Having lived on the Sunshine Coast when Daniel Morcombe disappeared in 2003, a sense of dread rose within me when Cairns boy, Declan Crouch went missing. The search for Declan was the biggest missing person investigation since Daniel Morcombe's disappearance (www.theaustralian.com.au).
When Declan was first reported as missing in March of 2011, his mother showed a stoic determination that her son would be found. As the weeks went by, Declan's mother continued to appeal to the public with a strong surge of hope that Declan would be found.
Living in the next suburb along from Declan, I would often look closely at the teenage boys in my neighbourhood and wonder where Declan could be. With the community rallying behind Declan's family to circulate information and distribute posters , it seemed that most people living in Cairns were familiar with the plight of this local missing boy.
Three months after Declan went missing, widespread searches by Police led to the discovery of a body in a swamp near Machans Beach, the suburb Declan lived in. Declan is believed to have taken his own life which has caused an outpouring of community grief. Leading up to the discovery of his body, Declan's family were hopeful that he had simply run away from home and was perhaps staying with friends (www.couriermail.com.au)
The area where Declan lived is surrounded by sugar cane fields, swampy mangroves and a beautiful outlook to the Coral sea. It's the combination of these natural elements which epitomise the beauty of Far North Queensland. Sadly, it was within the swampy wetlands that Declan took his own life. On the fateful day that he came home from school, he was reported to have simply got changed and left his house (www.cairns.com.au).
As Declan was no doubt grappling with some very dark emotions which prompted him to take his own life, it is understandable that many questions go unanswered. What led to Declan's downward spiral where he could find no help? How can people close to someone who is suicidal pick up on the signs? What measures can we as a community put in place to build up our youth so their self esteem is restored?
When someone is contemplating suicide, where can an unshakable, immovable and genuine expression of hope be found?
While trying to make sense of youth suicide, I'm encouraged by the work of an Australian organisation, Beyondblue. Their aim is "to build a society that understands and responds to the personal and social impact of depression, works actively to prevent it, and improves the quality of life for everyone affected."
'Sensability' is a new program promoted by Beyondblue which focuses on developing psychological resilience in young secondary aged students. The program is based upon cognitive-behavioural principles where thoughts are addressed that affect feelings and behaviours .
Wesley Mission's "Lifeforce Suicide Prevention", like the other major Denominations similar programs engage in similar activities.
I remember growing up and having the benefit of being a part of my local youth group. Youth Alive is a Christian organisation which purposes to provide a message of hope and encouragement to young Australian.
National events that are drug and alcohol free are run by Youth alive to encourage teenagers to make positive life choices. Youth alive also strongly supports young people's involvement in their local youth group (www.youthalive.coma.u).
Although I'm well aware that there are no quick fixes to the issue of youth depression and suicide, I do believe that finding education and support are vital keys. It is my hope that from Declan's death, families may begin to openly discuss the topic of youth suicide and find avenues of hope.
Natalie Alexander is a primary school teacher from Cairns shortly relocating to the Sunshine Coast.