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Every day, every month, every year
Every day, another child loses a parent to suicide linked to a family break-up. As one grown child put it:
“A couple of decades ago, I lost my dad to suicide. And the dastardly tentacles of that tragic loss still reach for me as I swim through life today.
Losing a parent to suicide doesn’t ever stop impacting you. It never leaves you, and never will. It is always a parent-shaped hole that won’t ever fill.”
Every month, somewhere in Australia, two more children are killed by a parent or close family member – and family break-ups are, once again, one of the leading common denominators.
And, every year, the rates of self-harming and suicidal behaviour in ever-younger children – with family breakdowns linked to many such cases – should ring alarm bells throughout the nation.
Our current approach to families, and to family separation and divorce in particular, costs lives – of children, parents and other family members. It’s an approach that accepts law-based interventions that are too late and too slow – and not truly focused on the long-term wellbeing of children and other family members.
We need a fresh approach. One that better values and supports all families, throughout Australia, before they’re in crisis. And one that recognises, as does the Family Solutions Group, a prestigious committee backed by the UK’s top family court judge, that:
“children are at risk of harm when parents separate. Family breakdown is a time of great vulnerability.”
When parents and other family members are under the extreme stress of a family break-up, the last thing they need is exposure to a system that increases stress and increases risks of harm – especially if there are any pre-existing risk factors within the family, such as proneness to violence, addiction or mental health issues.
We need to build a better, safer system that provides accessible support to all families much earlier. And one that provides education for children and young parents alike to equip them better to handle relationships, conflict and potential relationship breakdowns later in life.
We need a system that treats all children and families with greater compassion and provides the help and support they need, when they need it.