Warning: this story contains discussion of suicide
Imagine bringing a curse onto your family, and putting their lives at risk. You wouldn't do it, would you?
On a sunny spring day in Berkeley, Freddy Purcell, 42, and his dog Buff walk by Lake Illawarra. It's a place that soothes his soul. He grew up a couple of streets away and he's spent countless hours here walking, running and being with his family.
It's also the place he's walked after the sudden death of some of those closest to him.
Seven people in Purcell's inner circle have died by suicide, family members and friends.
He knew some of them were struggling, others he had no idea until it was too late.
Purcell is Samoan, which is located in Polynesia, and said like many in his culture he grew up believing you shouldn't talk about your mental health struggles due to fears of cursing your family.
"It's seen as a negative thing. It's almost like when you speak about mental health stuff, it brings a curse on your family," he said.
"Some of the common things that were said back in my father's day was that they needed to pray more, or they were being taken by a devil, rather than finding out what's actually wrong with our people."
His heritage influences many parts of his life and the gut-wrenching toll of suicide has been hard on him.
During the past 12 years, he's lost a cousin and her daughter (they died in 2011), his cousin Brigham Martin (d.2014), friend Ephraim White (d.2016), friend Matt Simpson (d.2018), friend Syd Martin (Brigham's brother, d.2020) and friend Brooklyn (d.2021).
The grief consumes him some days, but for the most part he's working to incite real change in the Pasifika community and get people talking.
"Culturally, mental health's not really seen as a positive thing," Purcell said.
"We just swept things under the carpet. [We] always celebrated good things, but when bad things needed to be talked about, it was never a conversation."
In 2019, around 703,000 people died by suicide globally, and one in four of those deaths occurred in the Western Pacific Region, data from the World Health Organisation shows.
"Family, culture, God - those are our core values. It doesn't align with people that die by suicide," Purcell said.
"So there's a real disconnect somewhere and the disconnect is the taboo, the stigma."
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Last month he was among the Pasifika facilitators who took part in a Talanoa session, similar to an Aboriginal yarning circle, at Western Sydney University with around 50 children and 15 university students.
Most of those who took part had backgrounds from Samoa, Fiji, India and other Pacific Islands.
"It was different cultures coming together to speak on something that's very taboo in our culture," Purcell said.
"One thing I really admire about the younger generation is that they're willing to have hard conversations."
In July, 2023, Purcell was recognised for his work at the NSW Pacific Awards, when he won the Community Service Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing.
"To be acknowledged by my own and be accepted by my own, for them to feel safe and trust me in this process with mental health and wellbeing. I can't say enough about how chuffed I am."
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