This post deals with suicide and might be triggering for some readers.
Growing up in suburban middle-class Australia in the 1970s and 80s, my awareness levels of suicide were next to zero.
The topic was largely taboo, spoken about in furtive tones, or simply denied a hearing. It wasn’t an issue I discussed with my parents, my peers, my teachers or any other adult role model.
Suicide was something that occurred in the lives of distant ‘others’, mostly those affected by rare cases of extreme mental ill-health or trauma, and never in my own circle.
Watch: How to talk to someone with anxiety. Post continues below.
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s, when I was in my early twenties, that I found myself touched directly by suicide.
I remember exactly where I was - sitting in the garden with a steaming cup of tea, relishing the incongruous sunlight - when a friend delivered the news.
A former schoolmate - a quirky, funny, interesting guy - had deemed death more palatable than his unceasing loneliness.
The physical force of the shock, followed by my disbelief, grief and painful thoughts, still linger to this day. How did I not see it coming? How did we all miss it, including his parents? Why didn’t he tell us how bad things were?
Fast forward to 2020, and I’m now a parent of three tween and teen children who are much more conversant with mental health than I ever was.
I’m grateful they’ve been exposed to a steady stream of school-based initiatives aimed at improving young people’s wellbeing.
Despite this, the rates of suicide - and youth suicide, in particular - continue to escalate, to the point that some observers are labelling it ‘the other epidemic’.