As we navigate this new way of life, good mental health should be a priority because mental illness doesn’t take a break. If anything, recognising the signs of mental illness early is more important than ever.
That is why we have asked Debbie to share her story with you.
We are very grateful to Debbie and her family for sharing such a difficult story. By talking about her daughter Maddy in such a personal way shows great strength. It shows an innate desire to help those affected by mental illness.
Debbie’s experience demonstrates that mental illness does not discriminate. Directly or indirectly, it touches us all.
My name is Debbie. I have a doting husband, and two beautiful children. But now my son is an only child.
Two years ago, my daughter Maddy took her own life.
Before she died, our house was filled with her energy and kindness. Now there is an emptiness because she is not there. Her seat at the table is no longer filled.
Her birthdays are excruciating. I thought they would get easier over time, but they just get harder. I go back to thinking about when she was born, and it breaks my heart all over again.
Maddy had depression and severe anxiety. She was bullied relentlessly throughout school and afterwards. But rarely spoke about her mental health to others.
It affected every aspect of her life.
She always lived in fear. Fear of all kinds of things, but particularly fear of people judging her.
She felt it was too hard, and she was too much of a burden.
If only she knew how loved she was.
More than 500 people attended her funeral and our house was filled with beautiful flowers. Our family, our friends and our community were devastated.
I still see the images of the man in a suit at my front door. I saw him as I walked into the house with my son. I instantly knew something was wrong. All feeling left my body. I walked inside where two friends of mine were waiting. My husband asked me to sit down.
He said Maddy had taken her life.
I can still hear the screams. They will never leave me.
None of it made sense to me.
She was beautiful. She was so loyal, so generous and so talented. Yet, I never heard her say anything positive about herself.
Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts families, friends and communities.
Eight people. That is how many die by suicide in Australia every day ¹
In fact, when Maddy died, suicide was the leading cause of death for young Australians.
Tragically, it happens to families all over Australia and all over the world. Just like our family.
This cannot happen again. It is not acceptable. I never want another family to feel what we’ve felt.
To go through the intense horror of losing a beloved daughter, sister, granddaughter, partner, niece, cousin and friend in this way, is the cruellest thing.
I am very passionate about supporting mental health research. I do not want suicide to have the devastating effect on others that it had on my family. I don’t want mental illness to cause pain to anyone else.
Please, give generously. I will continue to fight for Maddy’s memory.
Donate now to support research on ways to prevent suicide and suicidal behaviour.
This can be her legacy. To protect other vulnerable people who need help.
Will you fight with me?
Every day in Australia beautiful families are being torn apart by suicide. Please help ensure this heartbreaking story is never repeated. Your gift will:
- support research on ways to prevent suicide and suicidal behaviour
- help find out what causes mental illness, how to treat it and how to prevent it from happening
- support research that could help us recognise the signs of mental illness so we can intervene earlier to save a life
If I can help make some change, some impact that is positive and hopeful, I feel I can help Maddy. Telling my story today has been very hard, because I am a very private person. But the importance of this story is bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us.
I think back to when Maddy was growing up. As a baby, people would stop me in the street just to tell me what a beautiful baby she was. Or how cute she looked laughing and smiling at everything.
And she was a happy child. She was happy all the time. Her laughter filled the house and made it a home.
She was so excited when she found out she was going to be a big sister. She wanted it to be a girl because she wanted a little sister. When her brother arrived, she asked me to send him back and go and get another one!
But she was so protective of him when they were little. She loved being his babysitter.
And they would play games and run around throughout the house.
Maddy was a beautiful pianist. She started playing very young and always excelled at whatever she put her mind to. She would be too shy to play for us, but we would hear her as she practised. She played beautifully. My mum and dad were the special ones that she performed for.
And so bright. Considering the bullying she went through in high school, she finished with extremely high grades and was at university studying to be a teacher. She loved children and was so good with them. Maddy would have made an exceptional teacher.
But she’s not here anymore.
This appeal for help today is not for me and it’s not for Maddy. But it is for thousands of other young Australians who need your help.
Maddy’s insecurities were fuelled by hurtful bullies. She began self-harming in high school.
I had no idea how much she had to endure and how lonely she felt until the psychological trauma became evident in later years.
The stigma of mental health and suicide is cruel for those who are suffering.
We all need to be able to talk about it and help each other. After all, it’s so easy to be kind.
We’re all connected, we’re all part of this universe, let’s help and support each other.
You can be this support for someone with mental illness. Someone like Maddy.
A life like Maddy’s.
My family and I have had to rebuild our lives. It looks very different now Maddy is not here.
She’s not here to make jokes. She’s not here to give her grandmother a cuddle. She’s not here to roll around on the floor and play with her dog Lola.
But I am here. And so are you. And together, we can make a difference. To help create a life free from mental illness.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.
Life is changing as we know it. The way we interact with others has changed dramatically. Now more than ever we must put mental health first. Your gift today will help answer many of the unknowns around mental illness. It will help to find out why mental illness occurs in the first place. It will transform lives.
Please send your gift before 30 June. Remember, donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.
¹Productivity Commission Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Australia
Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation is not a mental health support service.
If you or someone close to you is experiencing distress or you would like further information, please click here.