IT’S rural, largely grassroots program, aimed at farming families in particular.
But is just as relevant to every family.
Because the creep of suicide knows no boundaries and its ripple effect is not just collateral damage in the days, weeks and months that follow – its transcends generations.
Katrina Myers knows that only too well. She was just 15 when her father, took his own life.
The impact was immediate on three generations – her father’s parents, her mother, and her siblings.
It has now reached out across the years to impact on her own children, the fourth generation to feel the pain of emptiness, of the grandfather they would never meet.
The stigma of mental illness, makes it worse for families who feel they cannot talk about their story and become lonely and isolated.
Katrina explained: “To me there is a big stigma around still, about suicide, and it’s not talked about enough and I don’t even talk about it enough”.
In the years that followed Katrina avoided telling people about the nature of her father’s death.
“Not because I don’t want to talk about it, just because I think the other person will sort of feel sorry for me or they’ll feel bad, or judge dad or me,” she said.
“But I’ve seen so many examples of where people who have personal lived experiences can make a really big difference.”
Which is why she joined the steering committee behind a new project The Ripple Effect.
Funded by beyondblue and driven by the National Centre for Farmer Health and Dr Alison Kennedy, it would bring together people who have been bereaved by suicide, attempted suicide, cared for someone who attempted suicide, have had thoughts of suicide, or been touched by suicide in some other way.
The Ripple Effect is an online intervention designed to investigate what works to reduce self-stigma and perceived stigma around suicide.
The Ripple Effect is mainly aimed at men, aged 30 to 64 but since its launch the program’s reach has exceeded its planners’ best hopes.
“For a long time, I have wanted to get involved with advocating for good mental health and for prevention rather than cure, and a holistic approach to treatment,” Katrina said.
“When I found out about The Ripple Effect project I applied to be on the steering committee,” she said.
“We were investigating whether a digital platform could help reduce the stigma around suicide in men in rural communities – farmers helping farmers beat suicide.
“It became a forum for people from farming communities to share their experience of suicide. “The idea is that by sharing what helped you, you can help others and I am so pleased to have been involved with this project and I really hope it can continue to help make a difference.
“For me it’s about helping make sure that no more dads die from this terrible illness by helping make sure the stigma is reduced so people seek help earlier.
“It’s also about the many fl ow-on effects that a project with this sort of awareness might bring for the wider community.”
Katrina said the ripple effect of her father’s suicide has affected her throughout her life, in various ways and probably more as an adult and as a mother than it did at the time.
“Eventually I reached a point where I needed to get some professional help,” she explained.
“I think dad’s death affected my resilience and so things that shouldn’t have been a big deal suddenly became a big deal for me.
“I had a really difficult friendship that caused me a lot of anxiety and things had got to the point where I was feeling sad more than I was happy so I started meditating and I saw my GP and got a referral to a therapist.
“At the time I wondered if I was being paranoid, but to me that’s the point, who cares if I was!
“I think we all need to be a bit more paranoid and seek help earlier.
“We go to the doctor for a cold or a sore throat all the time and don’t even think twice about it, so why then is it such a massive deal to go to the doctor if our heads aren’t feeling right.
“The Ripple Effect project encouraged me to share my story further and I have recently started having some great conversations with some beautiful friends about what we can do to build resilience and good mental health in our community.
“We really want to help as many people as possible to build mental resilience and to have good wellbeing and I want my kids to have healthy minds and good resilience so they can cope with whatever comes their way.
“I feel so strongly that prevention is so important when it comes to mental health and it’s about building resilience.”
Now looking after her mental health is part of Katrina’s daily routine and she treats it like physical fitness, it is something that needs daily commitment to maintain.
“I’d love this to be the norm and to see mental wellbeing training taught to our kids in schools and am already working with the local school to help implement and fund The Smiling Mind program, so that everyone has an understanding of what they can do to take accountability for their own mental health,” shes said.
“The thing is it doesn’t matter how great your life looks; or how many things you own; or how much money you have; mental illness can affect anyone.
“I am living the life I wanted to live, I have a beautiful family and wonderful friends, but I still became affected.
“My dad was the same – on the outside his life looked fantastic, he was into lots of things, a very social and outgoing person, but he just got sick.
“Maybe if we can all gain skills and tools for keeping our minds healthy and for recognising when our minds are not quite right, we can all get help earlier and recognise when our friends and family aren’t quite right too.”
- If you, or anyone you know, needs assistance contact Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14