*Trigger warning – this post deals with suicide and may cause distress

Mental health is such a difficult thing to truly comprehend. You might think, “She should just see a counsellor,” or “medication will make that problem disappear.”

Sometimes when someone close to us is hurting, we think “but what can I do to help?” “I can’t help someone who won’t help themselves.”

In the last few weeks, someone in my family took her life. In some ways, it now seems like we saw this ending was coming from a mile away. It was the ending that could have happened at any time in my aunt’s life. In other ways, it was such a shock and a phone call that I really never expected to get.

Even though my mum had been warning me that her problems were escalating and the threats of suicide were pouring out again, I still kept saying, “she would never do that.” See we had been through all of that before. Many times before. And the suicide threats never amounted to anything, not even an attempt on her life. So in my mind, I thought she was looking for sympathy and she was far too selfish a person to actually hurt herself let alone end her life. And there is no more painful way to discover how wrong you were, than to receive a phone call in the middle of the night saying “she’s done it. She’s gone.”

The aftermath of such a tragedy is the real tragedy. A detailed letter left by my aunty to my mother, my uncle and my grandparents who have all survived her, justifies her decision to leave. It also reveals she had no idea the pain and devastation she would cause by leaving us all behind. She had convinced herself that nobody would care, or miss her. It said that we shouldn’t be sad because she needed to go.

She was suffering as she had done for her entire adult life and she felt as though enough was enough. But in her state, she missed a few things. Things that may have willed her to live a little bit longer. Through her passing, we learned that she had made some really special friends in her community. One of whom raised the alarm and ultimately found her in her final resting place. This friend we now know was a huge support to my aunty, and has been left miserable that she couldn’t do more to help. And my cousins who are still very young – my aunty had visited with them days before she died. She was so sick she couldn’t see how frightened and worried they were for their aunty, and she certainly can’t see now how distressed they are now that they couldn’t save her.

My grandparents are the real concern through all of this. They are elderly and frail and when I stopped in to see them after the news, they’d never looked so sad, and tired. No parent ever wants to lose their child, and no matter what their age, to have one of your children take their life when there could have been so many other outcomes, it’s soul destroying.

My mother has been a powerhouse through it all. She’s had to do everything because nobody else was up to the task. She packed away my aunty’s life. She gave a detailed 2.5 hour statement to the local police to ensure her death was in fact a suicide. She retrieved all of the passwords and closed down accounts that needed to be closed, and arranged for my aunty’s cremation. She has been the pillar that has held the entire family up in a time when we were all ready to collapse with grief. And she’s reminded us that her sister had demons that followed her around no matter where she worked or where she lived, they were still there right ’til the end.

Because the truth is, when you see someone posting memes on Facebook about suicide and depression, what can you say? You can’t like a post like that, and you don’t really know what’s going on in their life and what kind of help they’re receiving. But when they’re gone, all you can do is wish you’d done or said something. Anything.

The saddest part is life goes on. And it will continue to go on without her. We have babies who she had never met, but she did tell me over Facebook that my children were beautiful and just like me as a child. I know that she would have wished she could have met them. And they would have loved her too. Because she was funny. She was great to be around when she was herself. She had a laugh that would make you laugh because it was truly contagious. I hope I never forget what that laugh sounded like, because all we have now are the memories.

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In the lead up to the Federal Election, the Government made an election promise to double the funding for life saving suicide prevention and awareness programs. This month is Mental Health Month, so there is no better time to call our Government into action and ask them to deliver this campaign promise and help save the lives of Australians battling with depression. Visit this link to sign the national petition. https://prevent-suicide.lifeline.org.au/sign

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