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Darwin remembers loved ones and friends lost to suicide

17 November 2017 Wesley Mission news

It was a significant occasion when Darwin hosted its inaugural Wesley LifeForce Memorial Service on 19 October.

LifeForce Darwin smoking ceremonyFor the first time, people from the northern city and the Top End, who had lost loved ones or friends to suicide, gathered next to the azure waters of Darwin Harbour to reflect upon their loss, and to hear from others who had journeyed the same road.

At the service, Wesley Mission CEO, the Rev Keith Garner, said recovery or healing from a loss by suicide can be an extremely difficult journey.

“The process of mending a broken heart does not take a week, a month or a year but a lifetime,” Mr Garner said.

“The road to healing is not only long, but can be bumpy with many obstacles in the way. However by drawing upon inner-resources and by being in touch with our feelings, we can find an appropriate attitude to the past, the present and the future. The Wesley LifeForce Memorial Service is an opportunity to provide comfort to those bereaved by suicide, to help reduce the stigma associated with suicide and to honour the memory of their loved ones. The message to the people of the Top End is that you are not alone in your grief.”

Vanessa Low, who lost her 16-year-old son Taylor Thomas Luck to suicide in 2014, shared her story at the service. She turned her grief into something positive, founding the Come Walk With Me event to raise awareness about the impact of suicide.

Mr Garner also interviewed Kerrie Keepa, who lost her son Christopher by suicide in September 2014. She also lost one brother, two sisters and a nephew to suicide. Kerrie is passionate about suicide awareness and prevention, founding the ‘SOS Fast’ (Survivors of Suicide Fighting Against Suicide Toll).

Video courtesy of ABC News

Reflective songs and performances by Rev Basil Schild and Adam Scriven provided a fitting ambience. Those attending the service had the opportunity to cast a bright sunflower into Darwin Harbour in memory of their loved one or friend.

Other individuals and families left messages of love and remembrance on the Wesley LifeForce Memorial Wall. Counsellors were also present at the service to provide support.

The service was led by the Rev Steve Orme, drawing together participants and representatives from the Uniting Church in Australia Northern Synod, Aboriginal Resource and Development Services (ARDS), and Anglicare NT.

Wesley LifeForce began in 1995 and has since trained more than 35,000 Australians in suicide prevention skills in metropolitan, regional and remote Australia. It has also helped in the development and ongoing support of 70 community-based suicide prevention networks—many of them Indigenous—across the nation with the number expected to reach more than 90 in the next few years.

The memorial service followed a three-day Wesley LifeForce Networks conference in Darwin, which attracted network representatives from throughout Australia who shared and discussed strategies on community-based responses to prevention and early intervention.

Other memorial services were held in Sydney, Newcastle and Adelaide, where more than 150 people gathered at South Australia's Henley Beach.