Listening to some of the Palauan talk shows on YouTube regarding the rate of suicides happening on this tiny nation made me look back to my youthful days. I grew up in a unique and strong cultural upbringing and it is ingrained in me, which influenced a lot of my behaviors and attitude.
Based on my individual experiences as a Palauan woman, I do believe that a strong culture can be a double edge sword. There is the family culture within the societal culture that influences an individuals
character. There are expectations, obligations and responsibilities for each family member that must be adhered to, to maintain the family status or save face within the community.
Cultural values are passed down through generations, which shapes our views and molds our characters as individual citizens. Within the family culture, family engagements has an effect on how a child
develops mentally as well as how they handle different situations as they grow up. Traditions, languages and beliefs are some factors that can affect the development of a child.
Some family cultures are stringent and the expectations are too high, without a wiggle room for a child to communicate their feelings, thoughts or ideas and yet, still maintain the core values of the family’s
culture. Effective listening is a skill that is lacking and kids are often brushed off, which gives off a message that says “you are a mere child, so you have no say in anything, just do as you’re told.”
Mental health illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of and a person should not be stigmatized. Things happen that affect individuals and at times the person’s cultural upbringing can literally freeze them
from reaching out for help in fear of being shamed or bringing shame to their families.
This brings me to what I said earlier about a strong culture can be a double edge sword. Men that grow up in such strong cultures are expected to be manly and not show any weaknesses in society. They are
to hold in their emotions and not display any sign that they cannot handle the situation they are faced with. This expectation is ingrained in their minds and it starts from as young as a toddler. Having to
bottle up their feelings and not having an outlet to let go, they often explode out when they get intoxicated, which leads to violent behaviors and the closest to them often become their victims, a wife,
children, significant other or parents.
We must learn to communicate. Open mindedness is crucial when communicating with one another.
One cannot be an effective listener if they are not open minded. Being open minded allows one to see things from a different perspective instead of the norm, be it learnt from a societal culture and tradition
or a family culture. Body language, which is what we often refer to as non verbal communication is often ignored or dismissed.
Our island nation is fast becoming a melting pot of different cultures, which incorporates different beliefs, values and priorities and kids see the differences in our culture versus other cultures within
Belau, which makes them either question or embrace the cultural diversity depending on their upbringing. Assisted counseling and education is needed, which will help individuals who desperately
need help with their mental health issues, while embracing the cultural diversity that is fast becoming a norm in Belau. People need to understand that shaming, disregarding or looking down on people who
are crying out for help is not the Palauan way. We are a caring and loving nation and it is part of our DNA.