Loss of son to suicide still affects heartbroken mum

Michaelle Luijs runs the Gladstone SOSBSA group after losing her own son to suicide in 2009.
Michaelle Luijs runs the Gladstone SOSBSA group after losing her own son to suicide in 2009. Brenda Strong

MICHAELLE Luijs describes her son as a 22-year-old who, although he suffered from depression, was the life of the party.

On Saturday May 16, 2009, the Calliope resident received a phone call that no mother should ever have to receive.  

The phone call was from her mother who instantly asked, "Are you sitting down?"

Ms Luijs's son, Kevin, was gone.

Ms Luijs said the phone call was completely life-changing in the worst possible way.

At the time Kevin was on holidays in Tasmania and apparently at a party, celebrating.

"He was apparently the life of the party," Ms Luijs said she was told.

Heartbroken and in shock Ms Luijs did all she could to find out what had happened.

"No-one could tell me what happened. They just said he had an accident," she said.

"I phoned the police myself in Tasmania and they told me he had committed suicide.

"They knew that he did it in the car; he had gassed himself."

Ms Luijs and her partner George Kerr flew straight over to Tasmania.

Mr Kerr said the instant horror they faced had been dreadful.

"I thought Michaelle was going to jump out of the car," he said. "I've never seen grief like that."

Ms Luijs said she knew Kevin had suffered from depression before.

"But he wasn't much of a talker," she said.

"He did have a girlfriend once and I asked her afterward if he ever mentioned about the suicide and she said yes, she was helping him sort himself out and trying to get him to talk to me, but he had trouble doing that.

"Then those two split up and he met this other girl."

Ms Luijs said he apparently spoke to his new girlfriend a couple of weeks before saying, "I might as well gas myself".

"She never did anything about it," Ms Luijs said. "If anyone ever says anything like that, alarm bells should be ringing."

The pain Ms Luijs and Mr Kerr suffered following the incident continued to pursue them over time.

"It feels like you step out of your body and you're there looking down on this person you don't know," Ms Luijs said.

At first, they didn't know who to turn to.

"We went to the doctors and from there he put me on to a psychologist," Ms Luijs said.

"We've been going to him regularly and talking to him."

In the beginning, Ms Luijs said she didn't know if she felt embarrassed or ashamed.

"I had to go on anti-depressants myself for one and a half years.

"But I got off them because I saw what they did to Kevin."

During the week of his suicide Kevin went to the doctors three times and was given different medication.

"I think they should have hospitalised him to keep an eye on him," Ms Luijs said.

"What I've read about the side-effects of the medication is it heightens the suicidal thoughts."

Three years down the track, Ms Luijs is positive about the group she has started in Gladstone.

"One of the things we've found is people are afraid to speak about it," Mr Kerr said.

"They just pretend it never happened and the person never exisited."

Since Kevin passed away, Ms Luijs and Mr Kerr prefer to talk about their pain.

"We talk about it an awful lot," Ms Luijs said. "You just need to get it out."

Mr Kerr said a lot of friends, no fault of theirs, didn't know how to deal with it.

"People you were close to you avoid you - they don't know what to say."

Though the tragedy and pain is still raw, Ms Luijs said the best advice she could give was to seek support.

"Talking, that's the main thing," she said.

Topics:  gladstone suicide suicide prevention

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