CASSIE can hardly recognise the person she was three years ago. But more than anything the vibrant 17-year-old tells Ashley Argoon she is glad her attempts to end her life in those angst-ridden days were unsuccessful.
IT was in the aftermath of losing a close friend to suicide and her mum suffering a stillbirth that *Cassie, then 14, felt the onset of a deep depression.
“Just after (my friend) passed away, that triggered it,” she says.
“For someone to be taken away from you so suddenly, your heart aches.
“It was my first experience of losing someone.”
Cassie says she had so much anger and hurt inside her but didn’t have anybody to talk to.
Frustrated by feelings she didn’t understand, she picked fights with family and friends.
“I lost heaps of my friends just because I had this attitude that I didn’t care,” she says.
“I was indestructible, I felt I could do what I wanted and I didn’t care about the consequences, but in the end it all came back on me and I lost everybody.”
Cassie stopped going to school.
She didn’t want to get out of bed.
Instead, she would shut herself off in her Albury home and pass the time by taking speed and smoking marijuana.
She made herself throw up because she believed she was overweight.
“I didn’t know where to go for help,” she says.
That was when Cassie made the first attempt to take her own life.
It was a week after her friend’s funeral.
“I just felt as though it would be easier ... that you would not have to worry about anything,” Cassie said.
The brother of her friend who died the week earlier was actually the one who drove her to hospital after her attempt.
When he had to go to work, it was his mother — the mother of her friend who died — who kept a vigil over Cassie.
This same woman refused to sign the hospital release for Cassie because she knew the girl planned to go out partying and the risks that could present.
Her attempt to protect Cassie ended with the 14-year-old pulling away from one of the few support networks she had.
After her visit to the hospital, Cassie received calls from a counselling service every few days.
While she believes phone services may help some people, she says she felt uncomfortable talking to a stranger on the phone.
So she drifted on, alone with her problems and grief.
A few months later, a fight with girlfriends at school was the final straw and she made a second attempt on her life.
“In a way, I felt as though I wanted attention, I wanted people to know I was hurting,” she admits.
“I did want to die, but at the same time it was a cry for help.
“I wanted someone to know how I was feeling and to understand, but I couldn’t explain it.
“I couldn’t find the words to explain it because I didn’t know myself, I was just confused.”
It was after her second hospital admission that Cassie’s mum sought out a service and requested face-to-face counselling.
An appointment was found with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
That was then.
NOW an outgoing, sociable young woman, Cassie speaks openly about her problems and is happy to chat with a complete stranger about those dark days.
She’s mended relationships, reconnected with her mother and is busy spending time with friends.
“I look back now and I think, I could never do that,” Cassie says.
“I really do, I think how could I have done that?
“Now, I do value my life and I couldn’t imagine not being here.
“No one would ever think what I’ve been through because I’ve turned out to be such a strong and independent person.”
For Cassie, getting the help she needed was what got her through.
“It makes you realise,” she says.
“You look at things completely differently.”
At first she admits she hated the weekly visit to the counsellor’s office; that she was embarrassed to accept help.
But the sessions made her realise she could work through her problems.
Often she would just sit with her counsellor and talk about what she had done during the week.
But at least she was talking.
“Talking, that’s all it comes down to, I can’t stress that enough,” Cassie says.
“You don’t want to talk, though, you just want to shut everybody else out, but you’ve got to, you’ve got to work up that motivation to talk to somebody and get help.
“Don’t be ashamed of it.”
CASSIE has worked through her problems with the help of a counsellor and anti-depressants but she still holds on to one thing.
She’s infuriated at a system that allowed her friend to slip through the cracks — and that it could have been her.
“People aren’t taking it seriously enough that it just keeps happening,” she says.
“The hospitals are ridiculous ... there aren’t enough services.
“I never knew about CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), I never knew about anything until it happened.
“You’ve got to make it so people know, because they’re not going to ask, but if they know that it’s there, maybe they will get help.”
CASSIE wants the silence around suicide to be broken.
She wants a TV campaign similar to ones directed at the road toll, as well as fund-raisers for support services, talks on suicide in schools, and a year adviser who can counsel students.
She believes if a strong effort is made to publicise suicide prevention, if information is absolutely everywhere, those at risk will at least know how and where to get help.
Cassie often wonders whether she would have even attempted suicide if there had been that sort of campaign running when she was at risk.
“It can happen to anybody and the thing is you can’t see it and you don’t know,” she says.
“But it’s not going to go away, it’s going to be there whether you see it or not.”
For the time being, while campaigns on suicide are rare and few people know how to get help, Cassie has a simple message for those who may be struggling.
“I’d tell them every day is a new day,” she says.
“It’s such a cliche, everyone says it, but it’s so true.
“Just make them realise how precious life is.”
*Cassie’s real name was not used in this article.