The Suicide Struggle Continues – Tales of the Dadman –

3 Comments

A little bit of pet therapy, made possible due to JD being able to fit into Sarah's handbag, and smuggled in to the ward!

A little bit of pet therapy, made possible due to JD being able to fit into Sarah’s handbag, and smuggled in to the ward!

When last I wrote on suicide, I was quite worried for Shorty with her genetic link, and what the future holds for her.

The person I did not think of as becoming the new Mayor of Struggletown was the Dadman. I have seen him battle with osteo-arthritis, causing him to retire from work at age 55, and have three replacement operations on the one hip. I have seen him battle two lots of bowel cancer and survive. One was with the love and support of his wife, the other was on his own. Through all of these life changing events, he pulled himself through, with each of course having an impact on him.

When Mum suicided in 2007, it was the biggest hit he has ever taken, bigger than the cancer, and it hit him hard. So hard in fact that with his second cancer, the doctor misdiagnosed, and told him that it was all in his head, he was depressed, imagining it, and that there was nothing wrong. So yes, I knew he could get low, and I knew that he missed her, as he should, they had been together for close to fifty years, but I guess I did not really the understand just how deep, and eventually, how quickly, he would sink.

He had spoken of having suicidal thoughts previously, but always assured us that he would never attempt it, as he had seen what it does to those left behind too many times now, and was also scared that he would not get it right, and end up in a worse position. He also said he would not be brave enough to even try, but I knew this part at the very least to be wrong, as his continued battles with illness proved how brave he actually is.

The sadness and sorrow of missing his wife, partner, and best friend had been weighing on him constantly since Mum’s death. The home in the suburb that Mum had always wanted to live in was getting too much for him, the house and yard too large, and it was all getting out of control. We’d spoken quite a bit over the last few years about the house, and the possibility of moving in to something smaller, but it had to be a decision that he came to himself, I did not want to have to make the decision for him.

After another of his falls, where he was in the front yard and had to call for help from a tradesman nearby to get up, we decided it was time to get serious about it. There was some accommodation being built nearby that he was going to have a look at, with a view to moving in there once it was built. Then he saw in the paper that the retirement village where one of his aunties lived for many years was having an open day, and had three vacant units available for immediate sale.

He went and had a look, decided that yes, he did like it, and could make the move, and signed up to buy the unit he liked, subject of course to the sale of his house. This was a fantastic and brave move by him, as they had lived in the house for thirty years, but it was also another massive stressor for him. How was he to get the house ready for sale, as well as downsize the contents of a large house, into a small unit. We assured him that we could do it, and between Sarah and myself, we took on the task of making it happen. The amount of work required was incredible, and there is no way it would have been possible without Sarah.

During the course of this, the Dadman was battling with the decision to move, relishing the chance one moment, regretting the decision the next. Appreciating the efforts of Sarah and myself, then berating himself for letting things get the way they had, but we pushed on, we had to, contracts had been signed, dates had been set, and we had to make it happen.

In the weeks leading up to settlement, a good friend of his had become quite unwell, and he was extremely worried about her. He had been a good friend to her for a long time, helping her as much as he could, and having long chats, either over a cup of tea, or over the phone. In the last week before we were to clear everything out and move him in to the unit, his friend got worse, and they had a disagreement over her going in to hospital. He wanted her to, because she was not well, and she refused to. He knew that he could not force her, and had to say to her in that last week, that he was going to be busy at his place, and that if she did not want to go to hospital, then there was nothing more he could do for her.

Sarah and I had booked a four day weekend so that we could pack and clean for three days solid, then move everything on the fourth day. The Dadman rang me on the Thursday to let me know that he had just read in the paper that his friend had died during the week, and that the funeral was to be held on the day he was moving. This weighed heavily on him too, as he felt he had let her down, that in some way he could have done more. We could not convince him that there was any more as a friend he could have done for her, that it was up to her family to force any issues on medical care, and that if she was refusing treatment, that was her decision.

