SITTING in a group, filled with unanswered questions, Holly Baker says her brother finally got a name. Shannon was no longer just a statistic or an avoided conversation.
Holly desperately wanted to understand so much after her brother died by suicide last July. Her quest led her to a suicide bereavement support group in Ballarat. The group aims to normalise and validate complex emotions when a loved one has died.
Holly said greater community awareness was vital for all people to have uncomfortable conversations rather than isolate those who may be grappling for answers.
"Before we had spoken, we all knew we were there as a group with similar experience. Something huge for me was our loved ones got a name," Holly said.
Until then, Holly had found it difficult to find people to speak with about her brother or her feelings.
My brother was a real person to me: his name is Shannon, he was 35 years old, a primary school teacher and he spoke mandarin - he taught it.
The suicide bereavement group, hosted by Lifeline Ballarat and Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network, is a structured program that will run on four consecutive Monday evenings from May 6. The program is run by two suicide bereavement specialists and is open to anyone affected by suicide.
Co-facilitator Anita Hoare said people bereaved by suicide had an increased risk of negative health impacts, including suicide. Ms Hoare said suicide could create toxic rifts in families and it was important to talk about what has happened and help clear stuck thoughts and behaviours that might follow.
The program works to educate, offer coping strategies and promote supportive connections among the group in a safe space.
Holly's artwork is a creative release as she develops a project to promote suicide awareness. Parts make her uncomfortable, but she was confident in new strategies and a support network around her.
Details: contact Lifeline Ballarat 5322 4996 by May 1.
Ms Hoare said anyone who might find themselves in a dark place should attend the annual Out of Shadows Walk in Ballarat. Read more about the walk here.
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