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Boxer’s loss shocks community, prompts calls for response

Billy Ward.
Billy Ward. Tom Huntley

GLADSTONE has been rocked by the death of young boxer Billy Ward.

The loss of the 20-year-old Olympian has devastated family, friends, and the Australian boxing community.

And it's prompted local leaders to call for a community-led response to depression and mental health issues.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said Billy Ward's death was a terrible loss.

"The passing of such a gifted young sportsman over the weekend in young Billy Ward is extremely saddening and my deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends," he said.

"This loss is being felt right throughout our community and reminds us that the 'black dog' is very real."

He urged people doing it tough to reach out to organisations like Beyond Blue.

"Help is closer than you might think," Mr O'Dowd said.

Mayor Gail Sellers recalled how the Mt Larcom lad's Olympic achievements inspired the region.

It's such a waste to a young guy who had a bright future ahead of him.

"I remember clearly the warm reception that Billy received upon his return from the 2012 Olympic Games," she said.

"It was well-deserved with a large group of residents lining the arrivals lounge at the airport and scores of children donning red wigs in appreciation of Billy's talent and success."

Mr Ward had attended Gladstone State High School, and went to primary school in Yarwun and Miriam Vale.

The sad news of his death first emerged late Sunday, and Australian boxing team captain Luke Jackson confirmed it on Facebook.

"Gutted to get a phone call from the national coach tonight, to tell me ... that one of my team mates and good friends Billy Ward had taken his own life today," he wrote.

"It's such a waste to a young guy who had a bright future ahead of him."

Mr Jackson also used the post to remind friends "you're never alone and tough times always get better".

Support is always close at hand if you need help

Support is there when feeling isolated

WHY do so many small communities fight a constant battle against youth suicide?

Gladstone Relationships Australia counsellor Denise Reichenbach said the often transient nature of our workforce means people often feel shut out.

"That makes it all the more important that people talk about these things," Ms Reichenbach said.

"One of the major preventions for suicide is to have a support network, to prevent people from isolating themselves."

Relationships Australia has Gladstone-based counsellors who can help people cope with depression and other mental health issues.

Earlier this year, the Mackay community rallied together after the death of rugby player Alex Elisala, following his silent battle with depression and anxiety.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for men under 44 and women under 34, and six people take their own life every day.

Michaelle Luijs, facilitator of Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Support Group, said talking and supportive friends and loved ones was the only way to combat the terrible scourge.

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