By Bonny Burrows
One lost a family member to suicide, another almost did – and now Pakenham mothers Bobo Davis and Carol Ryan have joined forces to bring suicide awareness to the forefront of community conversation.
Ms Davis’s world was turned upside down in April 2016 when her 22-year-old son Aaron killed himself after a seven-year battle with ice addiction.
Friend, Cardinia Shire councillor Carol Ryan almost lost a family member to the drug, but fortunately was able to find them help.
Together, the two say they reflect both sides of what addiction and suicide can become.
“My family is the success story,” Cr Ryan said.
“I can show there is hope, while Bobo is an example of the impact suicide has on the whole circle of the family unit.”
While her world was torn apart when Aaron died, Ms Davis wants to show those who are affected by suicide that “while you can’t change it you can still smile”.
“It’s OK to be OK,” Ms Davis said.
“When we lost Aaron … we didn’t know how we were going to survive. I was never going to work again. I was a hairdresser and I no longer cared what hair looked like. It’s a creative industry, and I had no joy.”
What made it harder in the wake of Aaron’s death, Ms Davis said, was a lack of support.
“I couldn’t find anyone to turn to. My biggest avenue now is to give people somewhere to go when they’re absolutely lost and broken. I want to make it easier to find the help … it’s way too hard,” Ms Davis said.
The mothers, with the help of friend Carol Orrock, have organised Melbourne’s inaugural HopeWalk – a suicide prevention awareness event aimed at uniting community members touched by the tragedy.
To be held at the Lakeside Lake, Pakenham on World Suicide Prevention Day on 10 September, the walk also seeks to bring suicide and depression support information directly to those in need.
The aim, Ms Davis said, was to make sure nobody felt they were alone during their darkest days – be it those suffering from mental health problems or friends and family members dealing with the aftermath of suicide.
“People with mental illness can’t get up in the morning, let alone turn on a computer a find the help,” Ms Davis said.
“I want to get the awareness out there, and directly hand the flyers with the support information to those who need it most.
“We want to reach as many people in our community as possible … give them an avenue to reach out and say ‘yes, I need help’.”
Cr Ryan agreed, saying there was a special bond between those who were united through such circumstances.
“I suppose we (Bobo and I) connected in such a way, because of our experiences. There’s an understanding there that you don’t get with a health professional,” Cr Ryan said.
“Seeing a loved one deteriorate in front of you is the most horrific thing you as a parent can go through, and something only another parent who has gone though it can understand.”
But through this experience came emotions that often needed dealing with too, the mothers said.
“Everyone’s focused on the situation, or the patient, and nobody stops to ask if you as the parent, the partner are OK,” Ms Davis said.
Cr Ryan agreed, saying there needed to be support services for the entire family.
“People talk about it and talk about it, but there’s been no action. This needs to change,” Cr Ryan said.
The inaugural HopeWalk will be held from 10am to 1pm at the Lakeside Park, Pakenham, on 10 September.
The 1.5km honour walk around the lake, in memory of those lost to suicide, kicks off at 11am.
It will be followed by a family fun day including a sausage sizzle, give-aways, raffles and live entertainment.
Participants are asked to wear yellow and black, and are encouraged to bring photos of friends and family lost to suicide.
To register for free tickets, visit facebook.com/HopeWalkAU/