We got to his place on the Friday, and as soon as we arrived we knew something was amiss. It was around 10:00am, the newspaper was still in the driveway, his dog was barking, the back door was unlocked, and he hadn’t come outside to meet us like he normally would. I called to Sarah to stop, to let me go in first. I know she is far more qualified than I am, but I felt I had to go in first, just in case something was wrong. It was, we found him on the bedroom floor. He was able to understand us, but not really able to communicate with us.

I called for an ambulance as Sarah tended to him, which worked out well, as I could pass the relevant information on to the telephone operator. We still weren’t sure what had happened, because of his position, we thought at first he’d fallen out of bed. When the paramedics arrived, they also treated it at first as if he had fallen, but nothing was adding up. They did all sorts of tests, and questioned him as much as they could, but still could not work it out. They even thought at one stage that as there was nothing visible physically, that it could be a behavioural thing, as when they went to sit him up, he was all floppy, and not supporting himself.

We finally got him to talk a little more to us, and tell us what he had done, and roughly when. As they went to move him to take him out to the ambulance, I found the note he had left for us, hidden under where he was lying. He said he was missing Ann, that he felt guilty over the death of his friend, and that he just wanted to go and be with Ann now. When I found this, I went searching all of the bins so that we could at least know what he had taken, and that way know what treatment he would need.

When we left the house, he was doing ok, but as we were travelling towards the Royal Adelaide, he started to deteriorate, and they had to hit the lights, and dose him up on more medication to combat what he had taken. The ambos had been in touch with the RAH whilst we were in transit, so they knew what was happening, and had everything ready for our arrival, and rushed him straight in.

The ambos and the RAH staff were all awesome, and were keeping me informed all the way with what was happening as best as they could. Dadman was able to communicate with us after a while, in a fashion, but he can remember none of it. Even though he ended up becoming quite lucid and holding some form of conversation with us, he was still out to it, and really stayed that way for about three days. During this time we went through all of the normal processes that you would expect. Relief that he had not been successful, upset that he had not been successful, almost angry that we had found him, to relieved that it was us who did find him.

When he was no longer a medical emergency, they moved him to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, then eventually got him a placement at the Repatriation Hospital. He was relived to go there, as the other option was Glenside, and he was against going there, as that was where Mum had spent six months, and it brought back too many bad memories for him that he had locked away.

The Repat was awesome, the facilities were all clean and modern, and the staff were great. They helped him out immensely, and in the space of only a few weeks, they had helped him get back to pretty close to how he had been.

He was lucky this time. He survived, and was able to move in to his new home, and keep on living for a while longer, and take the opportunity in his new surrounds to make new friends. We’re hoping that the move will keep him going for a bit longer, that he will find the will to live that bit longer, to know that he has an important part to play in our lives, as he is special to us.

So now we wait, and we hope that he will not try again, that he will find new meaning and a nerw purpose with new people around him.

On Your Bike – Cycle Against Stigma

Leave a comment

The ride took us passed the place on the river where Mum found the peace she was looking for.

The Cycle Against Stigma was an idea proposed by Celeste from What’s Your Story, to Mel from Charles Sturt Youth Central, and was some time in the planning and building. Mel decided that if it was to be a cycling related project, best bring in a cyclist who would be willing to help out delivering the event, so she sent me an email invitation to a meeting to discuss the proposal, and draw up some rough outlines for an event.

Celeste brought in her mentor, Mary, from Catch My Drift, and suddenly a committee was formed!! the original thought was to stage the ride earlier in the year, but it needed a little more time to flesh it out, and we agreed that to achieve what we wanted, it would be better to have the ride coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, and so the date was chosen. This then allowed us plenty of time to do all of the things that need to be done when staging an event, the work that many people don’t see when they turn up to take part in a ride.

