UOW academic-turned TV host Justin Coulson has expressed his heartbreak at the death of his 20-year-old nephew to suicide.
Coulson, a father of six girls known for his program Parental Guidance, announced on social media on Tuesday night that his nephew Logan had taken his own life on Sunday.
In a powerful post aimed at spreading compassion, showing the terrible toll of suicide and encouraging conversation around lost loved ones, Coulson explained Logan had spent his final night at his grandparents' house.
"My mum and dad - his Nan and Pop - found him on Monday morning," Dr Coulson said.
"Too late to help.
"Too late to do anything except scream "No".
"Too late for him to hear them as they cried his name over and over again: "Logan! Logan! Logan! Logan!" "No, no, no, no, no!!!!"
"How do you hold the body of your grandson for the last time? That was what my parents did on Monday morning.
"How do you call your daughter, still celebrating a special weekend with her husband in Melbourne, and tell her that she needs to come home because her son - only 20 years old - has died? That was also what my parents did on Monday morning.
"And the ripple effect... as each new person discovers the awful truth. Logan is dead? How? Suicide? No! Not Logan! How can that be? He was so happy. No! Please no."
There were 3249 deaths by suicide in Australia last year, up from 2580 a decade earlier, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that suicide was the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 44 in 2022, and the second-leading cause of death for children aged 5 to 17.
Dr Coulson noted social connections reduced the chance of a suicide.
"Please, please, please, PLEASE be kind," he said. "Be compassionate. Be gentle. Be inclusive. Be supportive. Be less critical and judgemental and more of a cheerleader. Don't be on your kid's back (or your partner/spouses back). Instead, make sure you've got their back. Love them and make sure they know it. They have to know they matter."
Dr Coulson also said the idea that "there are no words" to say in response to a tragedy needed to be changed - "Now. Fast".
He encouraged readers to listen to his recent Happy Families podcast featuring author Colin Campbell, who wrote a book about grief after his two teenagers died in a car crash.
"Colin makes the point that when we say "there are no words" we are, in some sense, reducing the person's life to nothing," Dr Coulson said.
"We have to find the words, because the words we find tell the stories of those we love. And those stories help us to celebrate their life and our love for them.
"Share their stories. Feel their pain. Elevate their experience. Find. The. Words. They're there. And we need to share them."
Dr Coulson listed the many conversations he had shared with relatives and friends in the wake of Logan's death.
"Everyone needs someone to talk to. Everyone needs to know they matter. Everyone needs to feel seen, heard, and valued."
A former music director and announcer for Southern Cross Austereo, Dr Coulson gave up his radio career to pursue his PhD at UOW, where he spent three years as a parenting researcher and lecturer in the psychology of wellbeing.
Members of the wider community can learn the skills to recognise signs of suicidal distress in others, ask them if they are feeling suicidal, and refer them to appropriate supports with QPR training.
The Mercury has partnered with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative - a group of more than 70 individuals, including representatives of 30 organisations - to offer the one-hour, online course free to 500 people.
For more information, visit www.suicidepreventioncollaborative.org.au/training/question-persuade-refer.
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