Brisbane 16-year-old Maggie van Genderen lost her brother to suicide in 2017. In last year’s Walk For Awareness a large group of family and friends got together to remember Josh and ‘Team Josh’ raised $17,000. Maggie’s family also got to meet other families who had been through the same terrible loss. This is Maggie’s story….
In 2017 my 22-year-old brother Josh sadly took his own life, which completely flipped and changed my world. Josh had been struggling with depression for quite a while and had tried countless phycologists and different medically prescribed and self-prescribed medicines to try to tame the black dog of depression that had been chasing after him for such a long time. He was taking anti-depressants for quite some time but often went off them thinking it was getting better.
Josh had several attempts and ended up being admitted to hospital countless times which not only affected his friends and colleagues but his family especially. Josh was a funny, cheeky boy who seemed to always put big smiles on anyone’s face and bring joy with him wherever he went.
Being a part of Josh’s immediate family, it has been extremely difficult for all of us to accept the fact that he is no longer here with us because of the darkness that consumed him. After Josh’s death many people opened their eyes and realised the stigma around not only suicide but mental health especially.
Mental health is one of the most important things that comes with being human as it shapes who we are. The reason why not only I but many of Josh’s colleagues, family and friends are participating in this year’s Walk For Awareness is because we want to raise awareness that it’s ok not to be ok and that people should be able to feel comfortable sharing their feelings and emotions and not feel as though they need to conceal these things. Mental health when treated correctly and delicately can change a persons’ life in the all the right ways.
– Is your reason for involvement something that you have been able to speak about with family, friends and/or colleagues?
Last year many people who loved or even just knew Josh participated in the Walk For Awareness and created ‘Team Josh.’ It was an honour and a privilege that so many people payed tribute and donated, as we raised over 17k. Josh’s passing has brought its challenges but overall has been a journey that we have all felt comfortable to talk about as it made us recognise that through us sharing our feelings with people who have some understanding and compassion, we can stand together and support one another.
– What were the positives you experienced from participating previously?
Through our experience in 2017, it brought many people who had never even met but had somehow been touched by Josh. Not only did it bring people closer to Josh but we felt like we were in a safe environment as the other people participating had also been somehow touched by mental health. In addition to this we met some lovely families who had gone through a similar thing that we had, which meant a lot to my parents. Paulie from Housos was one of Josh’s ‘icons’ so my mum, dad and I went up to meet him and he gave us all big hugs after we told him our story and it gave a sense of being one step closer to Josh as he was so understanding and respectful.
– Are you doing the walk with anyone?
I am doing the walk with my Mum, Dad, cousin (who was very close to Josh), many of Josh’s work mates, family and friends of the family and Josh.
– What impact do you think having more people talking about mental health and stamping out the stigma associated with mental illness will have?
With more people talking about this issue it becomes less of a burden and makes people feel
– Are you fundraising this year? And if yes, why?
Yes, I have chosen to once again fundraise this year because I believe any donation of any sort goes towards making a change in someone’s life.
– What do you do in your week to try to manage your own mental health?
Each week I take some time out to do something that I call ‘me time.’ Each week I am swamped with homework and study as I am a full-time school student, work and I also dance four days a week, so things are often quite busy.
Me time is when I let myself have a break or treat myself to something I enjoy such as colouring in, going for a walk and being one with nature, listening to music or spending time with people I love.
Check out the News section of this website for more stories from participants and also on the Mental Awareness Foundation Facebook page.