We needed money of course, so thankfully Mel had some budget available for youth related events that we were able to tap in to, which saved us attempting to source external grant funding. We then needed to agree on where we would ride to and from, Celeste liked the idea of riding along the river, so it was pretty easy from there to decide that the best sections would be Adam St carpark to Henley Square, a ride of just under 12km, so easily achievable for families, which is what we wanted to have as one of the outcomes.

Next we needed to decide on some entertainment to have available at Henley Square. Mary suggested we get the Amazing Drumming Monkees and Nina V for musical entertainment, and Mel had a number of face painters on her lists from previous events, so we were set, and they were within the budget available from Mel and Council So, now we had music to create atmosphere, and face painting for the kids. We spoke about food, but to introduce food preparation and serving at an event, creates a whole lot more work, not just in doing it, but getting volunteers trained in safe food handling techniques, money handling, and a few other logistical issues that we decided did not provide any benefit to what we were really trying to achieve.

We also did not want to put the local traders in the square offside by selling food on their front door, so instead decided that we would skip this idea, but have a few healthy options available. Celeste organised for some donations of a variety of muffins, and Mel sourced some fresh fruit as another option for participants. We also had water bottles supplied from SA Water and Bendigo Bank to give away to participants, just to make sure they stayed hydrated on the ride.

So we had food, we had water, we had entertainment, now we needed some information for the participants, and something else to interest them whilst they were at the Square, so we sent some invitations out. BeyondBlue, because they are more an online organisation, could not have anyone on site, but they did supply us with lots of wrist bands and information on depression. Sarah Wiliamson and some of her team from It’s No Secret joined us with a representative from Lifeline, and had an enormous marquee to share their information from. Romina from CanTeen joined us with her amazing tablecloth of bandannas. I wanted CanTeen there as I could see a synergy between the young people with cancer and mental health issues.

We also had MOSH, GROW, and Silent Ripples join us, Catch My Drift had a table, and the Charles Sturt Youth Advisory Committee, (YAC), also had a table with information not just about them, but a stack of cycling information supplied by the Department of Planning, Transport and infrastructure.

Behind the scenes of events, there are all sorts of administrative things that just have to be done, besides the obvious ones already mentioned above. We needed to have a risk management plan, all of the volunteers from Catch My Drift had to be registered as volunteers of Council so that they could be covered by insurance, and all of the stall holders also had to be covered by insurance. Mel has amazing organisation skills, and managed to keep it all running smoothly and on time thankfully!

All of us had been promoting the event on all of the social media platforms, and it looked like it was going to be a fantastic crowd. Again for risk management purposes, it was agreed that we needed to get participants to register, just in case someone got hurt during the ride. By registering, they would be covered under our public liability insurance. It’s incredible when you think about all of the things that have to be done, just to stage a bike ride safely! All of the volunteers had to be registered as volunteers with Council, again to protect them, and the organisations they were volunteering from.

So the day arrived, and thankfully, none of the bad weather contingencies we had planned needed to be put in action. The weather was perfect. Sarah and I started our day off with a rather hurried breakfast at Henley Square, as I wanted to start my day from there, just so I could catch up with the volunteers on site there, and make sure that there were no last minute requirements. I should have known that with Mel on site, everything would be under control and running to clockwork, which it was! So I grabbed my bike, and pedalled my way back up the river to the start point, putting up posters and flyers on the way, just to make sure participants kept on the right path.

I was quite tickled when I got to Adam Street, and there were already a lot of friends gathering, ready to sign up and join in. Deb and a couple of her volunteers were manning the registration desk, and getting the riders signed in, and Celeste and her team were distributing water bottles and wrist bands as people registered. Channel 7 turned up for a bit and did some interviews and filming, but I’m really not sure if any of it made the newsreel, or it all hit the editing room floor! No matter, we had achieved what we really wanted without tv coverage.

We ended up with about 100 cyclists joining in on the ride, on all sorts of bikes, across all of the age groups, which was fantastic to seee. It was really important to us to see that people actually did see the social media campaign that we ran on it, and it was heartening for me especially to know that the message I had been putting out had reached such a large audience. The online feedback on where participants heard about the event reinforced that.

