Media Releases

9th June 2015

Riverina families bereaved by suicide to receive Red Chocolate Elephants support

It’s difficult to measure the social impact of the worst drought in modern times, but with the rate of suicide being 50% higher in regional communities than in others, it is essential that regional communities are provided with resources to strengthen families.

As a child growing up in Beelbangera, just outside of Griffith, Wendy saw families in her community experience the highs and lows of life on the land and knew of others touched by suicide. Even tight-knit communities can find it hard to talk about health and wellbeing, especially with this type of death.

In 2004, the lives of Wendy and her family were devastated overnight by the loss of her mum, Faye McWilliam, who took her own life.

“I was 26 years old at the time and it was sudden and unexpected when mum died. Over the years afterwards, we tried to navigate through our grief, and I gained an understanding of the importance of being able to access help.” 

Suicide bereavement is an intense form of grief which can be complicated and contagion presents the risk of further suicide amongst the bereaved. Today Wendy heads up WINGS of Hope Inc, a registered harm prevention charity providing supports and resources to people bereaved by suicide.

md_rce_remember-and-shareAs Acting President of WINGS of Hope, Wendy is pleased to announce the support of the St George Foundation.

“The St George Foundation’s 2015 grant provides us with funds to enable our education and support resources to be delivered to communities who need it most, specifically in the Riverina.”

The book and DVD resource is titled “Red Chocolate Elephants” and features actual voices and art of suicide bereaved children, enabling children to really ‘connect’ with the voices of someone else, in their shoes, with a similar loss experience – to reduce isolation and risk in our community. This essential postvention* resource has been placed in mental health services and support organisations, schools, accident and emergency units, workplaces and where it is needed most nationally.

“There is no other resource like this out there and we will make this available at no cost to local schools, and community channels because children and suicide is an area that no-one seems to want to deal” said Wendy Mcwilliam.

The QLD Senate Inquiry into suicide reported: “… 42 % of young people who completed suicide did so after the suicide, or attempted suicide of a friend, family or community member.” 

Each time a suicide occurs it is conservatively estimated that 8 people are touched by that lo ss. The ABS reports that 75% of suicides are men and so with 80,000 people estimated to be bereaved by suicide each year that adds up to a lot of wives, children, family, friends and co-workers left behind.

The resource WINGS of Hope offers at no charge due to the 2015 St George Foundation grant provides a framework for children to deal with this grief and begin the healing process.

wm_rg_2014_crop“Talking to children about suicide is in the “too hard basket” usually and yet it is vital that parents, carers and extended family and friends can access information and strategies to help talk about the death and work out ways to cope.”

Wendy says her goal and commitment to the St George Foundation grant is to distribute 60 copies of the Red Chocolate Elephants DVD/book resource to relevant community outlets in the Riverina district. Tragically, rural communities are still at increasing risk of suicide and Wendy believes this resource will provide additional support to students and families in need.

Read more about Wendy’s story here 

Individuals or organisations can purchase copies to donate to their school, social workers, youth projects, hospitals or their workplace HR department resource library.

You can purchase a copy of Red Chocolate Elephants here

Leigh White | WINGS of Hope Communications Coordinator | 0431 932 122 | leigh@whitemarketing.com.au

WINGS of Hope Inc. is a registered harm prevention charity working to reduce harm in the area of suicide prevention and mental health. WINGS of Hope’s mandate is to prevent harm and inspire new growth after suicide loss amongst the bereaved community.

To remain sustainable and keep the good work going WINGS of Hope supports rely on community support. Donations over $2 are tax deductible and can be made via our donation page.

Reference: 1 ‘The Hidden Toll” senate committee inquiry into suicide in Australian 2010, P 116.

* Postvention is the resources and supports delivered following a suicide death.

For more information or to contact us