11 September 2019

I lost a mate this week

| Ian Campbell
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Region Media, Editor’s note:

The death of a loved one is always difficult to comprehend. It is made infinitely more difficult when that death is sudden and a result of suicide. It is a grief that can cripple you, as you struggle to find ways to cope with your loss.

For Ian – who lost a dear friend to suicide this week – penning the following reflection was his way of coping.

The importance of good mental health cannot be stressed enough. Yet, every day, we are saddened by news of people around us taking their own life, leaving the ones who love them to deal with the life that is left.

If you are struggling, please reach out to Life Line, Beyond Blue, Teen Clinic, Headspace, RU Okay? or talk to your doctor. You will find contact details below.

There is no shame in asking for help.

Warning: this article deals with sensitive subject matter which may cause distress to some readers.

Photo: Rachel Helmreich, Bemboka.

Photo: Rachel Helmreich, Bemboka.

I lost a mate this week.

I gave him the two-fingered salute from the steering wheel on the morning of the day he killed himself. We often passed each other on the highways of southern New South Wales. Both busy, perhaps too busy.

“I must catch up with him,” I thought, “When the holiday’s come.”

Fifty-something, top job, a tribe of beautiful kids, sharp humour and insight, physically strong, a big laugh and smile – a fella that could wear maroon jeans comfortably, with the best collection of shirts this side of Brown Mountain.

He was someone you were always better for seeing.

My mate had strength I drew on, he had such confidence in me, backing that has pushed me forward. As I sit here tapping away a million little things he said or did to help me succeed float through my mind’s eye.

Thank you, mate.

But now he is dead. His life taken by his own hands. You had no other options mate?

We all crumble at times, but for that to lead to this, from someone so apparently strong-minded. What?

I am led to the sort of thinking I did as a kid trying to comprehend Mars, Jupiter, and Venus and stars light years away. It’s thinking that never finds an answer and only leads to more questions and unknowns.

What is clear and undeniable are the holes in the future his actions leave – for many people.

I’ve only known about his death for a handful of hours, I am expecting to feel angry soon, right now I am just very sad. And grateful for knowing my mate and what he gave me and my community.

He saw such potential in this place and was always pushing it to be better.

How can he not want to be here?

Perhaps my anger is coming now.

My mate was aware of his mental health. We both spoke of the need to drink less booze acknowledging it was not the best way to stimulate or quiet our minds. We talked about how good exercise made us feel, he even had a bike in his office ready for a lunchtime ride.

How is it that a mind so open and aware can come to this?

It hurts to imagine what state he must have been in and it’s shocking how devasting a split second can be.

In May this year, I went to a screening of ‘Suicide: The Ripple Effect’ in Merimbula.

It’s the story of Kevin Hines. In September 2000, Kevin leaped off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The moment he left the four-foot high railing, Kevin says he had instant regret and in the four seconds it took for him to hit the water below, he prayed for his life.

Kevin’s is a rare perspective, he now knows his friends and family would not have been better off without him.

Devastatingly we have lost my mates perspective forever.

As I get lost in my thinking I hear from others hurting today, aside from the sadness we all fell at losing a mate, we all seem to share that concern for ourselves and others we love.

“If people like my mate can’t make life work, I am in trouble,” seems to be the collective thought.

But when and how do you ask for help?

How about now?

This week I will ask for help.

I want to realise the potential my mate saw in me and this place. I am shattered my mate won’t be here to see it and share it.

Rest in peace my mate. My love and the love of everyone you touched is with your beautiful family.

Do you need to ask for help? – Life Line, Beyond Blue, Teen Clinic, Headspace, RU Okay? or talk to your doctor.

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Mental Health is complex and debilitating to the ones whos are inflicted
With it. It doesn’t show itself on the outside of the sufferer and there is little understanding or support generally in the workplace and even in the communities wherever they go. Many who self harm suffer such pain and desperation and yet even to love ones it goes unseen. I am speaking from the heart when i say much more needs to be done around regional areas. We need to learn much more about the particular illness our love may have to support them. The worse thing we can say to the one who has confided is “she’ll be right mate” because that person knows it it’ll never be right. Give them your love and stay in touch no matter how.

Thanks Ian for the thoughts – thoughts we are all thinking – why this guy? Why throw such a fabulous life away – stay strong stay focused on the potential to make change for other men dnd especially the kids – hugs G

Thankyou for opening conversation Ian with your usual warmth and flair. I’ve hestitatied in responding but cant get Shane off my mind. If ever there was a man who seemed to tick all boxes for ‘least likely’ to end his life, surely it was him. I find inadequate some of the oft repeated advice for those suffering such anguish; reach out to close friends; see a counsellor … he did so. I recently asked Shane how he was going, as we sat together at a jolly tourism gig which you chaired. He was pretty fine with problems like everybody. But if he had said ‘I cant go on anymore’, what would I have done?

