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'They didn't have to blame me, I blamed myself'

SEEK SUPPORT: Cheryl Beale (left) and Valerie White believe starting conversations is vital to assisting those at risk of suicide.
SEEK SUPPORT: Cheryl Beale (left) and Valerie White believe starting conversations is vital to assisting those at risk of suicide. Elyse Wurm

WHEN Valerie White lost her daughter to suicide, there was a resounding silence that surrounded her.

Ms White said the stigma that is still attached to suicide kept people at a distance and increased the unimaginable grief she was left to bear.

She said she felt the death was treated differently to other tragedies.

"Everybody stood back when my daughter died," she said.

"I felt like people were judging me, I felt like I was to blame."

But through the darkness Ms White found a voice in Cheryl Beale, another woman who knew the unique and debilitating pain that comes from losing a child to suicide.

Ms White's daughter Pam Ondrovcik was just 21 when she died, while Ms Beale's son Xylon Smith was 20 when he took his own life in June 2013.

Ms White said the death came as a shock.

"I never knew for one minute that she was suicidal," she said.

"She was a very happy-go-lucky girl, she had all the friends in the world."

She said for a long time she blamed herself and thought others, in their silence, blamed her too.

"I looked in their eyes and it looked like they were blaming me," she said.

"They didn't have to blame me, I blamed myself."

Ms Beale said her son had been struggling with depression and problems in his life had started to build up.

"If it worried him within himself, he didn't show us," she said. "When you tried to talk to him it was, 'I'm right, I'm okay.'"

Ms White would now like to be the voice for those who may be struggling and their families who need support.

She said having had support through her own struggles would have made a world of difference.

"I know how sad your family are so I want to be a voice for people," she said.

Both women said they felt starting conversations about suicide, no matter beating the stigma. "I think the word suicide scares people," Ms Beale said.

"If someone even looks down, don't be scared to ask, 'Are you okay? Do you need anything?'"

Ms White believes those with a mental illness are treated differently to those with physical injuries.

"You can break your leg, you can break your arm and everybody can fix that.

"If somebody says I've got a mental illness, nobody wants to say 'Are you alright?'"

"These people that commit suicide, they're in so much pain that they can't see what they're doing and why they're doing it."

If you or someone you know needs help phone Lifeline 131114 or beyondblue 1300224636.

Topics:  beyondblue mental health suicide prevention



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