Book spreads message of hope for residents of Mitchell Shire

Roslyn Stewart, left, and Nikki Simos are delighted with the launch of the Mitchell Suicide Prevention Network’s book Helping Me to Help You.

By Colin MacGillivray

From some of the darkest moments in 12 people’s lives, a message of hope has emerged.

On Saturday, Mitchell Suicide Prevention Network will launch Helping Me to Help You: Discoveries of Joy, Peace and Hope, a book featuring contributions from a dozen authors – most of whom live in Mitchell Shire.

Each chapter details its author’s struggle with mental health stemming from a range of life experiences, including racism, family violence, bullying, sexual abuse, and isolation.

The book is intended to spread a message of hope by showing how the authors were able to overcome their difficulties, while raising funds for the network.

Entries take the form of personal stories, creative writing, and poetic interludes that feature between chapters.

Mitchell Suicide Prevention Network president Nikki Simos, who has previously published several books and coordinated the project, said the idea grew out of a conversation she had with late network member Roger Fletcher.

“Before Roger passed away…we discussed a book that could create opportunities for locals to get to know other locals by talking about their vulnerability and struggles, and more importantly offering a message of hope” , she said.

The project has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its authors unable to meet in person for extended periods.

But Ms Simos said their trust never wavered and the group began meeting regularly online.

“We’re all on the same mission, the same goal, and that’s to reduce the stigma around suicide and to get people talking about it so it normalizes the conversation,” she said.

“We went through the journey step by step. Every time we saw each other there were shared tears and vulnerabilities. At the same time, there was the next stage of hope.

“Thanks to the online fundraising pages and the generosity of community members, we have reached this stage [of publishing the book]which is great.”

Roslyn Stewart from Broadford is co-author of the book, sharing her experience living with an eating disorder.

Ms Stewart said writing her chapter had been a cathartic process.

“For the first time in 30 years, I went back and looked at my journals and realized that, yes, they were full of food, but they were also full of anger. There was so much anger there- down,” she said.

“For anyone reading my chapter who might be on the path to an eating disorder, that’s why I bared my soul – that’s why I said things I hadn’t never tell anyone before.

“For people like me who were considered hopeless, there is always hope again – you can turn it around. It takes courage, it takes determination, it takes time and it’s painful, but Is it worth it.

Ms Simos said all 100 places for Saturday’s book launch were already full, but the Suicide Prevention Network was planning another launch event to cater for people who missed out.

Copies of the book will be available directly on the network or at the Kilmore Bookstore for $20.

People can submit an expression of interest for the second book launch or arrange to buy a copy of the book by emailing [email protected] or calling Ms Simos on 0438 587 425 or Ms Stewart on 0419 367 582.

  • Need to talk? Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or Beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Lucas E. Kelly