Merewether paddle out to honour lives lost ahead of World Suidice Prevention Day

Hope: Rachel Henshaw, right, and her daughter, Taylor Henshaw, hope more people will join their sunrise paddle out at Merewether Beach on Sunday, September 9, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day. Picture: Simone De Peak
Hope: Rachel Henshaw, right, and her daughter, Taylor Henshaw, hope more people will join their sunrise paddle out at Merewether Beach on Sunday, September 9, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day. Picture: Simone De Peak

RACHEL Henshaw was 17 when her older brother, Ben, took his life 23 years ago.

She still misses him. His laugh, in particular.

But since having children, and knowing others who have suffered the pain of losing a loved one to suicide, Ms Henshaw has been inspired to do something that might save someone else.

On September 9 – the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day – Ms Henshaw will be joined by hundreds of supporters at Merewether Beach as they paddle out at sunrise to honour the lives of those lost too early, and unnecessarily, to suicide.

Ms Henshaw said she had managed to bury some of her grief for her brother for a little while.

“You do your best to move forward,” she said. “Then you have a family and start thinking about the big picture.

“So many people go through that dark space, and don’t see that light again.

“I just think if everybody opens up a bit more, and we remove that stigma, couldn’t it save somebody? That is the whole idea behind all this.”

Ms Henshaw has created an awareness group, called Another Sunrise, to “reignite the pathway to prevention”.

It has almost 800 members.

Ms Henshaw wanted it to be a platform to show those struggling with depression or a mental health issue that there were people in the community who cared, and understood.

“Everyone has been touched by a mental health issue in one way or another – whether they recognise it, or do anything about it, is another thing,” she said.

“But if everyone takes the time to stop and listen, maybe things won’t be as bad.

“I have three children myself, and I think we need to actively talk about everything to open up those communication lines.

“We do the drug talk, we do the sex talk, we all need to be doing a mental health talk too. If our kids know there is help, and that others have experienced similar feelings, it will empower them to actively seek the appropriate help when and if they need it.”

Roses in the Ocean has donated 300 roses for the paddle out, and there will be a free sausage sizzle to “warm everyone up” after thanks to community supporters.

Lifespan Newcastle and Everymind is offering paddle out participants a complimentary online suicide prevention training program called QPR – Question, Persuade, Refer.

In the lead up to R U OK? Day, the Herald is teaming up with Everymind to motivate the community to learn these suicide prevention skills via a series of stories called Let’s Talk Newcastle.

The aim of the training is to dispel the myths around suicide, and help people on the ground in the community recognise the signs and respond appropriately.

“I want our paddle out to show our youth, in particular, this affects everyone and we are here connected, united, to reignite a brighter pathway. There is always another sunrise,” Ms Henshaw said.

Lifeline13 11 14.