Regan’s story

Warning: the following story may be distressing for some readers. If this story raises any issues for you, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Author

Sarah O’Donovan

On Australia Day 2015 Angela Grieve lost her son to suicide. He was an aspiring rugby league player, just four days away from his nineteenth birthday.

Regan, who had a promising future and was surrounded by good friends, didn’t have any history of mental illness.

‘Hindsight is 20/20 and after he passed away there were a lot of things to look back on that made me think “maybe that was a sign”,’ Angela says. ‘But there wasn’t a history with mental health and the first time he tried was the first I became aware that anything was going on.’

Angela doesn’t believe she, or others going through the same ordeal, ever completely come to grips with such sudden loss, saying, ‘I still find myself looking at photos of him and it clicks that he’s never coming home. It’s still hard to believe three years later’.

But despite the void his absence has left in her life, Angela is grateful for the time she did have with Regan.

‘We were extremely close and losing him absolutely devastated me, but I quickly came to the realisation that I’m very lucky and thankful to have had almost 19 years with him.’

‘I’m truly motivated to tell Regan’s story and raise awareness ... if I can impact just one person, it’s worth it.’

Angela became a volunteer speaker for Beyond Blue after sharing Regan’s story at a West Tigers’ Charity Ball. She says that, although public speaking was not something she would ever have done before, ‘when you find a passion for something it becomes easier to do’.

‘I work with Beyond Blue because I found my passion for mental health and spreading awareness for suicide prevention. I’m truly motivated to tell Regan’s story and raise awareness,’ she continues. ‘If I can impact just one person, it’s worth it.’

Angela speaks with an admirable poise about confronting topics like suicidal thoughts and patterns. She is, unfortunately, well-versed with the internal dialogue of a person at risk.

‘Quite often their thinking is “I’d be doing everyone a favour, I’m a burden”. But nobody is a burden,’ she says.

As she helps others understand what plagues the mind of someone at risk, Angela hopes her words inspire people to reach out to each other – whether they are concerned about themselves or others.

And although Angela encourages everyone to talk these struggles through, advising people to ‘find somebody that you trust and have a chat with them because often once you get it out, you do feel better’, she emphasises, above everything else, the importance of simply listening.

Regan and Angela Grieve
Regan and his mother, Angela Grieve
Regan playing rugby
Regan was an aspiring rugby league player

‘It’s so important for people to be aware of the signs being thrown off by their mates and to actually sit and listen. Particularly as a parent, it’s hard to see your kids struggle through something challenging and not try to solve it for them, but you just need to listen.’

This sentiment is endorsed by recent research from Beyond Blue which found family and friends can provide great assistance to someone in severe distress or at risk of suicide, regardless of whether or not they have professional training.

Allowing someone to feel heard can be a powerful aid, and when professional support is needed, Beyond Blue can provide it for those suffering as well as those supporting them.

The research project also found that despite a commonly-held belief among Australians, discussing and asking questions about someone’s suicidal thoughts does not increase the likelihood they will attempt suicide.

Of the many messages Beyond Blue and its speakers promote, one rings true for a whole network of young people in Queensland: ‘people may not think they are important, but losing one affects so many’.

‘Just getting it out can help so much. What might be a bad day today could turn around tomorrow’

‘So many of Regan’s friends are still in contact with me because it’s not something that ever gets better,’ Angela says. ‘I still get text messages from his mates in the middle of the night saying “I just miss him”.’

This ripple effect is particularly damaging among men, Angela notes.

‘For years, the attitude among tradies, sportsmen and other men in a male-dominated environment was “harden up” and that’s just the way it was. I think it is harder for men to go and seek help because of that, it created stigma around asking for help.

‘There’s a long way to go, this idea has been forged in men for many, many generations so to expect a change in one is a little unrealistic. But I think things are, slowly but surely, getting better and we’re helping men realise that it is okay to talk about things.

‘I think we all go through our mental struggles, no matter how strong we seem,’ she goes on, acknowledging the occasional bouts of anxiety she has suffered since Regan’s death. ‘But just getting it out can help so much. What might be a bad day today could turn around tomorrow.’

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