Since the death of her son, Stockwell’s Sam Harding said she “goes through hell every day” and she’s made it her mission to prevent someone else experiencing the same heartache.
Just hours after Dillon told his mother he had proposed to girlfriend Chantelle, Sam was informed her eldest son had taken his life.
The news came just weeks before his 20th birthday.
At the time, Sam said she couldn’t believe it, never even considering there might be something amiss with her happy-go-lucky, life of the party son.
However, now almost 18 months on, she says while it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to her, hindsight is a tragically wonderful thing.
“Every day I still ask myself why – I wake up and he is the first thing I think about and he’s the last thing I think about before I go to bed. I just don’t know why, he was a happy boy,” Sam said.
“We had a very close relationship – we were very close, but I just didn’t pick up any signs.
“Other than a bit of hindsight now and looking at the fact that he’d taken himself off Facebook and he wasn’t making as much contact on the phone as he did.”
Additionally, in November 2016 Sam had her suspicions confirmed when she was given a letter written by Dillon.
“In the letter Dillon said ‘Mum, I’ve been depressed for a while, I just didn’t want to tell anybody or burden anybody’,” Sam said.
“He said ‘this was my choice, please don’t be sad and always remember the world is your oyster’ which is something we’d always talked about.”
Sam said obviously she wished Dillon would have spoken to someone, adding he had more than 1200 people at his funeral, so there wasn’t a shortage of people who cared for him.
“I told Dillon everyday that I loved him, but maybe that wasn’t enough – maybe if I’d said to him ‘hey Dil, what’s going on in your head at the moment? Are you feeling a bit sad? Are you feeling a bit different’,” she said.
“You’re not being a burden – what you do leave behind is a huge burden... he’s changed our lives forever and we just take each day as it comes and try to keep going.”
Since Dillon’s death Sam has made it her mission to stop other families from going through the hell she has experienced, including volunteering her time with the Gawler Suicide Prevention Group.
She also started a small business ‘Bubbly Candles by Sam’ – candles in champagne flutes with $1 from each sale donated to the GSPG.
“Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, I’d rather just want to stay there and cry, but I know I’ve got to keep going, and I know I’ve got three other kids to keep living for, as difficult as it can be sometimes,” Sam said.
“This is why I want to get around those people and I want them to know my story – I want them to know the devastation and the heartbreak it leaves behind.
“It’s a living hell everyday that I go through, and if I could talk to people and if I could tell them what it would do to their families by making that choice.”
The early childhood teacher is urging everyone to reach out to friends and family and start talking about mental health.
“For a split second Dillon might have felt it was making his life easier by not being there, but in that other split second someone said ‘hey mate, I love you, it’s not worth doing this, we’ll get you some help, we’ll do whatever it takes,’” Sam said.
“I don’t want other families to go through what my family has gone through – I want to raise awareness out there and I want young people to start talking.
“Not just ‘hey, how are you going’ ‘I’m fine’ – that’s what we all say, I want to ask those deeper questions ‘how are you really feeling? Have you got a good group of friends around you? Have you got people you can talk to?’ Because not everyone wants to talk to mum and dad.”
Sam said now she watches her children, Lucas, 19, Aaron, 17, and Chloe, 15, like a hawk and urges others to watch out for signs like withdrawing and low self-confidence, and “prod” if they suspect something might be wrong.
“Talk to them, keep them talking and find out what’s happening, and say to them ‘you’re not doing this on your own, I’ll come with you to the doctors, I’ll stay with you for that appointment, I’ll take you to the psychologist – I’ll be there with you so you don’t have to do this on your own,’” she said.
“I think when you’re really down and at that low point you feel like nobody gives a s**t and nobody cares – it can just take that one person to extend that hand out and say ‘look I genuinely mean it, I will stick by you through thick and thin’ and be there.
“If you can just make a difference in one person’s life and get them on the road to getting some help to sort themselves out then that’s what we need to do.”
- If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.