Langi Ma’a symposium is Tonga’s first ever meeting that brings together all stakeholders on mental health and disabilities in Tonga.
The symposium aims to start a formal dialogue to understand mental health issues, learn about available treatment and support services available and lastly to discuss the interaction between mental health and Tonga Culture.
The objective is to understand the state and place of mental health in Tonga, what is working, what is not, and to bring together relevant stakeholders to propose improvements to our mental health system.
The Guest of Honor, H.E Mr. Andrew Ford stated that Australia has been supporting Tonga on mental health issues and is a long-term close partner in Tonga’s health system strengthening and has committed more than 13 million Australian dollars to Tonga’s current health support program.
“We are working towards the goal that in Tonga ‘people with disabilities to have access to high quality and affordable health care on an equal basis as others and access to rehabilitation and assertive devices to maximize their independence and potential”.
He said that this symposium is a great step for Tonga towards that goal. For these are the voices most often ignored, but they are also the voices from which we learn the most.
He urged the gathering to listen most closely this week to the voices of those who have lived, experienced mental health condition or disability.
“We also hope that you will take the messages and ideas that are discussed here this week, back to your organizations, your communities, and your families and work to make improvement where you can.”
Tonga’s Head Psychiatrist Dr. Mapa Puloka emphasized that we must all become role models and which role model is one of the weakness here in Tonga. “and let us take the work of our eyes so that we can see clearly because if we know ourselves we are likely to know others.”
President of Tonga Mental Health Association Mr. Leonaitasi Hoponoa said mental health is the rule of all human action.
“Whenever we talk about problems in our society starting from personal to family, socially, economically, technologically and politically this new chapter tells us that mental health is a priority in Tonga, mental health is no longer a silent issue, it’s everyone’s business, we tend to forget that the reason of having this symposium is to raise awareness on the state, place and value of mental health on our society.”
The ceremony was blessed by Dr. Rev. Taliai Niumeitolu. Personal experiences were also shared by two mental health patients.
Also attending the event was the Acting Minister for Health and Minister for Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries Hon. Dr. Semisi Fakahau, patients from the psychiatrist ward, representatives from Line Ministries and Public Sectors.
Photo supplied by Tonga Ministry of info and Comms (Caption: The Quest of Honour Australian High Commissioner to Tonga H.E Mr. Andrew Ford marking the inaugural Langi Ma'a Symposium 2017 by cutting a cake)