Gnowangerup woman a beacon of hope as she shares journey for suicide prevention

Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
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Gnowangerup's Claire Munch will share her story at the From Darkness to Light candlelight vigil for World Suicide Prevention Day.
Camera IconGnowangerup's Claire Munch will share her story at the From Darkness to Light candlelight vigil for World Suicide Prevention Day. Credit: Tom Shanahan/ Albany Advertiser

More than a decade ago, Gnowangerup’s Claire Munch felt alone, terrified and hopeless — swallowed by darkness.

Today her world is bright, as she stands as a beacon of strength, sharing her story of hope after surviving two attempts at taking her own life.

Ms Munch will deliver the keynote speech at Albany’s From Darkness to Light candlelight vigil to mark World Suicide Prevention Day this Friday.

Hosted by the Great Southern Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, this year’s vigil will focus on the theme of creating hope through action.

At the age of 29, Ms Munch found the courage to finally speak out about a childhood trauma she had buried deep inside but she soon began experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“I kept these thoughts secret as I had always held a belief that dying by suicide was an act of a selfish and weak person, which I had always prided myself in that fact that I was neither,” she said.

“When a person is having suicidal thoughts it is because they are in a lot of pain and they lose the capacity to see beyond their pain.

“They don’t really think about their family or their friends or other people that it will impact, you are very much just thinking about the pain that you are experiencing and you just want that pain to stop.”

In 2010, Ms Munch made two attempts at taking her own life.

“I could not begin to imagine let alone see any hope for a future,” she said.

“I felt alone, terrified, ashamed and extremely hopeless.

“The next thing I knew was waking up in intensive care unit in a Sydney hospital...and placed on a life support machine.”

Gnowangerup's Claire Munch will share her story at the From Darkness to Light candlelight vigil for World Suicide Prevention Day.
Camera IconGnowangerup's Claire Munch will share her story at the From Darkness to Light candlelight vigil for World Suicide Prevention Day. Credit: Tom Shanahan/ Albany Advertiser

It was after losing a close friend to suicide that Ms Munch started on her six-year long road to recovery with the support of family, friends and health professionals.

Today, she is living a full life, thriving in her career and helping others find the bravery to reach out when they are not OK.

“I have an amazing family that stood by me through everything and really good friends who really supported me, even when I was at my lowest,” she said.

“Sometimes it was two steps forward and one back, sometimes it was three back. But slowly by slowly the darkness lifted and became grey and then the grey, thankfully, has become blue skies and sunlight.”

Ms Munch said it was important to surround yourself with people who will support you, be brave and access professional services.

If you have a friend, family member or colleague you suspect are having thoughts of ending their life — ask them about it.

When Ms Munch was asked, it came as a relief that she did not have to face those thoughts alone.

“I think a lot of people are scared about asking that question because they feel by asking a question like that that they are going to put that thought in your head, but that is not the case,” she said.

“If you are concerned about someone, be encouraged to ask that question and to support them in any way that you can or get them to someone who can support them — because you might just save someone’s life.”

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for West Australians aged between 15 to 44, but it can be prevented.

Great Southern Suicide Prevention Advisory Group chair Kristin Haefner said talking and listening were powerful.

“At the foundation we need everyone in our communities to be able to talk openly and comfortably about suicide and to know the difference between the myths and the truth,” she said.

“Ideally every home, workplace, gathering place is also a place where people can have open conversation about suicide.

“This helps to reduce the stigma around suicide, breaks the silence that prevents people from reaching out for help or offer help and promotes hope for a more compassionate community.”

The vigil will be held at Albany Town Square from 6.30pm this Friday.

Participants are encouraged to bring a candle.

Lifeline 13 11 14

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