Mandurah mothers share burden of sudden loss

Two Mandurah mothers who lost their children to suicide almost 30 years apart are helping others come to terms with the terrible grief that follows such tragedies.

Margot McAllister and Sylvia Watts are part of a growing circle of Mandurah parents who have been devastated by suicide and they belong to a support group aimed at helping each other through.

They said the support group, which was organised by The Compassionate Friends, had been more in demand since a spate of suicides in Mandurah over the last 12 months.

Ms Watts, whose son died three years ago, said the group helped her understand she was not the only one in Mandurah grieving and that by helping others she could share her burden and help others carry their own.

“It was very sudden, unexpected, unannounced, a complete shock,” she said of the moment she heard her son had died.

“But I was the one who had to be the strong one in the family, the one they all turned to, but then I needed help myself.

“Quite by chance I happen to see a little notice in the paper about Compassionate Friends and they had meetings every month and I thought, ‘I’ve got to go’.”

Mrs Watts said that after she heard the stories of other women who had lost their sons to suicide, she was grateful she was not the only one in the world who had experienced the pain it caused and that she could share her story with like-minded people who knew what she was going through.

But she said there were still times when things were normal and then she would suddenly hit rock bottom.

“The world is horrible place for me and one thing leads to another and I think about all the things that are not right in my world and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger until they’re totally out of control,” she said.

“But I know that I have got these people and I can’t speak highly enough of Compassionate Friends.”

Mrs McAllister, who founded the Compassionate Friends suicide support group in Mandurah, lost her son to suicide 30 years ago.

She said each tragedy affected hundreds of people.

“For each person we say there are 10 people who are affected greatly and immediately and when you think of the parents, the families, the best friends, the wives, the husbands, the children, that’s correct,” she said.

“Then there’s a ripple effect because it affects the wider community because there’s school friends if they’re at school, college friends, work mates, there’s neighbours, there’s all sorts of people who are affected and in smaller communities you can see it much more clearly.”

Mrs McAllister said the next meeting of Compassionate Friends, which is a free non-denominational service, would be on Friday, June 16 and grieving parents were welcome to get in touch through the website ( or by calling 9535 7761 (after hours 9582 8113).

Support is available by calling Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, Lifeline on 131 114, or beyondblue on 1300 22 46 36.