This is my thank-you and plea

ENDING THE SUICIDE SILENCE: You can read more personal accounts and interviews in this weekend's special edition of Pulse.

A big brother lost to suicide just a month after her mother’s death from cancer had TAMMY MILLS shrouded in a world of silent grief. She tells of how only recently she has felt ready to talk about it.

I WAS nine when I first heard the word suicide.

I think it was Dad who said it, standing on the path outside our Pacific Island home, the salty smell of the ocean never far away.

Mum and Dad were teaching for Australian Volunteers International and Kiribati, a country made up of 32 atolls near Nauru, was our home for two years.

It was two years of running around barefoot, where big people believed in ghosts, of thatched roofs and grass skirts.

At nine, suicide sounded like sewer and my mind jumped to the television show Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Pain had not clung to the word like it does now.

A boy from our village, Abaiang, had hung himself and Dad was forced to explain to his nine-year-old daughter what suicide meant.

I remember his body covered in cloth in the maneaba, the village meeting place, and the boys beating drums with their hands as they said farewell.

I remember my friends telling me to pray to Jesus so the ghost of the dead boy would not visit me in my sleep three nights after his suicide.

I did pray. 

But suicide would come back to haunt me.

My big brother took his life almost seven years ago. He was 22 and I was 20.

That phone call came when my little sister and I were watching netball in Shepparton. 

It had been barely a month since cancer killed Mum and I was a numb mess.

My sister had gone to the canteen and Dad told me we had to come home. Now. 

We knew even before seeing the police car parked in the driveway.

This is where it gets to the hard part.

I’ve only really just started talking about my big brother.

I spent most of the years after that distracting myself from the pain that terrified me because I thought it would swallow me up.

I finished university, I ran off overseas, I returned home to start work as a journalist and mostly everyone knew what had happened to my family and there was hardly a need to talk about it.

And I never made it okay to talk about it.

Then I got a job at The Border Mail five months ago and I walked into a newsroom where people were talking about it and proud of talking about it.

Within my first week I told a colleague my story. 

I read the Bakers’ story that owned what had happened to them.

Of losing their beloved daughter and sister, Mary, just 15, to suicide.

I made a friend whose mother had killed herself. 

There I was pulling down Ending the Suicide Silence butterflies from the Albury office to send to Canberra.

The Border Mail campaign showed me I was not alone and it was okay to talk about it.

My new colleagues have given me something momentous and this is my thankyou and my plea to keep talking.

By the way, did I tell you my brilliant family is going to be fine? 

Did I tell you I smile sometimes when I think about Daniel?

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