A new play by Sydney playwright Kate O’Keeffe tells the story of her family’s almost five-year search for her missing brother Daniel.
Daniel O’Keeffe went missing in 2011, prompting a nationwide search that ended last March with the devastating discovery of his suicide.
About 38,000 Australians are reported missing every year, but 98 per cent are found, most of them alive and well.
But Ms O’Keeffe’s play Losing You (Twice), which opens tonight in Sydney, aims to shine a spotlight on another issue — the high rates of male depression and suicide in Australia.
“Eight Australians take their life every day and six of them are male,” she said.
“It’s crazy — it’s over 2,000 men a year.
“[Daniel] was found underneath the family home and he’d taken his own life, which was just so hard to believe that he’d done that and he was home and we’d searched Australia.”
After her brother disappeared in 2011, Ms O’Keeffe wrote and performed another play, Life As I Knew It, about the plight of families of missing persons.
She said the silence around suicide is something she has become angry about since learning what happened to her brother.
“I just think our family will never be the same and there’s thousands of other families that are having to deal with this every year, it’s unbelievable,” she said.
“Why can’t we say they took their own life? Why can’t we say that?
“Because I sort of feel like with the silence and the not talking about it enables it to keep happening.
“I feel like with my show and talking about it I’m saying, ‘don’t let this happen to you, and it can happen to you’.”
Subject matter still raw
The play invites the audience to become a part of a loving, close-knit family of four kids and two doting parents.
Day-to-day anecdotes and family celebrations are shared on stage, including mother Lori’s speech at Mr O’Keeffe’s 21st birthday.
“He’s always been very well behaved, very caring and a very nice person, and I’m so proud of the lovely, handsome young man he’s grown up to be,” she is heard saying.