real life

"There were no signs". At 22, Hayleigh's brother took his own life.

CONTENT WARNING: This post contains mentions of suicide and may be triggering to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

My name is Hayleigh.

I am 28 years old. I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am now also, forever broken.

On Sunday May 15 2016, part of me died along with my brother, Ben. On that Sunday, my world was turned upside down forever. We had only just lost Mum, 19 months earlier. What else did life think we could possibly handle?

Who would be so lucky to watch a movie with their brother before he passed?

Who would be so lucky that their final words to their brother were ‘I love you’?

Ben left the house that night and seemed totally normal. He told me he was going around to his best mate Nick’s house for a chat. About 20 minutes later I received a call from his partner (they were having some troubles at the time and Ben had been living at home for the past 3 weeks) saying did I know where Ben went? He had called her and said his goodbyes but didn’t elaborate as to where he was. Only saying that he was in ‘the middle of nowhere’. I rang around to my siblings and Dad to get the word out quickly.

suicide prevention family
Hayleigh and her late brother Ben with their family. Image: Supplied.

Another five minutes passed and we found his phone on Find my Phone app. Ben's partner, her younger brother, Georgia (sister one), her partner Grant, Maddi (sister two), her partner Brodie. Dad, his partner Lara and myself all fly to where the app had picked up his phone. All of us coming from our respective areas.

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We all expected to find Ben crying in his car. Honestly, we did because that's the kind of sensitive soul Ben was. Ben had intentionally driven his car into a tree, very close to the farm us children had grown up on. Ben was killed instantly. Getting out of the car the lights of the ambulance were blinding. I was held by Grant and I was screaming, exactly like you see in the movies. I felt my body collapse as Grant held me and I kept asking him if there was anything the ambo's could do. Surely they could do something?

The warm, innocent caring boy that helped bind us all together was suddenly gone.

Ben was 22 years old. Ben was employed full time. Ben loved his boss and job. Ben was a third year apprentice plumber. Ben had three loving sisters. Ben's family were all very close. Ben had enough savings for a house deposit. Ben had a beautiful daughter who is 19 months old.
Ben was waiting for his brand new ute to arrive. Ben only drank occasionally. Ben wasn't involved in drugs.

Ben was always happy.

Or so it seemed.

There were no signs. No warnings. No note.

"Ben was killed instantly." Image via 'It's okay, not to be okay'. 

Last week I got my semi colon tattoo because everyday it would be easy for me to choose to go and be with my brother and mother. But I choose not to. I choose to now help break the stigma of mental illness. If I help one person in this world, then that is enough, and I've done my job. So their family won't have to wake up each morning to the living, breathing hell that my family and I have to face.

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Choosing to try and help people understand that it's okay, not to be okay.

Do you know how brave it is to admit that you're not feeling great? Or you've been having these dark thoughts, or that social situations make you so anxious you could be sick, by opening up and baring your story, you are in turn empowering others to do the same.

The problem is that everyone is comparing their own inside story to everyone else's highlight real. You know, the side that we show the world to make it look like we've really got our sh*t together.

When in fact if you think about it, aren’t we all in need of some help in some way? Aren’t we we all struggling? Aren’t we all carrying around a story with us?

The lady with the most expensive jacket in the place may be using it to cover domestic violence injuries. The quiet man in the corner may be enjoying a meal on his own to remember the loss of his daughter. The girl who’s requested to only see a female doctor because someone took away her innocence when she was younger. You never, ever know the story within others.

If you can help someone in anyway, big or small you should do it. Because we are all in this together and that may be the only positive thing that happens to that person today.

My two sisters and I aren't professionals, we use friends or family members to model our merchandise and those photos are taken in on our phones. But what we do have is lived experience. Through our page, #itsokaynottobeokay, we share what worked for us and what didn’t when dealing with grief. We focus on mental health issues, suicide prevention and grief.

This post was originally published on July 16, 2016 - and has been updated and re-published with full permission. 

Visit Hayleigh's Facebook page 'It's okay, not to be okay' here

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

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