In January 2016, Melissa Little’s husband, Damien, 33, shot himself and the couple’s two young sons Koda, four, and Hunter, nine months, before driving off Port Lincoln wharf in South Australia.
All three died. Prior to the shock murder-suicide, Damien had refused to seek help for a severe mental illness. Here, in her own words, Melissa writes exclusively for New Idea about the tragedy that changed her life – and why mental health is an issue we need to get serious about.
'At the age of 29, I would have never thought I would lose a child let alone both my children. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, one I would not wish upon anyone.
My children’s father, who was suffering a severe mental illness, took it upon himself to take their lives as well as his own. After the horrific event I remember asking myself over and over again: ‘WHY?’, but that proved even more traumatic because the truth was I would never get an answer to my question.
I will never understand why and I will never accept what has happened. Even having a mental illness does not excuse this behaviour. It has taken a lot of strength and resilience to learn how to survive and live with the hurt of missing my precious little boys each and every day. Mental illness truly baffles me. I struggle to fully understand it.
How can anyone truly understand what is going on inside another person’s mind, let alone feel what they feel, believe what they believe and see what they see? We can try our best to understand what another person is going through, but do we truly understand? Unless we have experienced it ourselves how can we possibly understand?
My husband was in denial. He truly believed that he didn’t have a problem. We live in a society where we are beginning to have more and more discussions around mental health and are encouraging people to speak up.
My million-dollar question is: ‘How do you get someone help if they truly believe there is nothing wrong with them?’ We can’t physically drag someone to professional help, or make them speak to someone without their permission. But what is clear is this: Mental illness is serious, if it’s not addressed it can have a devastating toll on families and loved ones. This is something that I hope we can somehow overcome in the future, and I have no idea how.
It’s sad enough that people have to suffer these dreadful illnesses, but what is even sadder and unthinkable is when kids have to suffer. Poor innocent children who had their whole lives ahead of them. When a child’s life is taken, we as adults are not the only ones who grieve – children, siblings and their friends grieve too.
Watching on as my sons’ friends tried to make sense of where their friend had gone led me to write a children’s book,Yesterday You Were Here, about grief. I hope that in some small way it can help.'
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or visit the website at lifeline.org.au. If it’s an emergency, call 000.
Read more in this week's issue of New Idea, on sale now.