If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, dial 000.
Bendigo’s most prolific suicide prevention campaigner is sharing her lived experience with funeral directors so they can better tend to the needs of grieving families.
Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network vice-president Alannah McGregor told a meeting of The Edge, Australia’s only professional development program for funeral directors, about the deaths of her children, Stuart and Angela.
Both young people took their own lives.
Ms McGregor said it was important those bereaved by suicide knew what choices were available when planning a funeral.
“We'd never organised a funeral, we'd never even been to a young person’s funeral,” she said, explaining she would have liked to have been a pall bearer but did not think women were allowed to perform the task.
Mulqueen Family Funerals director and The Edge co-founder Peter Mulqueen, who invited Ms McGregor to speak, said the session left participants with a better understanding of how to “do the right thing” by bereaved families.
“Compassion, empathy are the major qualities for what we do,” he said.
In return for Ms McGregor’s time, The Edge and the Mulqueen funeral home made a donation towards SPAN’s suicide remembrance walk in March.
The pair spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser on the eve of Christmas, a time notorious for people taking their own lives.
“You read about everybody with their big happy families but some people don't have families, or sometimes there's family fights,” she said.
Mulqueen Family Funerals held a Christmas remembrance service for all those who said goodbye to a loved one at their parlour this year; 200 people attended.
These supports were required long after a funeral finished, Ms McGregor explained.
“It’s when everybody starts to go back to work, and get back to normal that it hits you: this isn't a dream,” she said.
“It's then when you start to sink or swim.”
The campaigner recommended those bereaved by suicide reach out to support service Standby on 0439 173 310.
A season spent by the phones
When most people will be sitting down to Christmas lunch on Sunday, Lifeline volunteers will be preparing to take calls from those in crisis.
The helpline’s Central Victoria and Mallee call centre has rostered more of its telephone support crew to meet demand on December 25, chief executive officer Leo Schultz said.
"Christmas is a positive experience for most of us, but for some people it's a period of increasing isolation,” he said, with family estrangement, addiction and poverty among the causes.
“It's a time where we're compelled to spend big on each other but a lot of people can't afford it.”
He hoped the new year would see more funding for his services, either from governments or corporate sponsors.
The service is running a Christmas fundraising camnpaign at www.lifelinecvm.org.au.