Community leaders are scrambling to act, as a sucession of suicides - some involving teens - rocks the Kiama community.
At least five people from the coastal LGA have taken their lives in the past five weeks. The tightknit nature of the community has meant that some residents are now left to grapple with multiple losses.
Brian Boulton, a credentialed chaplain and chairman of the Illawarra Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network, is among many who are mobilising in the complicated and delicate aftermath.
Mr Boulton lost his own father to suicide when he was 11 and has spent much of his life trying to understand it. He is preparing to deliver QPR (Questions, Persuade, Refer) training - a type of First Aid for emergencies of the mind - to 90 Kiama residents.
"Typically a suicidal person will think, 'they'll be better off without me' and 'they'll get over it'," he said.
"But they don't get over it.
"You move forward, but you don't move on. For those left behind, it's devastating to step into, and it can make them feel suicidal themselves."
Illawarra police provide regular data to the network on suicide attempts and deaths. Based on this, Mr Boulton is convinced the region is experiencing a spike in both. With Victorian health authorities also recently recording a 33 per cent increase in children presenting to hospital with self-harm injuries, Mr Boulton believes the coronavirus pandemic is part of the discussion.
"History and experience tells us that with a disaster - which this pandemic is - the [suicide] rate goes up. In the immediate aftermath of the New Zealand earthquake, where the community had something in common and was pulling together, the rate went down. But in the next six, 12, 18 months, it went back up. That's what we're hoping not to see, but that's sadly what we're expecting."
"It seems to be that people have suffered through this pandemic, and it has affected their mental health."
Mr Boulton advises people on the periphery of a suicide tragedy not to shy away from those at its nucleus. Meaningful support can come from small actions, he says.
"People don't know what to say after a suicide, so they avoid [the deceased's family], they avoid talking about the death because they think it's going to upset the person.
"The big thing is to be there for the person - not to try and find something to say - 'I don't know what to say, I just want you to know that I'm here for you'.
"I knew of someone who never said a word at all, and a few days later that [family member] thanked them. They said, 'I didn't do anything'. The [family member] said, 'I didn't need you to'."
Mr Boulton is poised to start a face-to-face suicide support group that will meet in Fairy Meadow.
Suicide grief is different to other grief, he says.
"Because with suicide grief, there are no answers, no one to blame except the person you can't blame, because they are gone. There's always, 'why?'."
"You can say they had things going on, they were depressed about this, but then other people go through that and don't kill themselves. No matter what you say, that question is still there."
A 2018 survey by Beyond Blue found that 50 per cent of people think that only a professional can help someone at risk of suicide.
"But the evidence does not bear that out," Mr Boulton said.
"It's really important for the average person to learn what to look out for. One of the things I so often hear is, 'there were no signs'."
"Those people sit through the (QPR) training and at the end they say, 'there were signs. We just didn't know what to look for'."
A person withdrawing from their normal activities is one sign. Changes of normal character, missing out on something they really wanted, or giving up something they really love. Depression - can be a sign, but not always.
Multiple community-led support initiatives have sprung up in Kiama in recent weeks, many aimed at getting residents to come together for frank discussion.
Like many with experience in suicide prevention, Mr Boulton warns against discourse that can dramatise or glorify suicide, or even the person lost.
"That can lead to other suicides," he said.
"It increases your risk if you're looking to someone close in your community or school group, your work place. It's like me, my dad couldn't handle life, that's how he chose to deal with it, maybe that's how I should deal with it - it's that kind of attitude that [it is feared] can spread."
He advises anyone who may be contemplating suicide to find someone to talk to.
"And if they don't want to listen and take you seriously, find someone else," he said.
"If you go to a restaurant and you don't get the service you expect, what do you do? You go somewhere else. It's like that.
"It's a cliche and I hate cliches but it's true: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."
Lifeline operates a 24/7 crisis support service for anyone who needs it, on 13 11 14. If you don't want to talk, consider using the Lifeline Text, available from 6pm to midnight: 0477 131 114
Other resources include:
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia - 1300 78 99 78
Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800 (5-25 year olds)
NSW Rape Crisis Line - 1800 424 017
1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732 (sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service)