Conversations about suicide - Leigh's story

S1: I had an unfortunate situation about eight years ago, when I was 22, where my father had taken his own life. A tough circumstance that not many life skills can prepare you for, particularly at that age or at any age.

S2: I'm wondering if you can take us to that time. What was going on in the lead-up to your father killing himself? 

S1: Look, at the time, I definitely didn't think there was any thoughts. But looking back, dad was very...basically removed in a lot of things that he did. He had his work, and he didn't have a lot of friends. He spent a lot of time basically in his own space. I probably had a lot of guilt, I was the last person actually to see him before it happened. You go through, "What if I had done this?" or "I could have done that differently." But unfortunately, you'll never know. They're not here to actually ask. You'll never know the exact reason.

S2: Maybe you can reflect on how that was for you in the immediate aftermath in terms of your coping, how you dealt with things at the time? 

S1: I had the police come over to let us know. When it happened, I was actually the only one home. I think they felt my response might have been a little bit different, where my first question was, "So, what do I need to do next, to basically get this sorted and such? Get the next steps done?" I probably thought I was doing everything right. But again, a lot of time has past, I probably done a lot of wrong things. When it happened, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to go and do the identification and do all those sort of things that you feel like... I was the eldest son, I didn't really want mum to actually have to handle that stuff. In hindsight, probably sort of sat down and absorbed a lot of what was happening rather than trying to be a fixer or just do what you think you have to do as a bit of a checklist.

S2: Leigh, if you could share about strategies that you've used to cope along the way? 

S1: Well initially, coping was more of just a day-by-day, a "do what needs to be done" type scenario. Really, not the greatest way to go about it. I really just basically sort of peaked on. There's a lot of dark times early on. But it was just a push on, "you've just got to do, just got to do" type scenario. Obviously, since then, I've had a lot of time to reflect, I've spoken to a couple of counsellors. And now, it's just basically any triggers that I would say, whether I'm getting frustrated or getting upset, I just try and step back and do what I need to do, or do something I enjoy, whether it's playing golf, or playing cricket with some guys. Or just sort of re-engaging with certain things.

S2: I wonder if you can tell us a little bit more about going to see a counsellor and how that path was for you 'cause I understand you didn't do that straight away.

S1: No, that probably took me five to six years to actually go and do something. At the time, I was probably, "Why would I go and see a counsellor? I didn't do anything, I haven't done the wrong thing. Or whether I'm not... I don't need to see them. It's basically... It was my father who had taken his life. I'm the normal one," if that makes sense. I think a lot of guys see going to a counsellor as a very negative thing. Where it's not... It's basically... How it came about was, my partner basically she had done all the research and said, "I've booked you a time to go and see someone on this set day. You should turn up," type thing. And I did and it's probably... I wouldn't say it's absolutely the best thing I've done, but it's a very important thing that I've done in the process. But basically going and seeing a counsellor really... You can unload everything that you wanna say in an environment that basically there's no judging.

S2: That's great that you had your partner that could support you to find this space.

S1: Yeah, absolutely. She's been very important to where I am today. A lot of credit would honestly go back to the way that she'd supported me through a lot of these things. And probably persisted a lot in areas that I may not have.

S2: Leigh, I know we've spoken about the role of your friends in your journeys.

S1: Yeah, absolutely. They just gave that normality and didn't really ask too many questions. Understood and respected what had happened, but then at the same time just basically got you busy doing other things. Or like I said, going down and having a beer at the pub or just playing some golf, or just normal things. Or going to dinner, have a movie, all that normal stuff that you guys had been always doing. This is always something that's gonna be there. It's never gonna go away. It's, I guess, you have to, within yourself, recognize that there's a problem or you're not coping. And if you can come to terms with and be honest enough with yourself that, "Yep, I need help," or "I wanna get through this", absolutely, there's... You'll live a normal life, or you'll probably live a better life than you did beforehand.