News from New South Wales

Roses in the Ocean’s NSW team is excited to announce that since our last update our team has doubled in size!

At the end of June, Roses in the Ocean stalwart Sam Fewings took on the new role of NSW State Manager. Sam first came to Roses in the Ocean as a person with a lived experience of suicide keen to explore and understand his experience more and use it to help others. He was recruited to as a member of the NSW Ministry of Health LE Advisory Group and has actively participated in this role since its inception at the end of 2019.

On a professional front, Sam has spent the past 20 years working in human resources and insurance in the public and private sectors. He also has extensive experience in project and change management. Sam’s role is to oversee all the suicide prevention projects in NSW that Roses in the Ocean has been contracted to deliver under the Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention’s Towards Zero Suicide initiatives.

When Sam is not working, he is a committed tennis player whose lack of skill is made up for with enthusiasm. His second passion is bad dad jokes that he likes to share with his long suffering six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter as well as his (age undisclosed) wife.

In July, we welcomed Evana Srinivasalu as the NSW Program Administrator – TouchPoints. Evana joins us with experience in administration, finance, and logistics. She is keen to work on the TouchPoints project, which will see Roses in the Ocean build the capacity of local community members with a lived experience of suicide to become TouchPoints trainers able to deliver the half-day, community-focussed gatekeeper workshops in their local areas. This is an exciting new project aimed at supporting sustainability in communities in the two pilot LHD regions of Hunter New England and Western NSW. TouchPoints aims to increase the capacity and confidence of community members to respond to and support each other at times of distress and when suicide impacts community. Another step towards making positive change to our community.

What have we been up to these past few months?

While our facilitators worked hard to design a meaningful, supportive way to deliver the  ‘Our Voice in Action’ workshop in an online environment, we were fortunate enough to design and deliver the co-design of the Alternatives to Emergency Departments initiative in the Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD. We undertook this project 100% virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions and send a huge shout-out to everyone in the region who was involved in this process. Once again, a first for online delivery! It was a privilege to be a part of creating a service model for a non-clinical safe space that offers a genuine alternative to ED when they are in need of support in a safe environment.

We delivered the Our Voice in Action workshop online for the Nepean Blue Mountains LHD. This is the first ever online lived experience workshop that Roses in the Ocean has delivered, and it would not have been possible without the tireless enthusiasm of Bec and our facilitators. Because of this, the Nepean Blue Mountains district now has the first local lived experience advisory group (LEAG). The team is working hard to bring this opportunity to LHDs across the state and you can keep up to date on this opportunity by checking out the Roses in the Ocean website. Bec’s role has expanded beyond providing administrative support for the LEAGs project, to also provide ongoing LE Coordinator support to each LEAG as they form.

What’s to come?

Next, we are in the planning stages of rolling out the co-design of Alternatives to ED across each Local Health District in NSW, with Bridget now sitting at the helm of coordinating this project. Again, to find out when the co-design of these important initiatives will come to your area in NSW, keep an eye out on our website and social media.

The TouchPoints project will be trialled in two locations in NSW and will see Roses in the Ocean deliver this training to community members in the area to bolster the capacity of the community to support people experiencing suicidal distress. Three local TouchPoints trainers will be recruited in each of the pilot LHDs and will work with Roses in the Ocean to deliver three workshops in community. They will then venture into community to deliver independently a further three workshops each over the next 12 months.

Also in the works is the development and delivery of the new Suicide Prevention (SP) Peer Worker course in NSW. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project!

All in all – we’ve been very busy down here in NSW and are keen to keep bringing lived experience of suicide to the forefront of suicide prevention activities in the state.

a letter to myself

Dear N.

Before we get into this proper lets tackle the elephant in the room and acknowledge something. You even know yourself that when someone acknowledges the loss and the pain you face it helps. You have been through a trauma. A very deep personal trauma that is life changing. You have to remember that life will never be the same. You lost someone from suicide. Someone close. Someone who you thought you would have for years to come.

Dad.

