“There are still broken or fragmented systems”: Qualitative assessment of needs to strengthen adolescent mental health services in American Samoa

Emma J Mew
Vanessa Blas
Julia Winschel
Leiema Hunt
Siitia Soliai-Lemusu
Astrid Johansson
Sarah R Lowe
Matauitafa Faiai
Joshua Naseri
Robert L M Toelupe
Francine Ipou
Moelilia Seui
Trude Ledoux-Sunia
Fiafia Sunia
Ariel Galeai
Rhayna Poulin
Nicola L Hawley

Mental health challenges appear common among adolescents in American Samoa. There is a community-identified need to better understand the health burden and identify opportunities to strengthen the mental health system to better meet adolescent mental health needs. The goal of this qualitative study was to gather community stakeholders’ perceptions of common mental health problems among adolescents in American Samoa, identify existing services for adolescent mental health, and highlight strength-based opportunities to enhance care. Using the Fa’afaletui research framework, semi-structured in-depth interviews (n = 28) were conducted between October 2020 and February 2021 using Zoom. Key informants were adults living in American Samoa, sampled for diversity in profession, age, gender, education, and region of residence. Transcripts were coded in duplicate and analysed using deductive thematic analysis. Participants reported that suicide, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are the conditions of highest burden. Participants identified an impressive amount of infrastructure and community mobilization, but also limitations in these services in addressing adolescents’ health needs. Four themes arose related to the need to: (1) strengthen existing infrastructure; (2) reduce barriers to treatment access; (3) improve sustainability; and (4) encourage collaboration among leaders. Policymakers should prioritize the allocation of resources to strengthen infrastructure, public education, and stakeholder collaboration to improve adolescent mental health in American Samoa.

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Research Type(s)
Journal Article
January 26, 2024
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