Darkest day to shed light on suicide

“BITTERSWEET”, Annette Baker says after some consideration.

Her visit yesterday to the Albury-Wodonga Equestrian Centre was the first in two years.

And yet that single word seems to be describing much, much more.

Yesterday was the first time Mrs Baker returned to the centre since her 15-year-old daughter Mary, an avid horse rider, took her own life.

It was also the first time she met Jennifer Watterson face-to-face, a fellow suicide “survivor” who seemed to “get” her instantly.

It was just one day away from tonight, the Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide evening, which Mrs Baker and her husband Stuart have played a key role in organising.

As dusk starts to fall, suicide survivors will gather at Albury’s QEII Square from 5pm, in the hope of healing the hurt and continuing a discussion both Mrs Baker and Ms Watterson agree needs to happen more often.

“We need to demystify it (suicide) for the community,” said Ms Watterson, who will be speaking at tonight’s event about the loss of her brother.

“The grief you feel is quite different. It’s constantly just sitting under there and it doesn’t take much to bring it back. But it’s not a journey you have to take alone.

“We need to learn to say to each other, ‘Are you OK?’, and be prepared for when the answer is ‘No, I’m not’.”

Ms Watterson, who lives in Bundaberg, Queensland, has spoken at events across the country about suicide awareness and removing the stigma associated with it.

She and Mrs Baker had spoken just twice before yesterday’s meeting but to see the two women deep in conversation — exchanging the odd joke and, at times, finishing each other’s sentences — one would think they’d been friends for years.

For her part, Ms Watterson is keen to share her story, particularly the need to accept your grief and have support from family and friends — something she admires in the Bakers.

“It took me four years before I could talk to anyone about my brother,” she said.

“I’m amazed at their bravery to do this after two years and I think because their family is so connected it helps so much more.”

For full details about the event, its guest speakers and performers visit our interactive web page Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide.

Also, view our editorial "Give your support over suicide" here.

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