Beautifully put Ian. Unfortunately this is an issue that touches too many of us.
Take care of yourself.

Damian Kennedy6:32 pm 27 Nov 18

Thank you.

Ian, your words are incredible and so accurately describe the anguish and disbelief I am feeling. I still can’t quite believe this has happened. We have lost a great man. I am so sad for his close friends and family and I pray that if anyone of them need support they know that my door and arms are open.

Clem Collier5:40 pm 27 Nov 18

Firstly…..thank you Ian for sharing your story…..it DOES need to be talked about & I think more so now than ever…..life is going too fast for many of us & some just want to “get off the bus”!…..if the conductor notices anything amiss he could ask…”R U OK” & maybe you might sit & have a talk.
The “Conductor” being possibly Friends,Family,Neighbours & sometimes even complete strangers.
The BIG MESSAGE to put out there is…..”YOU ARE NOT ALONE”
Many years ago when my first marriage blew up in my face….I briefly contemplated suicide & in discussing my feelings with my Family Law Court psychologist she told me….when she was 12 yrs.old her mother had left the family & her father committed suicide…..imagine the trauma…..she then told me that suicide is the most selfish act you could perform…..you`re home & hosed…but what about those left behind.
I have always been a community minded person…having been a blood donor for over 30 yrs..been a carer & done palliative care AND a couple of suicide awareness & St.Johns 1st.Aid courses…Imagine how I felt when one night,just before having dinner with friends,I saw on the news about a murder,suicide,with footage of a kids sandpit with a couple of Tonka trucks in it… My heart nearly stopped & tears gushed from my eyes, because just the afternoon before I had had coffee with a friend at his home & on leaving had noticed the Tonka trucks in the sand pit.
He was a very highly thought of member of the community & a real decent bloke with two small children & a new house…he`d sent the kids to a nearby neighbor with a note,then shot his wife then himself……I was gutted to think I hadn`t picked up on anything, although he was a quiet taciturn bloke…we had talked about his marital problems…his wife having left him but had brought the kids to see him for Fathers Day…she had an ongoing affair with one of his “friends”…..but sometimes you just never know what tips the scales.

What a lovely tribute to your mate. To all who take their own life you are stronger than you think you are to be able to feel like there is no hope and then have the strength to do it shows a lot of guts and determination something that I did not have at my lowest time. At times like this when we lose someone close it is sometimes so hard to deal with the grief you think you might just die as well.

Christine Kaine2:50 pm 26 Nov 18

Thank you for your brave words Ian. I too am filled with deep sadness knowing that this inspirational person is no longer part of our community. If he had been able to experience our grief he would never, never have made this choice.

Here are some words from my funeral service for those who left this earth in this way. I hope they bring some form of relief.

“We don’t ever totally understand an act such as this – this taking of one’s own life. Suicide is a hard word to say. But we must say it, so that in time we can accept it. And even in the midst of our grief we can respect it as a choice – some say the ultimate choice of self-determination. This respect doesn’t come easily but it can break upon us like sunlight shafting through a troubled sky.

It is only natural that we torture ourselves by going over and over again the chain of events leading up to the taking of this life. We wonder, were we attentive enough? Were messages being given? Were there cries for help we didn’t hear? Could we have intervened?

Frustration is real. Every fibre of our bodies is poised to fight or run; but we only have shadows to contend with, and there is nowhere to flee.
We feel anger, too – especially the anger of abandonment. This is the fate of those left behind, who must seek to understand and incorporate such a tragic loss into their living. Our mourning will be troubled and conflicted; we know because it already is.

A person is not just one moment or even a few moments, rather the sum of all moments. Let us not remember them for the choice he made to end their life. Let us strive to remember them as the whole person who lived.”

Take care.

Dianne Beckett1:06 pm 26 Nov 18

So sad. This tragic loss raises so many questions. I don’t know the circumstances here but in my own family I see the stress people are subjected to by their employers. Many people are working way too many unpaid hours. There’s also a culture of keeping up with the standard of living we feel our families should enjoy. Love to those feeling the loss of a loved one, a valued friend. I think we can only keep working to make the world a kinder place.

Beautiful beyond messure mate.

Thank you for your words.

Sorry for your loss.

