'They were dropping like flies': Pinjarra mother who lost two sons supports revolutionary suicide trial

A Pinjarra mother who lost two sons to suicide says a revolutionary new trial in the Peel region will help communities and families following the "tsunami" of a loss. 

Mandurah District Police and the WA Primary Health Alliance are commencing a 12-month trial offering immediate support to communities and families following a suicide.

On April 4, 2016, Donna Anderson unexpectedly lost her 17-year-old son Jake Langdon to suicide one week before he was due to attend classmate Phoenix Fa'alelea's funeral, who also died from suicide. 

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Ms Anderson's eldest son Hayden Langdon took his own life on February 3, 2018, after battling with a methamphetamine addiction and mental health problems, which exacerbated following his brother's death.

Ms Anderson said there was a "domino effect" at the time.

"For a while there, they were dropping like flies, including our boys," she said. 

For a while there, they were dropping like flies, including our boys.

Donna Anderson

"It not only hit us, but it hit the whole community."

Ms Anderson said Halls Head College students and staff were hugely affected by the loss of Phoenix and Jake, despite Jake having left school to attend the navy.

"He was still very much apart of the community and had gone to school with the year 12 students at the time," she said. 

"Phoenix passed away on Monday, March 28, Jake passed away one week later on Monday April 4, Phoenix's funeral was on the 7th of April and Jake's was on the 14th of April.

It was the same group of kids, basically, that went to both funerals.

Donna Anderson

"They were still trying to process the loss of Phoenix and now there's Jake as well.

"It was the same group of kids, basically, that went to both funerals."

Jake and Hayden's sister Katie Langdon, 18, said the community was in "complete shock" but her school was very supportive in the aftermath.

"It was like, 'this is bad, but whose next?'" she said. 

"That was the general feeling.

"If someone passes away now, you automatically think it's suicide."

Ms Anderson said her employer organised bereavement support and the Royal Australian Navy chaplain regularly visited the family, but not all people following suicide were in the same situation.

“Any support that can be put into place for families and loved ones who have lost someone to suicide has to help," she said. 

Ms Anderson said she desperately sought help for Hayden following Jake's death and wished a health provider had been tasked to help him in that time. 

“I couldn’t tell you if he would have engaged, but it would have helped if they had prioritised Hayden as high-risk, and had been more flexible," she said. 

“I was jumping through hoops to get him help - it wasn’t user friendly."

Ms Anderson said Hayden began making bad decisions following Jake's passing.

"I think that exacerbated a lot of issues for Hayden and he really turned to drug use," she said. 

"I tried numerous times to get support for him from Palmerston, GP services, ringing mental health crisis lines. 

“Everywhere we rang it was, ‘Yep, we can see him, but it has to be in two weeks time'.

“I would say, ‘I’ve got him on my couch right now, can I bring him down?' but it didn't work that way."

Ms Anderson said the rapid-response trial would be helpful, but services would need to continually check in with the family and community, for it to be successful. 

"The immediate 24 hours it is a whirlwind," she said. 

"You feel like you are in the middle of a cyclone, the eye of a storm, and there is so much going on around you.

"It is so difficult to process anything.

"You don’t know what you need at that time."

Ms Anderson said following the funeral was when you noticed the absence of a loved one.

"No more text messages, no more phone calls or ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ she said.

"That’s when it becomes real."

If you or someone you know needs urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline (5 to 25 years) on 1800 55 1800.