Losing an old friend drives home an important message

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By TROY DODDS

On this road we call life, we meet many different people. Some will simply pass us by.

Some will have a profound impact on our lives and be in it forever, while others will play a small role and then go their own way.

I admit I don’t catch up with too many of my school friends these days.

There’s no specific reason – we all simply went our own way and lived our own lives. Facebook tells the story of marriages, children, divorces, overseas trips and career achievements, but that’s pretty much the extent of our contact.

Two weeks ago, I was putting the finishing touches on an edition of the Weekender when I received a phone call that really hit me for six.

One of my childhood friends – who I went through both primary and high school with – had taken his own life.

I’d seen Kieran from time to time over the years. He’d been a long-time employee at Panthers, and it was always good to say a casual hello and enjoy a quick catch-up.

When he passed away two weeks ago, and at his funeral last Friday, memories came rushing back.

We used to spend most Sundays together – half the day at his house, half the day at my place.

We both had an obsession with hanging posters from TV Week and TV Hits on our walls, and I used to try and convince him every weekend that we needed to take every poster down and re-arrange the design.

At one stage, in what was perhaps the first indication of the industry I’d end up working in, myself and another friend started a rival to the school newspaper.

We called it The Weekly Times. It wasn’t long before Kieran and I started a rival to that, and then more rivals followed until we were all competing against each other with these bizarre little newspapers that we printed on our desktop printers at home.

The readership was poor and yes, in case you didn’t guess it, sport wasn’t quite our thing in high school.

At his memorial service last Friday, I essentially got an update about Kieran’s last 15 or so years in the space of half an hour.

What was clear was that he had touched many lives, developed many wonderful friendships and kicked plenty of goals.

Along the road, it seems he also found some challenges that in the end, he struggled to overcome. It is an all-too-common story.

Unless you’ve been there, nobody – me included – can begin to understand the very difficult and confronting reality of depression.

Every time, however, that I look a little deeper into depression and suicide, I’m always startled by the statistics.

In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for males and females aged between 15 and 44. In a typical year, about 2,500 people in Australia die by suicide.

To put it into context, the death toll on Australian roads each year is about half that.

Initiatives like R U OK? Day have brought this issue to the forefront of our minds, but it is clear that all of us need to understand it more, and be part of the solution.

It is currently Suicide Prevention Month, while next month is Mental Health Month.

November is the Melbourne Cup. What do you think we’ll be talking about more?

The road we call life has many forks, twists and turns. Sometimes, for some of us, they’re simply too hard to navigate.

I’ll never forget those times during school with Kieran and I can only hope that he has now found whatever it was he couldn’t find with all of us.

Wednesday would have been his 32nd birthday. To his mother Lyn and sisters Leanne and Lauren, my deepest sympathies.

If you need help, call 13 11 14.

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