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Albany suicide vigil shines light in darkness

Dick Davis saves his son’s hat for special occasions.

He might wear it to a blues concert because they shared a love of blues music.

But it is one of the few possessions he has that belonged to his boy, Simon.

The Kendenup man was wearing his favourite hat at Albany’s first suicide prevention vigil on Tuesday night, where he spoke openly about losing his 42-year-old son in front of about 200 people in the Albany Town Square.

The From Darkness to Light vigil was organised by the Great Southern Suicide Prevention Advisory Group.

Mr Davis felt compelled to get involved after reading about it on the front page of the Advertiser.

Kendenup man Dick Davis spoke at the vigil.Kendenup man Dick Davis spoke at the vigil.
Camera IconKendenup man Dick Davis spoke at the vigil.Picture: Liam Croy

It was an emotional evening, and Mr Davis gave a frank and moving account of his loss in the days before Christmas, 2017.

“(Simon) didn’t talk about his state of mind to family or friends, to anyone, He planned it pretty well and he did it,” Mr Davis said.

“We were left grieving and it still hurts.”

His advice for others dealing with loss is to find someone to share your innermost thoughts with, whether it is a relative, a friend or someone who has been through a similar experience.

If things do not get better, ask for professional help.

“Be prepared for grief ambushes, where a sound, a name, a song, a smell or a place can knock you down and make you burst out crying,” he said.

“It happens.”

Mr Davis read out a poem his youngest daughter wrote for him nine months after Simon’s death, when he was struggling to move forward.

The vigil brought some in the crowd to tears.The vigil brought some in the crowd to tears.
Camera IconThe vigil brought some in the crowd to tears.Picture: Liam Croy

“You lost someone who brought you things that, I can guess, I cannot bring,” the poem said.

“Your face has changed, the humour strained, the distant you is now my pain,

“I want to say I am right here, words of comfort that you can’t hear.”

The poem went on, urging him to see “something stronger than grief, than hate, regret”.

“Can I hold you close, weep and feel, look in your eyes and watch you heal?” it said.

“He felt alone, he gave up hope.

“Now we choose how to live and cope.”

In the crowd at the town square, Lesley Coad was in tears as she clutched a photo of her son, Kane.

Kane Troy Slaughter took his own life 11 years ago at the age of 20, for reasons only fully known to himself.

Lesley Coad and friends mourning her son, Kane.Lesley Coad and friends mourning her son, Kane.
Camera IconLesley Coad and friends mourning her son, Kane.Picture: Liam Croy

“I was not prepared for it in any way,” Ms Coad said.

“The horrific thing is that everybody wants to know why. If I knew why, I would have stopped it.”

Ms Coad said she eventually reached out to her son’s close friends after his death.

She did not ask them to come and speak to her — she only had one request.

“Kane was a huge skateboarder and that was what I missed the most, the sound of the skateboard up and down the driveway,” Ms Coad said.

“I put a thing out on Facebook saying ‘you don’t have to come and talk to me but can you ride your skateboard down my driveway?’

“That’s when they started coming to visit me.”

Kane was his mother’s only child, her “world”.

Geoff Waldeck played before and after the speeches.Geoff Waldeck played before and after the speeches.
Camera IconGeoff Waldeck played before and after the speeches.Picture: Liam Croy

“It was just him and me and he decided to leave and my life’s never been the same,” she said.

She said the theme of the vigil — breaking the silence around suicide — was a vital message.

One of Kane’s good friends was at the vigil with Ms Coad, also in tears.

He said he had lost three more friends to suicide since then — the most recent in May.

Headspace Albany manager Andrew Wenzel said the community had a responsibility to challenge the stigma around suicide.

Men, who were about four times more likely to take their own lives in WA than women, needed to start seeing vulnerability and openness as strength, he said.

“If we don’t talk about the things that challenge us, we can’t hope to change them,” Mr Wenzel said.

About 200 people gathered in the town square.About 200 people gathered in the town square.
Camera IconAbout 200 people gathered in the town square.Picture: Liam Croy

“This isn’t easy, but we all need to challenge the myth that talking about suicide may put ideas into the head of someone who’s struggling. It just isn’t the case.

“We know that for people bereaved by suicide, there’s a whole stack of difficult emotions that we have to process — shame, sadness, anger, blame, including blaming ourselves for deaths by suicide.

“When we remain silent, these emotions are all the more difficult for us to make sense of.

“Tonight we hope that we can all agree to put an end to the silence around suicide.”

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