IN the hope of bringing attention to the issue of mental health stigmatisation within communities, young and enthusiastic Pauline Lyanne Simmons has joined the annual Vodafone Fiji Hibiscus Festival.
The 20-year-old second-year nursing student said having had first-hand experience with the stigma associated with mental health problems through her mother, she wanted to change all negative perceptions associated with people living with mental illnesses.
"To be honest, the only reason I joined — apart from my family pushing me to consider it — was because I've always had a passion for helping the less fortunate," Miss Simmons said.
"I never imagined I would join the Hibiscus Festival but I decided I would give it a shot, especially since it gives me a great national platform on which to discuss the issue of mental health stigmas.
"I simply want to be a voice for people who suffer from such stigma on a daily basis."
Miss Simmons, who is sponsored by Suva Electric this year, is originally from Labasa, where she spent the first 10 years of her life before moving to Tavua, where she resides.
When asked about how she feels having come this far in the competition, she said it took a lot of courage but felt great.
"I'm really glad that I was finally brave enough to make the decision to join, and so far I've learned so much and it has been a really exciting journey.
"I can't wait to see what's next."