By Colin MacGillivray
From some of the darkest moments in the lives of 12 people, a message of hope has emerged.
On Saturday, Mitchell Suicide Prevention Network will launch Helping Me to Help You: Discoveries of Joy, Peace and Hope, a book featuring contributions from a dozen authors – most of whom live in Mitchell Shire.
Each chapter details its author’s battle with mental health stemming from a range of life experiences including racism, family violence, bullying, sexual abuse and isolation.
The book is intended to spread a message of hope by showing how the authors were able to overcome their difficulties, while raising money for the network.
The entries take the form of personal stories, creative writing and poetic interludes that feature between chapters.
Mitchell Suicide Prevention Network chair Nikki Simos, who has previously self-published several books of her own and coordinated the project, said the idea grew from a conversation she had with late network member Roger Fletcher.
“Before Roger passed … we discussed a book that could create opportunities for local people to know other locals through talking about their vulnerability and their hardships, and more importantly offering a message of hope,” she said.
The project was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its authors unable to meet in person for long stretches.
But Ms Simos said their confidence never wavered, and the group shifted to regularly meeting online.
“We’re all on the same mission, the same purpose, and that is to reduce the stigma around suicide and get people talking about it so that it normalises the conversation,” she said.
“We went through the journey step by step. Each time we saw each other there were tears and vulnerabilities shared. At the same time there was the next step of hope.
“With online funding pages and the generosity of people in the community we got to this stage [of publishing the book], which is great.”
Broadford’s Roslyn Stewart is a co-author of the book, sharing her experience of living with an eating disorder.
Ms Stewart said writing her chapter had been a cathartic process.
“For the first time in 30 years I went back and looked at my diaries and realised that, yes, they were full of food, but they were also full of anger. There was so much anger there,” she said.
“For anyone who reads my chapter who might be going down the road towards an eating disorder, that’s why I bared my soul – that’s why I told things I haven’t told anyone before.
“For people like me who were considered hopeless, there is always still hope – you can turn it around. It takes guts, it takes determination, it takes a long time and it’s painful, but it’s worth it.”
Ms Simos said the 100 places for Saturday’s book launch were already full, but the suicide prevention network was planning another launch event to cater for people who missed out.
Copies of the book will be available directly from the network or at Kilmore Bookstore for $20.
People can submit an expression of interest for the second book launch or arrange to buy a copy of the book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Ms Simos on 0438 587 425 or Ms Stewart on 0419 367 582.
- Need to talk? Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.