I found out today that a well respected, popular and active part of our local autism community took their own life over the weekend.
I didn’t know this person personally but we were mutual members of several local autism facebook groups and I had attended a few school meetings with them in attendance. I always respected their views on autism and their passion for advocacy and for taking these issues up with politicians and others who matter.
This person was not afraid to go to the media when our local ASPECT school was asked to leave their premises of many years and had nowhere else to go. They were willing and able to organise other parents to challenge the status quo and the result was the offer of land upon which to build a new permanent school for ASPECT in the Hunter.
This person was a passionate advocate for increasing autism funding and finding new ways to support our kids and spreading awareness and acceptance. They were a source of information, support and understanding and would often share a wide range of articles they sourced from all over the internet.
They had a keen mind and regularly dissected quite lengthy and complex policy statements and submissions into plain English for the rest of us to digest. They always had the time to provide words of wisdom and support for others beginning on this journey and never judged others for their views or beliefs.
To say I am shocked, saddened and confused at their passing doesn’t come close to describing how I feel right now. This might sound odd as I did not really know them in person but they were an important member of our community and I greatly respected their contribution to spreading awareness both within and without the autism community.
This is why it is such an unexpected tragedy and why it cuts so deep. This person looked out for so many others while suffering silently themselves. As someone remarked on one of the many forums paying their respects, “if this person can’t do it, who can?”. That echoed my very first thought when I first heard the news.
It is a tragic reminder that carers need to be cared for as much as those they are caring for.
All parents and carers of children with special needs, need and deserve, respite from their responsibilities from time to time. They need support and understanding. They deserve respect and assistance.
Tragedies like this shouldn’t have to be. A family should not be without a parent today. A person should not feel that the best or only way forward is to remove themselves from this world.
This may be simplistic but it’s what I believe.
For what it’s worth I tie myself to this life with my belief in my necessity to go on for the sake of my kids and my family. Some days can be tough, really tough. I have suffered depression in the past and it’s no secret that it’s never far from the surface.
Thankfully I have never experienced the utter despair and pain that lead people down the path to contemplate suicide. And I hope to never feel that way.
Tonight, my heart hurts for this person’s family and for everyone else affected by suicide. My heart also hurts for all those carers out there suffering in silence.
Please look out for others, but most importantly, please look after yourself.
If you think you may be suffering from depression talk to someone – a friend, a colleague, a family member, your doctor or a neighbour. Alternatively you can also contact one of the following helplines – BeyondBlue or Lifeline or seek further information from the Black Dog Institute or the federal government’s Mental Health & Wellbeing website.
No one should have to suffer in silence.