OSI participates in first-ever mental health seminar in Samoa

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

The Office of Special Investigations, in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy and Samoa's Ministry of Police, participated a groundbreaking mental health wellness seminar for law enforcement Oct. 23-26, in Apia, Samoa.

The event was a first for the island nation and highlighted OSI's evolving focus on tackling mental health issues in the law enforcement community.

“OSI is aligned with the Samoa’s law enforcement leaders’ efforts to bolster mental health wellness among its officers,” said Capt. Tony Sanger, OSI Pacific’s chief of psychological health. “We are dedicated to sharing best practices and knowledge to strengthen the overall mental well-being within Samoa’s law enforcement community, and those of our global counterparts.”

Auapaau Logoitino Filipo, Samoa's police commissioner, in a statement to a local news outlet, commended the seminar's focus on mental health for officers. "Acknowledging the growing need for mental wellness in law enforcement, our Ministry is dedicated to providing necessary resources and support,” he said. “This investment aims to boost operational readiness, increase job satisfaction, and address the rising challenges in mental health faced by our officers.”

The seminar reflected OSI's broader shift towards a holistic approach in law enforcement, prioritizing both the physical and mental well-being of officers, who are often in high stress environments.

"Trauma and stress are common in our line of work, regardless of where we serve,” Sanger said, who is a former police officer. “In Samoa, we opened up conversations about these challenges for the first time, focusing on healthy coping strategies and the crucial role of peer support."

Regarding his time as a police officer, Sanger added, "I've faced traumatic experiences and, like many, struggled to understand and confront them. Sharing these experiences with fellow officers, I hope to show that it's possible to overcome such challenges," he said.

In addition, Sanger was surprised with the rapid engagement and openness during the seminar in Samoa.

"The speed that everyone [particularly the Samoan officers,] embraced this discussion was surprising,” he said. “They were not just open about their personal experiences with trauma but also eager for our return, a sign of the seminar's impact.”

The seminar also focused on engaging officers in discussions about coping mechanisms, stress reduction and mental wellness strategies, specifically designed to align with the distinctive needs and cultural nuances of Samoan law enforcement, which emphasized the critical connection between mental health and operational effectiveness.

Additionally, it was also instrumental in promoting international collaboration, which brought together OSI, the Samoan Ministry of Police, Prisons and Corrections and global partners like the Australian Federal Police to exchange best practices.

“Recognizing the need for help is a crucial first step,” he said. “Often, we avoid facing our emotions, but inevitably, they surface, sometimes in challenging ways. Taking that first step towards assistance is not only courageous, but it also sets you on the right path.”