Gerry Georgatos – A mother suicides, a father suicides, their child was a suicide. Not once has this occurred but untold times. Over the years I have warned of mothers and fathers that would be near certain lost to suicide if they were not supported. Several years ago, an eleven-year-old child took his life. His mother was vulnerable but despite the relentless warnings to all and sundry, nine months later, the mum ended her life.
For the most part, suicide prevention remains a lie. Suicide awareness raising activities and education campaigns are not suicide prevention.
A few years ago, a new year was marred by a seeming spate of young lives lost to suicide. Migrant born suicides. Homeless persons, suicides. LGBQTI youth suicides. First Nations children suiciding. I remember a migrant born mother who threw herself out of the window of her public housing tenement unit. I remember two First Nations children in a remote community, first cousins, taking their lives within days of each other, 15 and 16 years young.
I journeyed to the impoverished families of the 15 and 16-year-old lost youth, to an Arnhem Land community. Children of the Yolgnu. Their families impoverished, their homes bare, more than 20 individuals living in each household. We sat for hours. I brought them everything I could. They asked me for nothing. They accepted their lot as if immutable burden, as if this is the way things are meant to be for them. I asked the mother of one of the lost souls, if there was something, anything please I could do for them. I asked again and again as I prayed for something to do.
The mother nodded. They would be journeying the two children to their homeland community, hundreds of kilometres distant, to be mourned and buried. The mother asked for two mattresses and two mozzie nets to be waiting for the children’s bodies in their homeland, for their dignity. I wailed on the inside.
I bought the mattresses and mozzie nets and sent them ahead.
Of the three and half thousand individuals I have assisted over the years, I remember vivid moments from many of them.
What harrows as travesty for me is the fact that as a nation we can reduce suicidality, reduce the suicide toll but, alas, we do not forge this mattering.
The small team I work with, that saves lives, does what it can. As I write this article, I am hours away from boarding a flight from one end of our continent to the other end. Our resources are finite, and we make every cent hit the ground. I will be on a midnight flight, land at 5am, in-person support four separate vulnerable individuals, and then board a flight home that same day – so we do not misspend on a hotel, saving every dollar to reach or support another vulnerable individual or family. I will be gone twenty hours, eight hours in the air.
We commit all our finite resources to contact time and to as much outreach for as many as possible as opposed to expenditure on hotels etc. It should not have to be this hard but that’s the steep uphill we climb. We know what needs to be done.
I remember a 10-year-old child lost to suicide. The year before she found her 11-year-old first cousin had taken their life. Two years earlier her 13-year-old sister had taken her life.
It is a reprehensible myth that governments have prioritised the harrowing suicide crises of the nation’s most suicide affected categorical and population risk groups.
We can, for the first time this century, reduce the toll and in so doing inspire the nation. We can reduce the Australian youth suicide toll. We know the elevated risk groups; population and categorical. We know the ways forward.
The youngest suicide I have responded to, where I have worked long haul to support the family, is of a nine-year-old child. The youngest attempted suicide I have responded to is of a six-year-old. Our governments must fund the capacity for as many of the affected as possible to improve their life circumstances.
There are many who we have kept alive by someone being there for them, by improving their lives, by validating their trauma and subsequently disabling their trauma. We were and are there for them. There is no legacy more important than the one that improves the lot of others to the point of saving lives.
I remember everyone lost to suicide but foremost I remember those lost to suicide that we could have helped if we had been resourced to do so.
What is beyond words are the inactions by the firmament of relevant bastions in our nation to call out what needs to be invested in to reduce the suicides, to save lives, to help people thrive.
How many children, mothers, fathers have to be lost?
Suicidality has complex multifactorial layers but the capability to reduce suicidality, to reduce the suicide toll, is not complex. The ways forward are in fact, simple to understand, simple to implement and produce.
2019 will record Australia’s highest suicide toll yet, in excess of 3,200.
We need Governments to drop the report and research veneers, the to be seen doing bit but not doing anything and reprioritise all funding to expert outreach like never-before.