A reflection by Ingrid Ozols – alumnus Master of Suicidology

“There was no planning in doing the Masters of Suicidology course. I was living in constant fear, waiting for tragedy to occur, and feeling my own tenuous existence. Caring for loved ones in crisis, “doing suicide & self-harming watch” night after night” an obsession started growing. I needed something, anything, hope. I needed to understand, needed knowledge, help now, to know how to help another, courage, lots of courage, comfort, a way to find answers to the unanswerable.

I have lived and breathed “fear, agony, suicidality” since I was a young child, when first bereaved, caring for suicide ideators and attempt survivors, including myself.

This secretive existence was a survival mechanism to cope, to not betray loved ones with this stigmatised, even “criminalised” isolated human state.

My intuition was telling me being in “crisis” was common, normal even, but it was never to be talked about.

As I started my studies, unexpected life-changing surprises followed.

I had been a long-term active mental health and suicide prevention life experience advocate and consultant for more than a decade. An obsession for knowledge was never fully satiated. Until the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, AISRAP and the small amazing team who created the Master‘s program orbited my world. This course proved profoundly important to my life, those around me, and my life’s work.

In the early stages of study and after graduation in 2014 I was asked “How could I do something so morbid as Suicidology?” in shocked and judgemental ways. That even something like this was available, was confronting. Today, now this qualification and area of work is more “acceptable.” My working life is only starting now in my mid 50’!

From deep personal life experience, this unique program would enable me to bring myself and very being to a safe table, to give, to receive powerful learnings, exchange knowledge, navigate the unknown, and commence the earliest tentative beginnings of what is now more commonplace, “the co-production in research and academia” in updated iterations of AISRAP’s suite of suicide prevention education programs.

My work today spans State and National policy reform in mental health and suicide prevention, workforce capability and capacity building, informing curricula development in education and training programs and courses in non-clinical and clinical workforce’s, peer support, research, workplace, coproduction projects.

Today, I stand taller, having more confidence to face my enemy, to navigate, acknowledge and sit with the discomfort and complexity of human pain of others and myself.

The teacher comes when the student is ready. The community is finally ready, this pandemic and its ramifications are forcing us to be brave. The time is long overdue for moving from secrecy and silence to talking about a new narrative around humanness, distress, suicide and suicide prevention.

The Masters, one of its kind globally, provides lifelong professional and personal bonds and gifts that will continue giving in countless ways to those I meet on my life path.

Thank you AISRAP, Jacinta Hawgood, Emeritus Professor Diego De Leo and the team for creating and delivering this thought-provoking, life-affirming, and nurturing program. The safe and supportive culture established, allows vulnerability and a place to grow.

Congratulations on 20 years. It’s been a privilege and a joy to be in the handful of alumni able to take the opportunities this empowering learning journey provides These is just the early days, the infant years. I can’t wait to watch what emerges in the future as maturity sets in. I will always be a biased cheerleader!

I am ready, I have the armoury, and even, as I still shake and tremble at the thought of crisis and suicide, I feel better placed to try and offer comfort.

If anything written here has caused any distress, pls call Lifeline 131114.