The tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide is something hundreds of families in the region have been faced with. For many of them, the sudden loss comes as a heartbreaking surprise. Albany’s Vanessa Kay and her two sons became one of these families, when her husband Winston took his own life in February 2015. Ms Kay is standing up to start a conversation about mental health in the hope other families will not have to go through the same pain. She will be the key note speaker at the From Darkness to Light candlelight vigil in the Albany Town Square on Word Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. “I’ve decided not to speak on what I did or did not see or how I coped, but on how I supported my two boys to help them cope with the loss of their father,” she said. “They were six and eight years old at the time and we were blindsided by his tragic loss. Prior to my husband dying from suicide I had very little experience with mental health other than coming across an article or news report. “All issues that were considered hard to talk about were buried, and I’ve always been a positive person so it was very far removed from my experience and understanding. “I had no idea, and it took me a long while to process what had occurred.” Her experience is, sadly, one many across the Great Southern will relate to. From 2006-2015, suicide was the leading cause of death in the Great Southern for people aged 15-24. In that same period, the male youth suicide rate in this region was 1.8-times higher than the Statewide rate. Ms Kay said she had come to realise there was a lot to be learnt from stories like hers. “It should not be buried or feared with a lack of understanding around the cause, but should be shared and supported so we can prevent this means of death happening in the future,” she said. “The more we understand the reasons why people may tragically walk this path, the easier it is for others to step in and provide support or notice signposts that may help that individual seek support and let them know that they are not alone.” Next month’s vigil, organised by the Great Southern Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, will be a tribute to all those lost to suicide, and a chance to unite the community in breaking the silence. “The more we shift old ways of thinking around suicide and educate others the more we can prevent these tragic losses,” Ms Kay said. “We need to pull together as a community when a life is lost and talk about it, support those individuals affected by the loss. This will help others understand what to look for and what may or may not have helped without fear that this conversation would lead to others following this pathway. Don’t bury it — share the pain and learn from it.” The vigil will start at 6.30pm on Thursday, September 10. Lifeline 13 11 14.