ON Sunday, September 14, 2014, Melville councillor Lisa O’Malley lost her elder brother Michael Hams to suicide.
On the same day, his son Will – one of two children – reached a contract extension with the Essendon Bombers that would lead to eleven AFL outings in the following two years.
Michael missed all of them.
He also missed his oldest son Tom’s wedding, which took place on Wednesday.
Determined to prevent other families from experiencing the same pain, Mrs O’Malley has signed on as one of nine new Lifeline WA ambassadors, working to help prevent the loss of more lives to suicide.
“In a family of talkers, Michael was the listener,” she said.
“He was the one who would consider first before he would start putting in his bit. We are a large, boisterous, competitive family. The dinner table was always a place of laughter, but he was quieter.”
Michael studied nursing as a mature age student and Mrs O’Malley believes his role as a health care professional made it difficult for him to disclose his own problems.
“He gave a lot – to his community, to his family, he was incredibly selfless,” she said.
“I think he put himself last and lost sight of what he needed to do to stay well, because he was so busy caring for others.
“I think he was typical of many men, he just had that inability to reach out and say the words ‘I need help.’”
Mrs O’Malley firmly believes that if Michael had just reached out at his lowest point – to family, a friend or a crisis support service like Lifeline – he would still be here today.
“Suicide is a thief,” she said.
“It steals people. It stole my brother, and for my parents, it stole their son. For his family it stole a husband and a father.
“What we have to do to safeguard against that, we can’t just keep leaving the door open.
“It’s up to all of us, whether it’s an individual or a family, the community, society, government; we have to do something more, we just have to.
“We’ve got to step up, because we are losing people. And they are valuable people in our community.”
Festive season Lifeline’s busiest period
Thedays leading up to Christmas and New Year are the busiest time of year for Lifeline’s crisis support line.
Every 32 seconds someone will call, with 14 per cent of callers at imminent risk of suicide.
Suicide is an escalating problem in WA; this year alone Lifeline received 55,000 calls from West Australians in need of support.
Lifeline WA urgently needs funding to train more crisis support volunteers to answer more calls and save more lives.
This year, the organisation is shining a light for every person who finds the courage to call 13 11 14 during the festive season.
Western Australia’s tallest Christmas tree will be displayed at Elizabeth Quay throughout December, adorned with thousands of sparkling lights, representing the lives of all those who called Lifeline WA this year.
All WestAustralians are encouraged to donate $25 to help ensure there is always someone available to answer the next call.
To donate, visit www.lights.org.au.