Today is my son’s birthday. Harvey would have turned 15. I should be celebrating with him, fat with his favourite dumplings and trying out his new kayak at Lilydale Lake. Instead I am travelling through Tasmania with a container of ashes next to me in the car where my son would be.
We are left with an ache nothing will ever ease. On March 29 I made the heartbreaking discovery that my son had taken his own life in our family home. In an instant mine and my two daughters' lives were irreparably shattered.
The last time I saw Harvey alive it had just been your average night with a grumpy teen, pissed that I was making him do his homework. We argued, but unlike any other night we did not tell one another that we loved each other.
When I went to wake him up in the morning I found his bed empty and school clothes still there. It wasn’t out of character for Harvey to go for a run or bike ride. I thought he needed to blow off steam and as I needed to get the girls to school and myself to work, it was something I would work out with him later.
On my way home from work I called the girls but they too had not heard from him. As I drove home that afternoon I decided that I would visit our GP and get Harvey a mental health plan, which would give him sessions with a psychiatrist. When I arrived home, I made a devastating discovery. It was then that my whole world imploded.
Two days after Harvey’s passing I was going through his phone to see what I might have missed, I needed something. Anything. I opened an Instagram message to one of his friends. He described the way in which he would end his life and his intention to do so.
The friend replied with a typical teenage response, but no further conversation regarding the subject took place.
I know kids these days throw the whole, "I’m going to kill myself" around as easily as saying "good morning". I know that kids these days don’t bat an eyelid when they hear others say it.
We need to begin a dialogue: if a child expresses, displays or shows suicidal tendencies we need to treat it as a warning.
There needs to be a conversation between parents, teachers and children. What are the signs? What should happen if the subject is broached? If someone confides this to you? It can simply be a cry for attention but on occasion it is a cry for help.
In my heart of hearts, I do believe that Harvey was fearful of the increasing demons becoming too loud in his head. I do believe that he reached out in desperation, crying out to be helped.
I truly believe that Harvey did not intend to commit suicide. I think he had thoughts and demons inside that he could not quieten. No amount of reassurance, love or positive affirmation from his friends or family could drown them out.
Harvey was not psychologically mature enough to grasp the magnitude of his fateful, impulsive decision. He could not. A child so young simply does not have the foresight. An emotional, testosterone-charged boy of 14 couldn’t see that this was a moment of despair that could not hold him there forever. To him, it must have seemed an inescapable black hole in which he was drowning.
That one moment of utter desperation, and that split-second decision, irrevocably splintered the hearts of his two sisters (13 and 10) along with mine forever, such is the pain that has fractured our family with the loss of our precious Harvey James.
I am firm with faith that had Harvey known the impact of that one decision he would take it back in a second. He would never have hurt those dear to him. He couldn’t, it went against every fibre in his body.
People often say suicide is a coward’s way out. Gutless and selfish. I have never considered this to be true, even before my sweet boy took leave of this world. Harvey was a happy, brave, courageous and genuine soul who graced the lives of those who knew him if ever so briefly. He was an eccentric, brainy, incredibly gifted intellectual, a voracious reader and wise soul beyond his years.
Yes, all of those things ensured that, more often than not, he was on the outer.
He lived his life outside the box and usually high up in an oak tree. He was never one to colour inside the lines. At his school, he was known to be the boy who was everyone’s first friend. Harvey would see a kid at school and make it his mission to be the reason that they smiled and went home after their first day having gained their first friend.
He could be just as happy rebuilding a scooter for his sister or trying to educate adults on the French Revolution or Gallipoli. That one, fateful decision robbed me of my darling boy and my heart shall never recover.
I am in no way ashamed of my son or the choice he made. He was special, rare and precious. He was my baby, my son. He was a big brother and father figure to his beloved girls. He was a part of a family. He was treasured. He was ours and we loved him dearly. He is irreplaceable. A life too soon taken.
There were no signs. No warnings. There needs to be a revolution: one where conversations about mental health have begun. When I collected his ashes, the funeral director spoke to me about how she struggled after taking care of Harvey. She said she is at a loss with the young people taking their own lives.
She told me she was telling her florist about my beautiful young boy, only to hear that the florist was experiencing the same thing with another funeral home. This time? A boy of only eight.
These kids are babies. With rich lives to live. You may think it will never happen to you, so did I. Harvey is one face of many who were swallowed by sadness and frustration. This is an epidemic and we need to start the conversation.
Friends of Jada's family have started a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of Harvey's funeral and to support his mother, who has taken extended work absence to spend time with her daughters.