Those bereaved by suicide are at higher risk of taking their own lives – it’s a stark reality Adelaide daughter Wendy wished she was aware of sooner. Now she’s sharing her family’s tragic experience to light the way for others.
Wendy’s mother – Hazel – took her own life in 2017.
“I saw her two days earlier,” says Wendy, from Adelaide.
“It was really, really unexpected,” she says.
“It’s just so gut wrenching and so desperately sad.”
Hazel was 60 and enjoying the start of her retirement in the Riverland with her husband.
Wendy says Hazel’s greatest joy was spending time with her growing brood of grandchildren.
She says her mother showed no obvious signs of mental distress leading up to her death.
“It was just devastating.
“I think if it can happen to her, then it can happen to anyone – no-one can say they are safe from suicide.”
In Australia, about eight people a day end their own lives, making suicide the third leading cause of premature death from injury or disease. We lose more people to suicide than die on our roads each year.
It’s why, since 2009, AnglicareSA’s suicide prevention team holds the annual Walk Through the Darkness and Remembrance Service to raise greater awareness of suicide prevention and to remember those who have lost their lives through suicide.
This year’s event is being held on November 19, 2022, to mark International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. It’s the day when survivors of suicide loss across the world come together to find connection, understanding, hope and healing through shared experience.
Suicide was not taboo in Wendy’s household.
“We were really open about it.”
Hazel’s sisters – one older and one younger – died from suicide a year a part in 2008 and 2009. One sister was aged 54 and the other 37. The eldest of the sisters took her own life shortly after her son died from suicide.
Wendy says suicide was often spoken of in her tight-knit household because of that shared history.
“We talked about suicide a lot and mum said she could never do it because of what had happened to her (through her sisters).”
It’s why Hazel’s death was such a shock.
“With mum’s death – everything changed. I am a different person.”
After Hazel died, Wendy and her family were referred by first responders to an AnglicareSA suicide bereavement program.
Through the program, Wendy came to learn that people who are bereaved by suicide loss are at higher risk of taking their own lives themselves.
She began to reflect on her own mother’s risk factors.
“I wish I knew years ago what I know now,” she says.
“I did not know that if you are affected by suicide that you are more likely to suicide. I am a health professional – how did I not know that?
“If my mum had had the support we had, after she lost her sisters – I don’t know, she might still be here.”
Wendy is speaking out so that those grieving suicide know the risks and seek help sooner.
“We need to understand the risks, because the signs that we expect might not be there, and we have to be open – we have to have conversations and grow our awareness because it can be anyone.
“I don’t want people to have to go through what we have in order to get it – to understand.
“You have this preconceived idea about what suicide is – it’s a young man struggling with mental health – but it’s not just a young man – it can also be a grandmother who was about to start a new chapter in life for herself.”
Wendy also wants to honour her mother’s death by helping others.
“I see this as a real positive way to share her memory.
“No amount of talking will bring her back but I will give my absolute all in making her heard – being able to give her a voice when she couldn’t do it herself.”
AnglicareSA suicide prevention services manager Michael Traynor says: “The ripple effects of suicide are known to be complex, are wide and are varied, with research showing that one suicide can impact up to 135 people.
“We know that those bereaved and impacted by suicide are at a greater risk of suicide attempt and suicide themselves, and this is why we believe access to bereavement support is vital, as is greater public conversations around suicide and risk.”
Mr Traynor said building community awareness of the risks associated with suicide and breaking down barriers to those conversations can help save lives.
WALK THROUGH THE DARKNESS
This year’s Walk Through The Darkness event will commence at 5.00am, at a choice of two locations – Tennyson Beach or West Beach. Groups will walk towards Henley Jetty, through the darkness and into the light of dawn.
The walk will end at 6.30am for a Remembering Service at Henley Square, adjacent to Henley Beach.
Some will walk in memory of a loved one, others will walk to support those bereaved by suicide and many will be there to walk for suicide prevention.
WHEN: 5am, Saturday 19th November, 2022
WHERE: from WEST BEACH (Adelaide Shores Sailing Club, Barcoo Road)
from TENNYSON (Oarsman Reserve, opposite 183 Military Rd)
HENLEY SQUARE for a 6:30am Remembrance Ceremony (light breakfast served)
For more information about the event please call 1300 077 798.
ABOUT OUR SERVICES
AnglicareSA has been providing a number of suicide prevention and suicide bereavement services in Adelaide for the last 15 years.
These include the award-winning Way Back Support Service and Suicide Prevention Service and, the StandBy Support After Suicide program.
The StandBy program is a federally funded 24/7 service supporting South Australians and communities bereaved or impacted by suicide, including first responders.
Call 1300 727 247 to connect with your local StandBy coordinator.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Mental Health Triage: 131 465; the Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467; or Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636. If an emergency, call 000.