R U OK? I can tell you I’m not, about suicide
In April 1995 my father, Barry Larkin, took his own life. He had been the major influence in my life and his death was completely devastating. I honestly felt like I was broken and I would never (could never) be “fixed”.
I experienced, first hand, the collateral damage of suicide; something at least 1900 Australian families experience every year. The ABS is currently revising how it categorises death by suicide and estimates the actual total could be as high as 3500.
In the aftermath of a suicide, friends and family often end up on a massive emotional roller coaster, which can seem never ending. You can be despairing, sad, confused, betrayed, guilty, angry, sentimental and grief stricken all in the space of a minute. Yet each of those emotions can be so complete and so raw that you feel more alive but less in control, than you’ve ever felt before.
It can be frightening.
Clearly, the death of any loved one is harrowing no matter what the circumstances. But death by suicide is such a (self)destructive and personal act that it is almost impossible for those close to the person who has died not to feel somehow responsible or complicit, in some way.
Fast forward 14 years and I am now a father myself. My wife barely knew Baz and my three children never met him at all - which, apart from his death, is probably the greatest regret of my life. Despite this and even allowing for the healing nature of time, we are all still dealing with the circumstances of his death. I’m not sure you ever really get over traumatic, life changing, events but in my case I have gotten used to it.
My dad was a great mentor and coach. He was the guy everyone went to for help, for advice in business and in their personal lives. Ultimately, my dad set me up for success. And my brothers and I have always felt that we never farewelled him appropriately. At the time on his death we were too incapacitated.
Late last year I decided I wanted to do something to honour a bloke who gave so much to others, without anyone knowing just how tough he was doing it himself. I had reached a point in my life - maybe it was turning 40? - where I felt doing something that would make a difference, something for others, was important. From a selfish perspective, I also wanted to do something that would stretch and inspire me.
I decided to directly address the “taboo” and get people to confront and talk about suicide.
Since then the more I have found out about suicide, the angrier I have gotten.
Did you know that it is the single biggest killer of Australian men and women 15-35? Every year it kills almost twice the amount of people than die on the roads. It has no prejudice - old, young, male female, rich, poor, city, country, black, white, Christian, Muslim, mentally ill, sane. It touches everyone.
But the stat that really pisses me off - which I find the most abhorrent for a place that can rightly claim to be the “Lucky Country”- is that for every person who takes their own life it is estimated between 10 to 15 try.
Which means up to 40,000 Aussies get to the point that they consider suicide a valid option. Every year.
Choose your own adjective. Mine is “unacceptable”.
On Sunday November the 29th this year, the inaugural R U OK?Day will be held. It is a national, annual, day of action to help prevent suicide by getting Australian to reach out to everyone in their lives who may be struggling, for any reason, and help stop little problems turning into big ones by simply asking “Are you okay?”.
I don’t know if asking my dad R U OK? would’ve helped. I suspect there was a point where it may have. In retrospect I wish I had had the opportunity. And I’m not suggesting for a moment that anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide wasn’t connected and/or interested enough in them. Suicide is complex and indiscriminate.
What I do know is I’m not OK about suicide.
I’m pissed off.
And I still really, really miss my dad.
National HELPLINES for crisis counseling:
Lifeline 24 hour crisis support helpline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged between 5 and 25)
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
National HELPLINES for information
beyondblue depression and anxiety info line 1300 22 4636
Cannabis Information and Helpline 1800 30 40 50
ReachOut! www.reachout.com (Interactive website to help young people get through tough times.)
SANE Helpline 1800 18 SANE (7263) (Mental illness information, support and referral)
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