A woman in a crop top and hot pants straddles a vertical pole upside down in a shed with her legs in the air.
Photo: Jenny Green says she has met lots of people in the industry who have been affected by suicide. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Mahalia Dobson)

When Jenny Green watched her daughter, Jacalyn Williams, pole dancing, she never imagined it would one day be her up on stage.

But, all that changed less than two years ago, when Jacalyn took her own life.

Ms Green, 50 then took on her daughter’s passion for the pole and making it her own.

“I sort of hit rock bottom and I was depressed,” Ms Green said.

“I was angry, one, that she left us. I was heartbroken, and I thought, you know, I’ll try pole to see why my daughter loved it so much.”

Fast forward to today, and Ms Green has transformed her shed in to a memorial for her daughter.

Birds eye view of Jenny Green's property
Photo: After her daughter died, Jenny Green turned her shed into a pole dance studio. (ABC Goulburn Murray: William Kendrew)

Two silver poles are bolted in to the ground in the middle of what Ms Green has dubbed her “woman cave”.

She said it is a place she can visit, practice and still feel connected to her daughter.

“I feel like she’s there,” Ms Green said.

“She would train seven days a week it drove me insane … I was a bit envious of her and her pole because it took our mother daughter time away.”

She said she now understands her daughter’s obsession with pole dancing.

“I can see why she did love it so much,” Ms Green said.

“You meet a lovely array of people; the pole industry is very caring it’s like one big family.

“And they come from all walks of life and you could be having a bad day and I’ve gone in to the studio crying and by the end of it I come out with half a smile and the tears have diminished.”

Remembering Jacalyn

Ms Green described her daughter as someone who wore her heart on her sleeve.

“If someone had fallen down on the street she’d be the first one there picking them up,” she said.

“She could go into a room and if people were upset she’d be the loudest one there and five minutes into it everyone would be laughing and be high-fiving.

“She knew how to light up a room.”

Selfie of Jacalyn Williams
Photo: Jenny Green says the system failed her daughter and needs overhauling. (Supplied: Jenny Green, Facebook)

But Ms Green said her daughter kept her mental illness secret.

“She had a lot to live for … the world was practically at her fingertips, but it just wasn’t good enough and she thought that was her only way out.”

Ms Green visited Jacalyn a few days before she died.

“I’d gone down three days before she took her own life,” she said.

“I knew she was upset, and she promised me, ‘Mum I promise you I won’t do anything stupid. You know I’m stronger than that. You’ve made me stronger than that’.”

A girl in a bikini and sparkly platform heels winds around a pole on stage in front of a sign that says 'pole dance'.
Photo: Jacalyn Williams was a pole dancing instructor and competed interstate and overseas before she died. (Supplied: Jenny Green, Facebook)

Ms Green spoke to her daughter Jacalyn just hours before her death.

“It was 7:30pm. I hadn’t quite finished work yet and rang her back on the way home,” she said.

“She said, ‘Mum I’m okay, I’m all good. I promise, you know, I’ll come up next weekend or the week after’ … that never happened.”

How pole dancing saved Ms Green’s life

Ms Green said pole dancing gave her a reason to wake up every morning, after the death of her daughter.

“Depression and suicide turned my life and my family’s life upside down and into chaos,” she said.

“I fight with it on a daily basis, from the time I go to sleep until the time I wake up.

“I sometimes even fight with it in my sleep. It’s a fighting battle everyday but you just take one step at a time, 10 minutes at a time.

“If it wasn’t for pole and I don’t really like to say this, I don’t think I’d be here.

“I think the pole dancing was a major part to get myself up off the couch, stop feeling sorry for myself because I was going downhill into depression.”

Jenny Green training on the pole in her backyard shed
Photo: Jenny Green took up pole dancing in November 2017, two months after her daughter, Jacalyn Williams, took her own life. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Mahalia Dobson)

She said she had met lots of people in the pole industry with similar stories to hers.

“We find a lot of people in the pole industry, they’ve suffered depression and pole dance has been their way out,” she said.

When asked where she gets her strength from, Ms Green said she did not know.

“Some days are really difficult,” she said.

“I’d really like to delete Facebook, but I can’t. I have a ritual every morning, that I go through the memories and see what memories come up for the day. It might be a memory from Jaclyn because she’s being silly, or she’s made a comment or posted a photo.”

“Those memories are sort of what keeps me going.”

A woman trains, winding upside down on one of the poles bolted to the floor of her backyard shed.
Photo: Jenny hosts an annual pole dancing gala night in honour of her daughter. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Mahalia Dobson

Ms Green suspected her daughter would laugh at the thought of her mother fiercely training on the pole.

“My daughter she’d probably say, ‘Mum you’re a nut’. She would be proud, I hope she’d be proud,” Ms Green said.

‘The system has failed’

Ms Green lamented that the mental health system failed her daughter.

“When Jaclyn went in to hospital that night … the doctors reported, the ED department states she has suicidal tendencies,” she said.

“They knew she had suicidal tendencies, but they let her go home.

“I will give that report to my solicitor later, because I want something done about it.”

Jacalyn William's grave with flowers, a pole dancing stiletto and watering can
Photo: Jacalyn took her own life in September 2017 after a long battle with depression. (ABC Goulburn Murray: William Kendrew)

She said the entire system needed an overhaul.

“The system has failed, and it does fail people,” Ms Green said.

“It fails them every day … I can’t blame the doctors, they’re trying their best, but they want to push you out as quick as possible because they don’t have the beds.

“[Jacalyn] was on the waiting list to be seen by a psychiatrist.

“She’d taken her life in September, she was due on the fourth of October to see the psychiatrist but obviously couldn’t last that long.”

Jenny Green and her daughter Jacalyn Williams taking a selfie
Photo: Jenny Green has described her daughter as ‘someone who knew how to light up a room’. (Supplied: Jenny Green, Facebook)

Ms Green’s experience prompted her to create the Rockit Foundation, a grassroots organisation that aimed to provide financial and emotional support to people suffering from mental illness.

“When a family member goes through this and you’ve got to sit down with police and give statements, you know even two months after the fact and the case isn’t still closed, the coroner hasn’t signed off, [you’re] toing and froing from police to coroners … I said, ‘how long does a loved one have to wait to have closure?'” she said.

Ms Green said she hoped to help family members and friends who too have lost a loved one to suicide.

“You’re never going to have closure,” Ms Green said.

A woman standing next to a pole in a shed where's a flannelette jacket around her waist emblazoned with the word 'rockit'.
Photo: The foundation, ‘Rockit’ is named after Jacalyn’s stage name. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Mahalia Dobson)

“I can’t say not one person was nice, but they’ll send you away with a pamphlet saying, ‘Support after Suicide’.

“If you’re anything like me, you put it on the ‘to do later’ pile because you’re still trying to get through today, you’re still trying to get through yesterday.”

Ms Green hoped the foundation could pay for and expedite professional help for those that really need it and to save someone from dying by suicide.

“Even one life, I’ll be happy,” she said.

This piece by Will Kendrew and Mahalia Dobson was originally published on ‘ABC News‘ 11 March 2019.

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