On Saturday 17th August 2013 Mind Blank celebrated the close of their school touring initiative. They have educated more than 4,000 young people in NSW on the topic of depression and suicide prevention; a wonderful effort which will have far reaching effects. The event was a cocktail evening, with Mind Blank announcing their next five projects and demonstrating a special behind the scenes public presentation or their work. The work of Mind Blank is endorsed by 2010 Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and Director of Orygen Youth Health and Orygen Youth Health Research. Mind Blank plans to expand nationally in the future, and the event marked an exciting new publicity phase which will encourage growth of the program to benefit our youth. One of our members, Janine Schramm, spoke at the event, and a copy of her speech is outlined below.
Good afternoon, my name is Janine Schramm and I would like to thank Ally for inviting me to speak today.
In 2008, I was the mother of 3 wonderful adult sons, who were, happy, healthy and successful… or so I thought. In September of that year, my eldest son Nathan 31 years of age, who had been living in Mackay Qld for the past 3 years with his wife and two little children, rang me and said “Mum, I’m coming home, my marriage is over”.
Nathan came down to Sydney and 3 weeks later took his own life.
When asked to speak today about the effects suicide has on families, as I thought about what I was going to say, I realised that it would be impossible to put into words or describe the devastation of such a profound loss. What I can tell you is, that the world myself and my family once knew has gone, and we are forever changed.
The abrupt ending of a life by suicide leaves unique and deep emotional scars on those left behind.
Suicide is a death unlike all others. If my son had died of a long standing illness, or in a car accident, I would firstly know that he wanted to live, and secondly I would know exactly what took his life. We, the bereaved by suicide don’t have that comfort, so our grief is greatly compounded.
Not only are we reeling with the raw pain of loss, feelings of guilt, anger, fear and blame (to name only a few) all of which completely consumes our lives. We struggle desperately to seek answers… what signs did we miss? Could we have done more? How was I not able to save my son? Why was the love of family and friends not enough? It takes a long time to realise and accept that you will never have the answers.
In addition to all your inner turmoil and despair the isolation of this experience is yet another anguish the majority of those bereaved by suicide endure. It was only a few short months after our son died that nobody spoke his name anymore. Our son Nathan was 31 years of age, he had lived, loved, married, and fathered 2 children and yet it was as if he had never existed. Those around you struggle to know what to say or do so the majority choose to become scarce. Your world diminishes.
Our son took a permanent solution for what I feel was a temporary problem, and myself and my family still to this day struggle to understand or fathom the depth of his despair and the dark place his mind had taken him to. Excluding the horrendous realisation that I will never see my son again, what pains me the most is that I was deprived the time to say goodbye. I was there when my son took his first breath but not there for his last. My son left this world alone.
I am often asked how I’ve survived. It has been almost 5 years and I can best describe my ongoing grief as an enormous boulder strapped to my back. Most would think that with time the weight of this boulder would lighten, miraculously lift, and grief would subside… but this has not the case… the boulder remains but my back has gained strength to carry the load. I will forever be a bereaved mother, leaning to manage my grief, one day at a time.
Our son is now what is commonly known as a “suicide death statistic”: Unbelievably, statistics that exceeds our National Road Toll. Behind each and every one of our suicide statistics, is a loved one. Behind each of those lost loved ones are thousands of devastated families, friends and colleagues, who according to statistics are now at a far greater risk of suicide happening again. My family most certainly know the added risks… my beautiful daughter-in-law (Nathan’s wife) at age 4 lost her father to suicide; at age 17 lost her brother to suicide, and of course now her husband, my son. We have two other sons who I fear for every day.
As painful and as difficult it is to speak of my son’s death, I feel compelled to tell my story to bring about further public awareness of this alarming widespread desolation.
I speak in the hope that my story brings it home, and for all to understand the enormity of devastation that suicide leaves in its’ wake, carrying with it the potential for further suicides. This is a national tragedy which must be addressed and prevented.
I speak and will continue to speak to bring about change, in the hope that mental illness and depression are not subjects of taboo to be swept under the carpet, but spoken about without shame. For those who suffer, to know that it is OK to talk about it and that there is help available.
I don’t believe that “Time Heals” I have found that it’s what you do with your time that is the healer. I have chosen to help others and channel my efforts in making a difference towards suicide prevention. In doing so I am a founding member of the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network based in Penrith, and for the last 2 years I have held the position of Secretary.
Our network is dedicated to bringing suicide awareness and prevention to the forefront. One area of focus for us is to support Mind Blank in bringing mental health awareness to the schools in the greater Western Sydney area. We applaud the initiative and energy that is Mind Blank. To sustain their activities we have raised funds in the vicinity of $9200.00 to date and will continue to raise funds for this imperative work. We are excited to be associated with Mind Blank and encourage all of you to financially support them in this vital endeavour.
Every life is worth saving. Thank you.
Thank you to Janine for sharing her story at the Mind Blank 101 Launch, it was much appreciated. mental health is very important, and Mind Blank 101 will go a long way to assisting the youth of today gain an awareness of the importance of mental health.