The first time I experienced the loss of someone to suicide I was 19.
Our family friends lost their teenaged son, Chris. He was just 16 years old. We had grown up with them and spent all our holidays together. My best childhood memories were spent with them, swimming and fishing on the beaches of Coral Bay in WA’s north.
Before Chris, suicide was something I had contemplated often. My family have had a long history with depression and mental illness and I was no exception. Much of my teenage years I had depression and anxiety, I self harmed and had pretty constant suicide ideation.
But then Chris left us I saw the devastation suicide caused. His funeral was heartbreaking and forever etched into my mind. The anguish in the faces of everyone he left behind. It’s been twelve years since then and although life goes on, the heartache felt by his loss is still ever present for those who loved him.
For a while, Chris’ loss snapped me out of it and I swore I would never end my life because I wouldn’t want to leave the people I loved behind in so much pain. And I even remember having this conversation with my Dad before he ended his life, me thinking we were agreeing to never hurt each other like that.
So when my Dad took his own life I remember feeling disbelief, because despite knowing he was struggling and had openly talked about feeling suicidal, I still thought he would never go through it. Feeling like it was one thing, doing it another, so I thought.
I should have known better. Depression and mental illness is not that simple. People who end their lives aren’t able to think about the pain for others in that moment, their pain is too great and they just want it to stop. I seemed to have forgotten that even for me, there were still times after we lost Chris that I found myself in those moments again, considering the end and somehow making it through another day.
That is why it’s so important to seek help. If you are thinking about suicide, or someone you know is talking about it, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I often think about what I could have done differently with my Dad. Was he trying to get help when he shared with me he had been feeling suicidal. Did I shut him down by thinking we had promised not to do it. We know the night before he took his own life he tried to contact a counselor, being late at night he probably wasn’t able to get through. I wish he had tried again. I wish he had called me or someone, anyone to get him through that moment. Because that moment would have passed, and he might still be here today.
This too shall pass.
This saying, so simple but so true. In those moments when you feel nothing but overwhelming despair, it can be hard to see that it is only temporary, as is everything in life, change happens every day. We do not know what tomorrow brings, and I’m sure for so many, tomorrow would have been ok if they’d given it a chance.
Had I known as a teenager that I would be married with kids, that I could be happy in myself and who I was, would I have thought my problems back then were so big? Would I have thought my life was not good enough to be here, had I been able to peak into the future and see the incredible little humans I would create. What a tragedy if that never happened, if my present life never happened because in a single moment I was unable to see past my pain.
If you are feeling that much despair, I beg you to reach out and seek help. For yourself and the future you.
It doesn’t matter how much positive self talk I give myself, how much I have heard that nothing I could have done would have changed things. That it wasn’t my fault. That it wasn’t because he didn’t love us enough, or us him. Those feelings and thoughts still linger. I stopped with the what ifs, the questions and different possible scenarios, only because I know I cant change what has already happened. But the regret is still there. The feeling that I wasn’t enough to keep him alive in his final moments is still there. That is the burden people left behind by suicide carry.
Looking after our mental health is so important. I still find old thoughts creeping in sometimes, the ones that tell me I’m never enough or don’t belong, but I have become aware of it now and when it happens I know its time to look after myself better.
I do not know what the answers are and sadly since my Dads death 5 years ago, suicide rates in Australia have risen. This year alone they rose 9% from the last. My cousin George, a proud Aboriginal Australian man, also died by suicide 2 years ago.
- More than 3,000 Australians died by suicide in 2017
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44 years of age
- Young Australians are more likely to take their own life than die in motor vehicle accidents
- In 2017, about 75% of people who died by suicide were males and 25% were females
- In 2017, the suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was approximately twice that of non-Indigenous Australians
- The suicide rate of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are among the highest in the entire world
I do not know what the answers are but Australia needs to talk about this.
If you or someone you know is experiencing personal difficulties, please contact on Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.