When I got the first email, I could not make sense of the news. A friend, a bit long-lost, but not that long ago, had taken a rifle, and shot himself in the head. I sat back from the desk in our small office, and stared out at the slanting, chilly day in Victoria. It was unfathomable how this vibrant, intelligent young man with a beautiful baby daughter he doted on, and an exceptional woman who was his wife, had taken such a violent, drastic action.
Now a bit wiser, more perceptive, but still an infant when it comes to interpreting the signals of suicide, I can see he was a haunted person, perhaps living with depression, and he may have made a one-way decision at the wrong time.
I sat down this week with a couple of local women who are striving to shed light on the clues and identifiers of suicide which takes such a toll on our communities. One of them lived through the pain of my friend’s family when her father took his life. Her story, and mine are like so many other people in Inverell, and Bonshaw, Warialda, Tingha and Ashford. All our villages, our towns, our cities. Farm-link offers free workshops to residents, businesses and organisations to help them see through the gauze of “I’m fine”, or “I’m just tired”, when the person we know changes behaviour or habits.
The suicide of my old friend was not my only loss, as with so many other families these days. We lost a family member to a suspected suicide, and one of my closest friends. He made three early tours of Vietnam, returning an angry man who eventually found solace in the countryside, pulling old cars apart and making art and building straw bale houses. He owned a dog who was half-wolf, and that untamed spirit was echoed in my friend.
The news of his death came again in an email, accidentally, because the sender thought I already knew, and I was shattered. Likely the outcome of his painful battle with cancer, and a gun, a bedsheet, dog tied up outside and a note to call the police on the door were his answers. I still choke up, because he was there for me so many times I needed support, and I was not there for him. Maybe it would have happened regardless, but it still haunts me.
We are the sometimes unknowing witnesses to the signs and risks when our loved ones, or even our work colleagues and classmates are in trouble. If you have a chance, a few hours at a free workshop might turn the tide on a life in crisis.