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Sunday is National White Wreath Day

Kristy Steenhuis and Gayle McKenzie (SOS Secretary) with one of the horses that is used for the ‘Healing Hearts - Equine Assisted Bereavement Support’ program.

NATIONAL White Wreath Day is held annually on 29th May.

In Queensland on 29 May 1999 Fanita Clark’s only son, Jason, took his own life hence the formation of the White Wreath Assoc – Action Against Suicide – and the annual White Wreath Day. In Ballarat Kristy Steenhuis was searching for her own answers after her husband Matt completed suicide in November 2005. She was floundering looking for help and there appeared to be nowhere to turn for people who experience the aftermath of bereavement as a result of suicide and that something desperately needed to be done to assist people in these circumstances. Her answer was to form Survivors of Suicide (SOS). “I searched everywhere for assistance; particularly for someone who could understand,” Kristy said. “I was looking for a support group not only for myself but my children as well, there was nothing.” Now, years later, Kristy would love to see a full time service established. Currently the SOS group of dedicated volunteers, most of who are employed full time, work around employment and home life. “They (government) have released that they have put $5 million towards the road toll and suicide is double that, almost triple of the road toll,” she said. “The campaign for the awareness of road toll has worked and there is proof of that, we really need to push our awareness campaign, not just throughout Ballarat but Australia to reduce that (suicide) toll.” Kristy has undertaken a range of suicide prevention training, speaks at various forums and is a member of the Ballarat Suicide Prevention Network. She also is an active participant in suicide prevention activities and training and communicates these across various forums in the broader community.

The SOS mission is to: ? Prevent suicide through education and public awareness ? Reduce the stigma of suicide ? Serve as a support service to those touched through suicide

On Sunday SOS is aiming to have enough white wreaths to resemble the amount of suicides in the past 12 months, which is around the 150 mark.

“We make all these wreaths by hand, so on Sunday we will lay them out and invite the community to pick a wreath and lay stuff with their white wreath whether it is a photo, a poem or anything of significance to them,” Kristy said. “This is the third year that we have run this event and what we really want to happen is for the community to see that this is a community issue, it isn’t something that is just our issue but something as a community we have to look at because as a group we can only do so much and we need the support of the community to drive it further. “Ballarat has a higher than national suicide rate, which is not only higher it’s 10 times the national suicide rate.”

On Sunday the National White Wreath Day will be held on Sturt Street, on the median strip outside the Town Hall.

There will be live music from 11am – 3pm and a Memorial Service will be held from 12.30pm – 1.30pm. Anyone wishing to find out more about the programs that SOS offers can visit www.survivorsofsuicide. com.au or call Kristy on 0427 762 929.

There are a wide variety of numbers friends and family can call as well as those who might be thinking about suicide. Lifeline: 131114 | www.lifeline.org.au

Suicide Help Line: 1300 651251 | www.suicideline.org.au

Men’s Line: 1300 789978 | www.mensline.org.au Kids Help Line: 1800 551800 | www.kidshelp.com.au Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 | www.beyondblue.org.au Mental Health Information Line: 1300 789 978 Sane: 1800 18 7263 | www.sane.org