The ride itself was fantastic, the River is always a beautiful ride, and all of the particpants respected each other on the ride, and also the other users of the path, so we had no conflicts, and everyone had a great ride. There were some who were not as fit as they thought they might be, so the facilities along the river of benches, playgrounds and drinking fountains certainly came in handy! I took a bit of time out from the ride when I got to Lockleys, as even though our ride was on the opposite side to where Mum suicided, I still like to stop there occasionally and say hi to her. Funny huh?

The finish of the ride was excellent. We had booked out the entire Henley Square, and Mel had set up one of the Council Marquees for the entertainers to perform from, just in case the weather turned! As it was such an amazing day weather wise, there were already a number of just casual visitors to the Square, but as the entertainment started, the numbers continued to grow, and we would have had at least another 200 members of the public come through and join in on the entertainment, and sek help and support from the various services we had set up there.

I received much feedback of the day, from friends old and new, but I think one of the most significant was from Sarah from It’s No Secret. A family had approached her, and they had another family member who needed support, and Sarah was able to provide them with everything that they needed there and then. Maybe it was just the environment, or the significance of the day, but people really did feel comfortable talking with each other about various issues, and to know that someone who needed help was able to get the help they needed right there and then. This was truly rewarding.

There were some speeches made, and even I managed to try and get some coherent words out, generally though trying to reinforce the message that it is ok to talk about suicide, and that it is ok to ask someone if they are ok. Those few little words may be just the words that person needs to hear, but if you ask them, please make sure you are prepared to listen, and not make judgement on what you might hear from them.

I only have one regret from the day, that I did not know about until the following week. A mate, who is a great bloke and fellow cyclist, had attempted suicide a few days prior, and was in hospital getting treatment at that time. It is good to know though that when you need it, the system does work, and he is in the right place, getting the help he needs, and surrounded by loving family and friends. Get better soon mate.

So, the ride was a huge success, and like with all first time events, lessons were learned on where we could improve things, and what else we can do. Will we stage it again? Yes. The Cycle Against Stigma will happen again in 2013, and it will be every bit as good again, and continue to pump the message out there, and do our bit to reduce the stigma associated with suicide, and try to get people talking openly, and getting them in touch with the support services that they need.

Keep the rubber side down,

Smudge!

World Suicide Prevention Day – Open Letter

1 Comment

This time of year is always one of reflection as we approach World Suicide Prevention Day once more. I have previously shared my family story about suicide, however this time I’d like to provide some of the back story to what I believe may have driven my mother, Ann, and both her parents, William and Myrtle, to suicide.

Some of what I share is my take on the causes, as I wasn’t allowed to discuss my Grandmother’s suicide and I wasn’t born when my Grandfather died.

I’ll begin with the story of my Grandfather William. After the two World Wars, the Australian Government ran Repatriation  Programs, whereby parcels of land along the River Murray were opened for fruit growing, irrigation and construction projects and water control for the Riverland. The Government was focused on providing vocational support for returned servicemen, but was not focused on their mental health. The horrors these servicemen had seen was not seen as a potential health issue.

My Grandfather William and one of his brothers took up these vocational options, and they moved to the Riverland to set up their fruit blocks, with William heading to Berri. He took my Grandmother Myrtle there, and that is where my mother Ann and her two brothers, my uncles, were born.

During their time in Berri, William struggled with depression and did not experience the success he longed for for himself and his family.

Finding it hard to cope with his depression, he had an “accident” in which he sustained some serious injuries that required immediate hospitalisation and treatment. It was then, whilst still suffering depression and having received treatment for his injuries in Berri, he was transferred to Glenside, the hospital dedicated to addressing mental health issues. Sadly for William and his family, he died in Glenside a short time after, with the cause of death being listed as pneumonia, not as a result of his “accident”.

