General News Stigma Reduction — 05 September 2014

It was last Saturday night that I was out celebrating a girlfriend’s 50th birthday.

As 11pm approached a gent in his early 30s fronted our table after a few (too many) beers and wanted to know if it was a hen’s party, and which one of us was getting hitched.

Of course, all aged between 40 and 50 and having done that, we laughed. He sat down, at our table of 12 women, and we chatted.

He too had been out to dinner with his best mates; a group of 30-somethings where good food and plenty of beer had failed to steer their dinner conversation.

 Their reason for gathering was as sad as ours was celebratory. Three days earlier, their best mate had ended his life, leaving his own father to find his body.

And he was angry. “How could he have done that?” he asked, looking at us for a simple answer to a question that hasn’t got one.

“Do you believe he let his own father find him? Do you believe that?”

He was indignant and annoyed and hurt, all rolled into one. He thought his friend had been unthinking and inconsiderate to make a decision that both crushed his family and flummoxed his friends.


“Could he have been sick – I mean depressed?” I asked. He shook his head. That wasn’t going to wash with him.

And I went home, sad. Young men should be the focus of a mammoth education campaign around suicide.

They need to understand that someone doesn’t take their own life to annoy someone else.

They need to really know that depression is an epidemic among their peers, and that our blokey, she’ll-be-right-mate attitude often hides the cry for help coming from within their friendship circle.

They need to know if they need help, they can ask.

Recently, I had the pleasure to host a fundraiser for Roses in the Ocean, a group that each day is trying to change the way suicide is spoken about, understood and prevented.

One young woman, in her 20s, told everyone there of attempts to take her own life. She didn’t think she was sick enough to really ask for help, and now knows she was.

I watched the audience; people from all walks of life in Brisbane who, in some way, supported this charity.

You might have spotted someone from your local school there, or the law firm that does your property conveyancing. You might have seen one of your tutors, or the nurse who tended to you during your last hospital stay.

Depression does not discriminate. And, across the world, there is one suicide every 40 seconds. Do that the math on that; it’s about 3000 each day.

Yesterday, Robin Bailey was missing from our radio; she’s my 10-year-old’s favourite radio companion as we drive over the Story Bridge to school each morning.

I haven’t told her yet that Robin wasn’t on air because her husband Tony Smart, the man she loved and the father of their three children, had taken his own life.

But I need to, because that is what every expert in the world is advising us to do. Talk about it. Stop pretending it doesn’t happen. Smash the stigma attached to it.

Robin and her children will be in my thoughts for ages, just as that young man who fronted our dinner table last Saturday night won’t leave my mind.

It wasn’t the time or the place to have the discussion, but I could have followed our alcohol-laden conversation up. I could have asked for his card. I didn’t. And I’m sitting here now, with all my heart, wishing I did.

This article first appeared on ‘Brisbane Times’ on 4 September 2014.


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MHAA Staff

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