He was 50 years old and you were 24 years old. Life is seemingly become defined by before or after his death. It is the mark in the sand for everything else. Did you know me when my dad was still alive or not?

Grief. The never ending grief that becomes heavy and draining.

Grief that no one seems to understand or have any recognition of what might help.

Feeling lost wandering through the fog.

At first that grief was locked away deep down inside of you. Untouchable and out of sight. You needed to do that in order to home and travel like you had planned. Dad would have wanted to go and you lived the experience fully seeking all sorts of opportunities. To live life in the now. For over 16 months you saw the world, met amazing people, saw sights some people could only dream of and you did it with all the grief locked up inside.

You have always acknowledged that your dad was ill particularly in the last six months of his life. You did not have the tools or the knowledge to help him help himself at that point in your life. You have not played the what if game knowing that his death was a result of his illness and that he did not want to die but could not cope with the pain of life anymore.

Coming home was the hardest. Opening what felt like Pandora’s box to that grief. It swallowed you to start with due to your own lack of understanding and knowledge.

You faced more loss, more grief. Betrayed by someone who had helped you through that inexplicable grief. The wrong person at the right time. You thought that person understood you but the grief over rode your gut instinct.

It seemed the signpost to what to do next was invisible, like nobody wanted to acknowledge what had happened. No one knew how to help. Grief counselling started the process but it unearthed anxiety that has woven itself into your personality. Depression followed. Rejection manifests as fear not anger.

You have been down into the black pit and looked further down into the gloom of the abyss but have pulled yourself back from the brink. Things got worse before they go better. However, you have brought the shattered pieces of your heart and mended them back together. It has been hard it has been tough.

Recovery has no line. There is no finish.

You struggled through talking therapies but they did not help the grief. They all felt too clinical, that the therapist did not understand and there was always not enough sessions to get into the nitty gritty. None of them were designed for complex grief though.

You tried medication but it just numbed everything. After 4 years you wanted to feel like you again and work out where the emotions and feelings were. Now 2 years later you are still off medication.

Feelings are hard but it is better than numbing.

Some days are so deeply black and others it lifts and you wonder why did you feel so bad yesterday?

So what has worked? How is life more liveable?

Connection. Building my people around me mainly in the form of very good quality friends. Then using those connections. Saying when days are hard or you are starting down that black road.

Being sober. Alcohol was another numbing agent and it lead to some not very nice situations. People do not understand not drinking it but you do it for you not anyone else.

Sharing the sh*t. At first you relied on one or two friends but it is hard for them to support you. It becomes overwhelming. Now you spread it amongst friends so it does not become dumped all on one person.

Taking care. Self care if you will. This includes baths, eating well, trying to sleep well, making plans, taking time when needed, meditation, women’s groups, massage, mindfulness, and exercise. The list goes on but it is always a little bit of effort done often helps to keep on top of your mental health.

Acknowledgment from close people. It is not that they know what you have experienced but that you are in pain and some of that will never shift. That themselves cannot change things but they can be there to support.

There is still a long way to go though. Life is a journey.

You carry the burden of pain heavily and you could be a lot kinder to yourself. Recognise you are not as broken as what sometimes it feels and you have lots of way to help yourself.

You still keep a lot about your Dad hidden from public view for fear of shame or misunderstanding. Keep sharing if you want to but at the same time do not feel you have to.

You use your talents in so many ways that your Dad would be proud. The dedication you bring to things, perseverance and hard work are all values from him. He lives within you.

You have so much to live for.

You make a difference in the world just being you.

You are enough.

You deserve to be here.

You are loved just the way you are.

You are not broken or shattered or falling apart.

You are you.

Be kind.

Love more.

N.

Bushfire Emergency

The team at Roses in the Ocean send our heartfelt thoughts to anyone affected by the bushfires that continue to spread around Australia. We share your pain, sorrow and fear. We also recognise that there is still a long way to go and the impacts will be felt for months and years to come. For assistance during these difficult times, please visit our Bushfire Emergency resources page.