After William’s death, his family relocated from Berri to Rosewater, with my Grandmother Myrtle becoming the bread winner, working in the woolsheds of Rosewater as a cook. My mother Ann was the eldest of their children, so she helped with the raising of her two brothers whilst Myrtle worked. After my mum married my dad Bob, and my sister Leonie and I were born, we still remained a close knit family. We were so close in fact that we called my Grandmother Myrtle, Mum. She was the centre of the family, the real matriarch. It either all happened at Mum’s house, or she was in the midst of it, and organising for it to happen at someone else’s, even if it meant heading back up to the river for family reunions.

Myrtle was always a strong fit woman, so when she became unwell with a general malaise at age 66, her whole world started to spiral downward. She had never been sick in all the time I had known her, and she herself did not know what to do. Myrtle became increasingly depressed because of her illness, and it became apparent that she would need some extra assistance. Her doctor had spoken to her about spending some time in GlensideHospital also, just for a rest.

It was the month of November when these discussions were had. My Grandmother Myrtle told my mum that she wanted to do some Christmas shopping, before she was admitted to Glenside for her rest. During this shopping visit, Myrtle said to Ann that she needed to go to the ladies, and would be back. After waiting for a while, Ann became concerned for her mother, and began looking for Myrtle. She went to all of the centre’s toilet facilities, calling out for Myrtle, and Centre Management also put out a call through the Centre, but she was nowhere to be found.

Myrtle had left the Centre at some point soon after leaving my mother, and ventured to a nearby area where she suicided. She had decided that she did not want to be a burden on the family, and that she didn’t want to go to Glenside where her husband had died some years before. Seemingly without other options, she took her own life.

The very fact that she had died and was no longer here was devastating on the family. Further, many of our family and friends did not know the truth of her death. It was many years later when discussing our family with a cousin, that I told him the truth of Myrtle’s death. Even though he was many years my senior, his parents had decided not to tell him the truth at all.

For myself, I learned the truth slowly. I knew immediately that she had taken her own life, but I was unaware of the exact mechanism for some time.

My mother Ann was the hardest hit, and the guilt she felt was overwhelming. She blamed herself, as Myrtle was in her care when she suicided. My mother could not be convinced that it was not her fault, but that it was Myrtle’s decision. In her desperation and grief, my mother attempted suicide a couple of months after Myrtle suicided. Somehow during the process, she called for help, and was taken to Glenside for medical treatment.

Ann was in Glenside for about six months, receiving counselling and therapy for her depression. There were times I can recall where I hated going in to visit her. I was 17 years old at the time, and I can still remember the drab wards, the other patients who were all in similar states to her. The whole atmosphere felt just so wrong to me, it was as if the whole place was trying to drag me down too.

Mum continued to decline however, and there was a period of time where she did not recognise Dad or myself, and during some of these visits, she would sit shrivelled and shaking in the corner of the room on her cot, scared of the strangers who had entered her space.

She received ECT, electroshock therapy, as no other treatment was working or bringing her back to us. Eventually, between a combination of ECT and drugs, Ann came back to us, and was cleared from Glenside to return home. Dad and I, falsely I guess, believed that everything would now be ok. There was an extended period of adjustment when she returned home, but eventually we thought we had her back, and we were a family again. We had our challenges over the years that all families experience, but none of these caused Ann to become severely depressed again, or so we thought.

During this period, Leonie was living on site at Bedford Industries, and they were assisting her to develop the skills she needed to be able to live independently. She knew that Ann was in Glenside, but we kept Leonie’s visits there to a minimum, especially when Ann was at her worse, in an effort to protect or shelter her from the reality.

Time moved on. I married, and several years later, my wife and I had our first child. Ann loved her. Ann had worked her entire career with children, starting as the very first Teachers Aid in South Australia, and had always cared for the kids she worked with. Other family members had also had children, and had spoken of leaving the kids with the grandparents and the bonds that had developed between child and grandparent. Ann had been looking forward to this stage in her life for a long time and always ensured that there were books and activities in the house for our child.

