White wreaths are laid for loved ones
By SAM BENGERsamb@gladstoneobserver.com.au
AS THE sunlight filtered through the trees, children played on the swings, people picnicked in the park and the traffic roared past.
But for a small group of people gathered at Lions Park, none of that mattered.
For them time was frozen on the memory of a loved one lost to suicide.
They placed white flowers at the foot of a cross as part of a ceremony to mark White Wreath Day.
Gayel Backer was one who stood in that group, tears pricking her eyes as she thought back to the 'happy-go-lucky' son she lost five years ago.
At 20, Tyson Slade was 'king of karaoke' at the Queen's Hotel and had won a trip to Airlie Beach to take part in the state karaoke finals, Gayel recalled.
He worked at Big W and had spent most of his life growing up in Tannum Sands and Gladstone, doing the things most boys did ? hanging out with friends and enjoying life.
His death could not have been more of a shock to those around him, especially his mum. After spending Christmas and Boxing Day at home with his family, Tyson decided to stay home instead of attending dinner at his sister's place with the rest of the family.
'We got home and I walked up the front steps and thought Tyson had fallen asleep while talking on his mobile phone, but when I looked around properly I realised he'd shot himself ? I screamed to my husband to do something, I was just so shocked,' Gayel (above) said. GAYEL said she was in a state of shock throughout the weeks that followed.
'My husband had to go back to work in NSW, so I went with him and I guess I was lucky in a way because his sister is a psychologist and his other sister is a registered nurse, so they really helped me get through it,' she said.
Gayel said while she went through a rollercoaster of emotions after Tyson died, she never blamed her son for what he did. She said for a split second in time Tyson felt like he had no other option.
'Boys and men have this thing that they stick together and won't say how they feel, but if they could just learn to tell someone, to ask for help, someone might be able to give them hope,' she said.
Gladstone Community Advisory Service offers programs to assist and support families who have lost loved ones to suicide, phone 4976 6300.