The suicide epidemic has touched us all, writes Maggie Cooper.
The suicide epidemic has touched us all, writes Maggie Cooper. CHRISSY HARRIS

Community rallies after the heartbreaking loss of mate

I WROTE in this column last month about a mate and neighbour who went missing recently.

I'm sad to say his body was found in heavy scrub by bushwalkers in mid-December. He died close to the time he disappeared.

This dreadful suicide epidemic is something that, I imagine, has touched us all at some point.

In this case, a lengthy list of small but significant tragedies in recent months, as well as chronic severe pain from a sporting injury, apparently became too much for him.

For some reason he chose to not take prescribed pain medication after surgery to repair his shoulder and he hadn't slept properly for months by the time he died; never, ever underestimate the damage ongoing insomnia can wreak on the human spirit.

I, and others who knew and loved him, have shed countless tears for the loneliness of his passing, in the bush, in the dark.

He was a vital part of the fabric of our street and I'm having trouble believing he's gone.

The community in our small village has been marvellous.

Groups scoured the surrounding area after he went missing, to no avail. People printed and distributed flyers and joined a community Facebook page.

By the time he was found his information had been shared 200,000 times.

A rather taciturn and occasionally grumpy older man who lives four doors from us met me in the street the day after Mark was found; he was visibly shaken. He was one who joined in the search; he spent more than eight hours scouring the tick-infested bush in searing temperatures.

He mumbled to me, close to tears, "I hoped if he saw me, he would trust me enough to let me bring him home."

We are both, in our own way, heartbroken.

So many neighbours and friends have been so very kind, though, and it's renewed my faith in society.

Couples and small groups have been drawn daily to the beach he loved, frequently with bunches of flowers to cast on the waves. Spare rooms were offered to family and friends travelling from far-flung places for his funeral.

Suicide is not restricted to men, I know, but statistics show they are more at risk. Your local Men's Shed is a great place to learn or teach skills while finding companionship and support. It was explained to me by the blokes at our local Shed that women talk best face-to-face; men, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Above all, don't be embarrassed or afraid to ask those you know if they are ok, or need help. Sometimes that's all it takes to make a huge difference in the lives of those who are struggling.

Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467.