'Find the words': Dr Justin Coulson's plea after nephew's tragic death.

This story discusses suicide. 

Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson has made a desperate plea for compassion and conscious communication following the death of his nephew, Logan, who died by suicide on Sunday night. 

In a heartfelt social media post, Dr Coulson said his “kind and fun” 20-year-old nephew was staying at his parents’ house - Logan’s grandparents - the night he took his life. 

The couple found their grandson on Monday morning, but by then, it was too late to help him. 

Logan was a keen surfer and a "delightful" kid, says his uncle, Dr Justin Coulson. Image: Instagram


"Too late to do anything except scream ‘No’. Too late for him to hear them as they cried his name over and over again: 'Logan! Logan! Logan! Logan! No, no, no, no, no!!!!'

"How do you hold the body of your grandson for the last time? That was what my parents did on Monday morning."

Logan’s mother had been celebrating a special occasion with her husband in Melbourne, when her son died. His grandparents were left with the unimaginable task of calling their daughter to deliver the news that her son had taken his own life. 

"And the ripple effect... as each new person discovers the awful truth. Logan is dead? How? Suicide? No! Not Logan! How can that be? He was so happy. No! Please no. Logan left a note. But the note won't bring peace or relief to anyone... Because he's dead," Dr Coulson wrote. 

"I’m not doing so well. My heart is shattered. Shattered for Logan. But also for his parents and siblings, and for my parents."

Dr Justin Coulson is a renowned parenting expert and host of Channel Nine's Parental Guidance. Image: Facebook


But Dr Coulson said he didn’t want sympathy. Instead, he was sharing the devastating news to shine a light on the horrifying statistics relating to death by suicide in Australia. 

"Here's what I want you to know: There are nine suicides every single day in Australia. Seven of those nine suicides each day are men. Two of those nine are women. And suicide is the leading cause of death among young people (15-24 years). 36 per cent of deaths in this age group are suicides."


Dr Coulson said while suicide was a complex issue with multiple contributing factors, what we do know is that strong social connection reduces the chance of suicide. 

"Please, please, please, PLEASE be kind. Be compassionate. Be gentle. Be inclusive. Be supportive. Be less critical and judgmental and more of a cheerleader. 

"Don't be on your kid's back (or your partner/spouses back). Instead, make sure you've got their back. Love them and make sure they know it. They have to know they matter."

Logan was just 20 years old when he died. Image: Instagram


He also stressed the importance of communication for those left behind, who want to talk about their lost loved ones, and work through their devastation. 

"Almost without exception, those I've told have responded with shock and pain, and then offered the well-intentioned phrase, 'I have no words'. The idea that there are no words needs to be changed. Now. Fast."

He went on to share how talking with loved ones had helped pull him through the devastating days following his nephew's passing. 

“As I sat at my table and sobbed, I got a call from a friend. Gus Worland. I'd messaged and he came through for me. If you don't know Gus, he's the guy behind the ABC series, Man Up. And he's got a charity called Gotcha4Life. At his site you can sign up for a Mental Fitness Plan. I recommend it. It's smart. It's helpful. It's a life-saver. 

“After I spoke with Gus, I spoke with my brother, and then two of my sisters. I spoke with my mum. Then dad. Then my mate, Craig. Then another mate, Alex. Last night I spent time talking with Aaron and Julia who thoughtfully provided our family with dinner (which was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as the hour long conversation we had when they dropped the meal off - and stayed to listen to us in our grief). And in between all of those conversations I talked with my wife, Kylie and our kids. Conversations. Words. Opening up. Crying. Laughing. Bawling. Sharing. Story-telling. Celebrating. Mourning. Grieving. Living. Everyone needs someone to talk to. Everyone needs to know they matter. Everyone needs to feel seen, heard, and valued.”


Dr Coulson has urged people to ensure their family and friends know they are loved. Image: Instagram


Dr Coulson urged people to listen to Colin Cambell's Happy Families Podcast episode, where the author of Finding the Words, who lost two teenagers in a car crash, shares his view that, when we say ‘there are no words’, we are, in some sense, reducing the person's life to nothing. 

"We have to find the words, because the words we find tell the stories of those we love," Dr Coulson wrote.

"And those stories help us to celebrate their life and our love for them. Share their stories. Feel their pain. Elevate their experience. Find. The. Words. They're there. And we need to share them. 

Finally, Dr Coulson implored those who are struggling to reach out to someone. Anyone. 

"A relative. A friend. Call Lifeline. Get in touch with Beyond Blue, Gotcha4Life, or the Movember foundation (because, yep... Logan died in a month dedicated to men's mental health: Movember). Talk with a local church leader, a trusted neighbour, someone. Reach out. Tell people they matter."

Psychologist, Phoebe Rogers, says while it’s imperative for parents to know they aren’t to blame for their child’s depression, communication is an important step to reduce the risk of tragedies. 

“Mental health is multifactorial and there is no one factor but many that contribute to depression and suicidal ideation,” Rogers said. 

"Never be afraid to ask; a general 'you're not seeming quite like you, you seem more sad or withdrawn, is everything ok?' 'I'm here for you, and want to listen'.


“Also a parent modeling talking about their own feelings is critical. You may need to be quite direct, you seem unhappy, and I'm concerned, are you having thoughts about life not being worth living'? You can also suggest if they'd like to talk to a psychologist."

Child psychologist Deirdre Brandner says casual conversations can be particularly effective when trying to connect with teenagers. 

"The important part is being present and listening to their chatter so your teen can make that connection with you. Empathize with their feelings, listen to their thoughts, don’t tell stories about what it was like for you," she says. 

Use low-key interactions, and avoid lecturing. "Instead, try to find small, unobtrusive ways to show your teen some lighthearted kindness."

It’s estimated that one in five adolescents from all walks of life will suffer from depression at some point during their teen years, says Brandner. "However, while depression is highly treatable, most depressed teens never receive help."

Image: Instagram


Although many suicides come as a shock to families and friends, Rogers says there are some signs to look out for, including, shifts in mood, whether a slow and gradual decline, or increased irritability, flatness, agitation, withdrawal from previously loved activities, flat energy, and loss of enjoyment in activities that they loved. 

"In young people, there is often more agitation and irritability, or anger, rather than low mood. There may be clues in a loss of connection to friends, withdrawal, a refusal to get up or get outside. 

"It is not normal for a young person to think about death, feeling as if they don't want to be here, that life is pointless. 


"Look out for signs of self-harm, which don't necessarily indicate suicidal ideation or intent, but are indicative of low mood, high distress, and emotional pain. If a young person is expressing life is too hard, they don't want to be here, they'd rather be dead, and they have thought of ways to end their life, we must act immediately."

When to comes to those who have lost a child to suicide, Rogers agrees that offering ‘no words’ can be counterproductive, despite good intentions, and an often genuine struggle to find the right words. 

“Be real and authentic, and empathic, and to express a sense that you can imagine how they may be feeling. and then to go beyond that empathy and offer practical acts of support too, such as check-ins with those who have lost a child.”

Dr Coulsen urged anyone who reads his message to share it widely, and remember to tell their loved ones how much they matter.

"I miss Logan. Please hug your kids. Hug your husband/wife/spouse/partner."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Feature image: Instagram/@drjustincoulson