Laurie Slater9:48 am 26 Nov 18

Oh Ian, this is the best thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you.
A hard topic to discuss. We need to discuss and discuss and discuss so that the conversation around suicide is not so frightening. Then some day someone might just be able to say “I feel like that”.
Now YOU take care.

Sarah Ruberto9:45 am 26 Nov 18

Beautifully written Ian during a time that no one should have to endure. Shane was a heartfelt man with passion and a real grounding that isn’t often seen in today’s world. He will certainly be missed.

Big hugs to anyone who is doing it tougher than usual this week.

It’s a unique type of pain, mixed as it is by so many what ifs.. love to you Ian

We have a lack of mental health professionals in the Bega Valley who are trained to assist in cases like this. Our mate had reached out and was using a counsellor however he probably needed a psychiatrist. Ever tried to access one down here? Like Ian, I knew our mate was going through tough times but never understood how deep the pain was. We were all there for him but it wasn’t enough.

Denise Walter11:16 pm 25 Nov 18

There is nothing harder than losing a close friend – my thoughts and prayers are with you at this incredibly sad time x

Robyn Broughton10:51 pm 25 Nov 18

Ian thank you for sharing with the loss of a great friend it is very hard to get your head around such a situation I’ve been there where you are right now you don’t get over a situation like suicide you just get to come to terms with it and the situation you will spend a lot of time wondering if there was something more you could have done for your friend but sometimes no matter what some people choose this point no matter what but you are left with fond memories of the good times and sometimes not so good but you have shared a valuable friendship. Dig deep Ian I know you are a strong man but have a very tender side too I hope your friend is now at peace

So beautifully written. Thankyou.

I saw him earlier this week and he told me he wasn’t doing so well. All week my gut instinct said, ‘call him, text. Something doesn’t feel right.’ But I didn’t. Suicide always leaves so many questions. And always reminds me to act from only a place of best intention and kindness. I feel like I have let him down, my friend who gave so much of himself. Perhaps realising and rising up to the potential he saw in us and this place is the one thing we can give to him and his beautiful beautiful family. I respect your heart Ian and hope it travels as well as it can this week.

A beautiful soul, the world is less without him! RIP big fella. We had our occasional differences, but I love him all the same. I do know one thing Shane would know this is awkward for people, but he would want people to not dodge this issues and talk!

I have no words, just enormous sadness for those I knew who felt they had no opions, no other way out. Each day I tried to check in with people, friednds, family, some I don’t even know all that well, perhaps to help someone know they are loved.

Jenny Anderson9:17 pm 25 Nov 18

Ian. Thank you for sharing as it might help another person to seek help.

Bob Deighton9:11 pm 25 Nov 18

Sorry to read about the loss of your friend Ian. Thinking of the family and you.

Ian, just to send a loving rainbow to you for the loss of your friend. i hope writing your thoughts helps you as much i am sure they will help others reading them. i wish to affirm you and say how much i admire you in the way you work so much for the benefit of your community.

Benjamin Ford8:39 pm 25 Nov 18

Well articulated Ian. Life is tricky
Even when its going well. I understand the disturbance in the force sentiment. I hope you are able to forgive him soon. Thanks for sharing. This letter
was helpful.

Douglas Simper7:19 pm 25 Nov 18

You love shows – the enigma of life and death is a challenge for us.

Russ McGowan7:04 pm 25 Nov 18

Empathy and respect…

Bronwyn Wright6:40 pm 25 Nov 18

A very strong letter Ian. Thankyou.
Not just for thinking and feeling it but for Sharing the affect it is having on you – while it is still so close.

rosemary lord6:33 pm 25 Nov 18

WOW so sad … I can understand him, went thru these thoughts when my husband left me for my then best friend. strong feelings of ending my life. something kicked in & I found the positives I needed to stay strong for – sadly your friend did not. signs that we need to support friends are few & far between – looking for the signs … however, I told no-one where I was coming from

Very sad for your loss and your communities loss Ian.

Thank you for sharing, as you begin to navigate your journey through grief, Ian. Your sorrow is palpable.
My heart goes out to your mate’s family and all who loved him and were loved by him, along with his extended circle of friends and acquaintances.
So many unanswered questions…those left behind, will continue to find this final act, hard to fathom.
Seeking help is hard to do…

Amanda Midlam6:18 pm 25 Nov 18

So sorry to read about this.

A thoughtful insiteful and loving piece of writing you were lucky to know your mate but I am sure as sure that he felt the same way about you. Thank you for sharing at such a difficult time.

💜 I have have no words just so very heartbreaking. Sending love

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