Being a Grandmother did not fill her whole life, however. Around this time, a series of Government ads were released, advising that they were clamping down on Centrelink cheats, and that those taking advantage of the system would be caught and prosecuted. This sparked my mother to check her investments, and when she did so, she realised that both her and dad not declared to Centrelink the interest earned on some of their investments. I still do not know now why this had such a massive effect on her, but it became the breaking point for my mum.

I was unaware of the investment issue until my parents asked me over to have a chat. I think Dad had been trying to talk with Mum for a while, but she was not listening. When I got there, I could not believe what I was hearing from my mum. The consequences she believed were coming from her mistake were extraordinary. She was calling herself a cheat, saying that the police would come and arrest her, that they would take away the house, that there would be nothing left for the kids because the Government would take it all, and that all of their neighbours, friends and family, would spurn them because of the horrible crime she had committed.

I sat with her for a very long time, talking through all of these issues, trying to calm her down, to remove some of the deep seated fears that she was holding on to. When I left, I felt convinced that I had reached her, that she would let me help, and that first thing on the Monday morning, she would let me fix the issues with Centrelink, and that it would all be resolved.

I am so glad that the last thing I did before I left that night was to hold her close to me, and tell her just how important she was to me, and how much  loved her. That was to be the last time I would see her.

Sunday morning came, and to my father she appeared to be looking better, much calmer and more relaxed. She said to Dad that she wanted to go out for a drive for the day, to get some fresh air. She went to the river to feed the ducks while he had a shower. Dad became concerned when she did not return, and went out looking for her on foot, but could not find her. He called me, and told me that Ann was missing.

I jumped in my car, and drove to their place, extremely concerned and fearing the worst. Whilst I was driving, Dad had taken the car out to look for her, this time venturing further, and was stopped by the police who had blocked a nearby road. His heart sank. He knew. He spoke to the police, explaining his wife Ann was missing, and they informed him that there had been a body discovered on the banks of the river. They told him of the circumstances and this confirmed for my dad what he already knew deep down, that she was gone. There was no looking for her, no saving her, no chance for me to help and resolve some of the problems.

The police and the Coroners Office were all extremely supportive. Staff from both offices spent time with us, and helped us as much as they could. Due to the circumstances of my mother’s death, we had to wait about a week for her status to be changed from missing to deceased, and it was a little longer than that still before her remains could be released to the funeral home.

Even Centrelink were amazing when we went in to sort out the issues with them. It turned out that they do not even consider interest income when calculating a pensioner’s wealth; they were only concerned that you had declared all of your investments. Sadly, the issue that drove her over the edge was the issue that did not exist. There was no crime, no punishment, not even a fine for not declaring the interest. To us, she had taken her life for no reason.

So here we are, some years on, still grieving for her and trying to make sense of the events of our family’s history. Dad, Leonie and I still feel the loss of my mum from our lives. We were not even able to see her that one last time at the funeral, as hers had to be a closed casket. We were denied that one last chance to say goodbye.

As we draw closer to another World Suicide Prevention Day, I encourage everyone to hold your families and your parents dear to you. Tell your family you love them. Forgive each other the silly little things that happen, for when they are gone, we lose them forever, and it is too late then for what if’s and if only. 

For me and my family, it is important to consider how we stop this trend of suicide from repeating in our family? What steps do we each need to take? What are we doing to help ourselves, and how do we reduce, if not remove, the stigma associated with suicide?

We each need to do what we can; for ourselves, and for others.

World Suicide Prevention Day – Smudge’s Story

1 Comment

My story is one that I will often tell, not in an endeavour to elicit any platitudes or sympathies, but more so because by telling it freely, it has a tendency to empower others to also open up, and in some cases, open up and share their own stories that they have kept bottled up for a very long time. This becomes a release for them, and also assists reduce the stigma that is still attached to suicide today.

