Nina Oldham’s impassioned plea comes after her daughter, Tayla Rae, took her own life in June this year.
“I feel if I was a bit more in tune, it could have been a different outcome, my parental manual failed me on this one,’’ she said.
“People say ‘talk to your kids’ but we really need to be having open discussions with our kids and getting to know them and let them in.
“It’s about really listening and reading between the lines – and reading between the lines on Facebook statuses.
“Even if it comes across as attention seeking, give them the attention – because the next time, it might not be.
“I am no expert in any of this, or parenting for that matter, I’m simply sharing what I saw as a teenager’s mum who needed help.”
Nina believes that parents should be sharing more than just the happy memories of their childhoods and letting their children know life wasn’t always easy.
“Part of the problem is that we don’t talk about how hard our life was sometimes,’’ she said.
“We talk a lot about what life was like for us, but we don’t talk about how it wasn’t always good. “We need to tell our kids they’re not abnormal – they’re not broken, their pain is real and we need to listen to them, not judge them.
“People don’t realise how harsh their words are and also don’t realise how much small, kind words help.’’
Nina will today hold a 12-hour stationary bike ride at Doherty’s Gym to raise money for Australia’s national youth mental health foundation, Headspace.
Today’s event is part of her training for a 130km fund-raising bike ride at Falls Creek in January.The proceeds of the ride will also go to Headspace.
“This is not about me – I just want to raise money so it can go to the experts who know how to help,’’ Nina said. “We need to get the message out there that kids shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, and they need to know where to go for help.
“Mental illness and depression are looked down on and kids don’t talk about suicide, it’s taboo.
“But teens don’t realise the impact is has later on down the track – it has affected so many lives.’’
Tayla was never diagnosed with depression, but according to Nina “it’s crystal clear, now’’.
“Prior to that, she was happy,’’ Nina said.
Tayla was a normal teenager who adored her seven-year-old brother, Fletcher, her blended families, loved Facebook and her phone.
“She was such a helper – such a giving, caring person.
“And I believe that’s a sign as well, someone who is always there for everyone else but never asks for anything in return.
“She had a very big heart, she didn’t ask for anything, she just wanted world peace.’’
In hindsight, however, there were small warning signs.
“But when they get themselves together overnight and they’re happy, that’s when you’ve got to watch them – they have made their decision,’’ Nina said.
“She was the last person on earth anyone thought would do it – they were just absolutely shocked.
“She was always there to help with everybody else’s problems but struggled the most talking about her own problems.’’
It’s for that reason Nina chose something she believed would be mentally and physically challenging for her, because “Tayla’s everyday life was physically and mentally impossible’’ for her.
“If I wasn’t doing this, I would be in a mental health hospital,’’ she said. “It really proves that nothing is impossible after such tragedy.
“I don’t want to dwell on the bad; she wanted to end her life, not mine.
“I believe she is looking down on all of us and would want all her friends and families to have the most amazing lives.
“I don’t want sympathy, there is no choice but to go on – but you have your moments, all the time.’’
Today’s ride will be held from 6am until 6pm. The day will include a sausage sizzle and Christmas baubles decorated in Tayla’s memory will be for sale.
In January, Nina will complete the Ride for Tayla Rae with friends Sharon Bradley and Kevin Harding, whom she credits with pulling her through the dark times.
She said she couldn’t thank the pair enough for all the dedication and effort they had put into the training.
“To have friends like this and many others who have taken this on as passionately as I have, they have been there every step of the way, their positive and supportive attitudes inspire me to keep going.
“It’s the friends and family in my life today that I am truly blessed to be supported by and sharing life with.’’