World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), on 10 September, is organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). The World Health Organization (WHO) has been co-sponsor of the day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.
According to WHO, “in past years, over 300 activities in around 70 countries were reported to IASP, including educational and commemorative events, press briefings and conferences, as well as Facebook and Twitter coverage. Over 800,000 people die by suicide every year. Furthermore, for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts.
Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts on families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies. Suicides are preventable. Much can be done to prevent suicide at individual, community and national levels.”
What does the day mean to me though….
I now know the facts but I didn’t know them before the day of 11th November 2013.
That was the day my best friend, identical twin sister, Elizabeth, decided it was time for her to leave this earth.
The first walk on Suicide Prevention Day that I went to was in Melbourne as the Mornington Peninsula did not have one yet. I remember the overwhelming feeling of driving an hour by myself and walking into this large park called Birrarung Marr that was filled with so many people. I was in awe by the number of people here and I didn’t know where to turn first but I remember people asking if I had put my loved ones name down to be called out. I quickly ran to put her name and age down. This was extremely important to me. Then I collected a purple ribbon, her favourite colour and put her name on it with a small note from me. I waited patiently with watery eyes as they started to call the names out. The tears flowed as I heard all of the names and ages, some so young and some so much older. They finally called her name out, Elizabeth Phillips aged 38. The tears kept flowing. There was no one there to hug or console me. It was just me remembering my twin sister and my best friend. This was a walk I was doing on my own and only with my sister.
I started attending the Frankston Support After Suicide Group thereafter and have been lucky enough to have found some very special people that have been extremely supportive over these past years. When the first Suicide Prevention Day Walk came to Mornington, I was happy there was a walk much closer to home. I met up at this walk with some of my support group and it was then that I realised I wasn’t so alone. The people that attend are all in my shoes… they have dealt with suicide in some way or another. We were all here to support each other, grieve and remember our lost loved ones, and most importantly give hope that we can keep going in life. I felt like I now had a support group and we all are helping one another. I wasn’t just grieving alone.
In 2019, I became a volunteer at Chasing Change. I wanted to make a difference and try to help others in any way possible. I felt so grateful to also volunteer at the Suicide Prevention
Day Walk this year. It was so empowering on a different level, being involved and feeling like I was making a difference. This year I knew more personal family & friends also attending.
I didn’t have time to prepare for my grief as I had so much else to prepare for. But as I walked up to the podium to read out a poem and some of the names and ages of our lost loves ones, I was physically trembling all over… from head to toe. These were names of loves ones that all of these people in this overwhelming crowd had lost, just like my twin Elizabeth. The moment when you read that persons name out loud it.. just felt so real and I had to fight to hold back the tears. The lump in my throat was so massive and the pain in my heart was so heavy… I just kept thinking… WHY?
Why did all of our loves ones think their time was up when it was just too soon?
Why did they need to leave us and feel there was no way that things could possibly get better…
I can’t tell you how many hugs and conversations were had after the walk.
I grieved for my sister dearly but I also grieved for all of our loved ones lost by suicide.
As we approach the 2020 walk, this year the theme is “WORKING TOGETHER TO PREVENT SUICIDE” again. It was felt appropriate to keep the same theme this year due to the ongoing world pandemic, we need to work together more than ever.
We can’t hold a walk this year on the Mornington Peninsula but we are coming together “online” to support one another in the best way that we can.
World Suicide Prevention Day now means to me….
- A day to remember my best friend and twin sis who I cry every day for. I will do a walk on my own & have a chat with her to remind her how much she is loved and missed. I will tie a ribbon as I have always done on my Queen Elizabeth rose bush that I planted for her and I will write that special message that I do each & every year.
- It is also a chance for me to reach out to my support group and all the new friends I have now made that are part of this suicide bereavement. We never asked to be in this group but here we are and we need to support one another.
- And finally it’s a day where we want to give HOPE.
This is a day to provide awareness to the community as well as support.
We want to connect people in every way possible so people know they are not alone….and if just one life is saved, then it has all been worth it.
Written by Rebecca Tyler