Youth Voices Count (YVC) unveiled the personal stories of young gay, bisexual, other men who have sex with men, and young transgender activists living in the Pacific island country of Fiji through a mini-documentary produced by community members.
The video is part of the Loud and Proud campaign taking place in five other countries in Asia and the Pacific. It highlights young Fijians’ journeys of overcoming self-stigma, challenging discrimination and standing up for themselves, their peers and other young people of diverse gender and sexuality in the country.
Due to family and society expectations, most young transgender women and young gay men tried to pretend they were not who they are and experienced severe self-stigma and depression.
Lionel Rogers, a Peer Educator at Youth Champs for Mental Health, describes his personal struggle in the video. “What I did was I tried desperately to conform with what my family wanted, and I started punishing myself for that, and went through depression,” he said. Lionel explained how he overcame that abusive period of his life: “It is very important for young people to have a circle of friends they trust, so that they are able to cope with the stresses such as depression, bullying, and abuse.”
Despite its importance, there was a lack of mental health support specifically tailored for young MSM and young transgender people in Fiji.
Miki Wali is a passionate young transgender woman who had to overcome strong patriarchal influences in her family as well as blatant discrimination in school. “Mental health plays a very important role, “ said Miki, adding that mental health services in the country did not meet their expectations “so our transgender sisters who have suffered cannot come forth.”
Self-stigma among young MSM and young transgender people can lead to high- risk behavior and increase HIV and STI prevalence in these populations, as reported in the policy brief Hidden Dimension published by YVC. Psychological support needs to be mainstreamed into health services, while more safe spaces should be created for young Fijians.
Loud & Proud Campaign Fiji video link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIbeaLYMjEg&feature=youtu.be
YVC Loud & Proud videos link:http://www.youtube.com/user/youthvoicescount/videos