Graziella Melillo still has hope.
There was grief and sadness when two close friends took their own lives.
Dealing with and watching family members struggle with their mental illness over the years has also been difficult.
But the Warrawong aged care worker still has hope of better times ahead.
“I absolutely have hope. If people and community can come together like this event, so those struggling know that there are people who do care, then that hope is there for them too that there are people willing to listen and willing to care,” Melillo said.
“I think it is a great cause and something people need to be aware of and talk to each other and not feel isolated.
“Just being together is enough but this event also allows people to come together and tell their stories.”
The event she talks about is the HOPE 2018 concert, held at the Servo Food Truck Bar in Port Kembla on Saturday.
The event which raises vital funds for mental health and suicide prevention in the region, started in 2002 in memory of much-loved local musician Belinda Deane, who took her own life in 2001.
A year later those close to her organised the first HOPE concert in her memory at the then Oxford Tavern in Wollongong.
Jacqui Machine, who has been involved in organising the event since its inception, said proceeds from the 2018 event will go to Headspace, the West Street Centre and Lifeline.
“The driving force behind this for the last 16 years came up with the name and I think it just symbolised that we have hope and hopefully people will get the hope that they need and be able to reach out to people in their community if they are feeling suicidal,” Machine said.
“The number of stories I’ve heard over the last 17 years is just phenomenal. Almost everyone I talk to has been affected either directly or indirectly by suicide.
“The event seems to be a day that people will open up and hopefully raise awareness, that if you are not okay, there is a community around you who wants to support and look after you.”
Event performers included Babymachine, The Leftards, Jodi Phillis, Naughty Naughty and the Good Boys, Enfant Terrible, the Heathens, Denise Thomas, Patrick Lyons and the American Creek Band. Slam poets and circus performers also entertained the hundreds who attended.
If you’d like to talk to anyone about the issues raised in this article call Lifeline on 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or MensLine 1300 789 978.