I have a familial history of suicide on my mother’s side, although medical professionals will say that there is no link, counsellors and psychs will tell you that there is a definite link. My grandfather suffered from depression and died almost 60 years ago of pneumonia resulting from an unsuccessful suicide attempt. My grandmother suicided almost 30 years ago. A cousin also suffering from depression took his own life, at the very same time that his brother was dying of cancer. This was a tragic loss for his family, as the one with cancer wished that he had the life that the one who suicided lost, and they buried two sons within a year of each other. And 4 years ago, my mother suicided in a similar way to my grandmother.

I had a neighbour attempt to take his own life about 3 years ago, quite dramatically in front of his family. His eldest child came running in to me, as they did not know what to do, so I assisted, ensured his safety, and called for an ambulance to come assist.

A member of my cycling community also suicided earlier this year.

After my Grandmother’s suicide, we weren’t allowed to talk about it, nor were we allowed to say how she died, instead, the family invented a story. This was done not because the family was ashamed of what she had done, but because that was what society almost demanded at that time, and nobody wanted to hear about suicide. Much like cancer used to be spoken about in hushed terms, as if to say it out loud would increase your risk of contracting it, suicide still has much of that stigma attached.

When my Mother suicided, Dad’s immediate thought was to follow the pattern of what had been started so long before, and create a story about her death, rather than break the barriers and say that she had suicided. We spoke about this at length, and decided that this would not be healthy for either of us, and we decided to be honest about her suicide, and attempt to reduce the stigma.

The next issue would of course be how I break it to my daughter that her grandmother had suicided. What do you tell a 9 year old girl, who had been as close as she was allowed to be to her Grandmother? I decided to be honest with her also, but not immediately open with the full story, rather to release bits of information to her, more so as she asked the pertinent questions, rather than just be hit with it all in one session, and attempt to handle all of that information. This process actually worked very well. Children are incredibly strong, but best able to process smaller emotional packages than one big hit I believe. We also owe it to our children to be honest with them about the things impacting on their lives, rather than them learning the truth later in life, and accusing you as a parent of lying to them.

I also decided that the team that I work closest with also needed to know what was happening, so whilst we were waiting for the coroner to release my mother’s body to us, a process that took quite a long time, I gathered them together, and spoke to them about it. I explained much of the story to them also, which had the interesting effect of a couple of them coming up to me quietly, and sharing the losses they had experienced.

Dad and I believed in speaking out about suicide so strongly, that we both attended the inaugural training program for a team being put together called, “Living Beyond Suicide”, and assisted to develop and shape the program for the inaugural participants, and future training programs. This is a service provided by Anglicare, that trains volunteers how to assist families in the hours and days after a suicide, with the maze of things that face the bereaved.

They are not there to attempt to answer the inevitable questions of “Why did they suicide?”, or “How could they leave me like this?”, or “What could I have done differently?” etc, they are there to assist the family with things like what services/assistance are available to the family, assist with contacting other family members for support, funeral directors etc.

I started having rather negative thoughts myself some time ago, and thanks to some of the training I had received, and the conversations I have had with various counsellors and psychiatrists and psychologists, on both a professional and personal level, I picked up on the signs that I needed some help myself. Physical activity is a fantastic way of helping our mental health, and there are many of us who use cycling as their natural anti-depressants, but there are occasions when we need that extra support that only medical professionals can be provide. I am one of those cyclists who needs to cycle, but it ended up not being enough, and I am also taking anti-depressants to help keep myself on an even keel.

Never be scared of asking someone, even a complete stranger, are you ok? That simple question may make an amazing difference on that person’s life.

If you are feeling that you need some assistance, or you are feeling at risk of self harm, please do not hesitate to contact one of the trained volunteers from Lifeline on 13 1114. There are also a number of other agencies you can contact including Beyond Blue, 1300 22 4636.

Keep the rubber side down,

Smudge!

%d bloggers like this: