Support group continues through COVID-19

Peer group support members Gerry Leahy and Marcus Ward.

By Steph McNicol

DESPITE the limitations caused by COVID-19 to meet face-to-face, ‘Support After Suicide’ member Gerry Leahy said the group is continuing to provide support.

Before coronavirus, the group used to meet in Newham on the second Monday of each month where they gathered, often with some new faces, to talk about the impacts of suicide on their lives.

The group has adapted to the pandemic by using online Zoom video calls, where they are able to continue their discussions and develop connections based on their experiences with suicide.

“Zoom does have some limitations, but I think it’s been fine. Some people aren’t as familiar with the technical stuff, but its working for now,” Mr Leahy said.

The support person said the group was open to anyone who had been impacted by suicide in any way.

The group was formed as part of the Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Action Group when some of the volunteers bonded over having lost a loved one.

Mr Leahy lost his son Dominic to suicide in 2014, after he had suffered with anxiety for a long time.

“I can only speak for myself, but we lost our son to suicide, and this group is very important to me, because the people who meet together have had a similar experience,” Mr Leahy said.

“They might not understand exactly, but what’s happened to me has happened to them, and we can talk about lived experience.

“It’s important that people in the community know about our existence and they know there is a place where they can come and talk about what they have experienced too.”

During meetings, the group often have a speaker they listen to, which they have been able to do through Zoom, or they give people time to talk about their experience.

“We give people the chance to talk, or not talk, and some talk again, and again. People form bonds there and stay in touch through email,” Mr Leahy said.

“Before COVID-19, some people would organise to meet for coffee after meeting new people.”

Mr Leahy said the group would continue to meet after COVID-19 and they would be back to their normal setup at Newham.

“We will continue meeting in that format, and as always we welcome new people to attend, and give them time until they’re ready to talk,” he said.

“We’re amongst a group of people who have experienced grief in a way only people who have lost someone to suicide have experienced.

“The people that come know they’re talking to people who understand.”

For their next meeting, June 8, the group will listen to a speaker, Rob Gordon, who will speak about grief.

To join the Zoom call and watch the presentation, or for more information about the group, contact Mr Leahy on 0407 317 491.

Anyone needing assitance can call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au; or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or visit www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.