Sunday Territorian

Legacy a light for the young


SEVEN years ago, our 13-year-old son Harrison was riding high – or so we thought.

He was laugh-out-loud funny, excelling at sport at St Joseph’s Hunters Hill and the sort of kid others wanted to hangout with.

So when I said “I love you” as he walked out the door in November 2014, little did I know that he would be found dead from suicide a few hours later.

The impact of his death has been enormous. Our family of four suddenly became a family of three, something we will never get used to.

Until they are gone, you don’t even think about it. The way you live and the decisions you make are based on a whole family.

But when you lose a child, you are left with a huge hole. A hole that was meant to be filled with the next 60 odd years of their life – it’s not meant to empty. Our daughter, Alexandra, had a big brother and seven years on, she is still coming to terms with being an only child.

Harrison gave us no warning signs. No visits to the psychologi­st. No visible mood changes.

We don’t know what led him to take his life; he didn’t tell anyone.

But I now know that this is not uncommon – even if there are signs, what makes one child end their life and another with seemingly worse issues not?

Adolescenc­e is full of challenges for both youth and parents. We can’t always see which kids will end their lives, so it is important to set up prevention measures that can work for all kids.

Hundreds of young people – especially amid the lockdown – are in a state of distress.

Adolescenc­e is a time to “break free”, yet they are stuck in their rooms doing online exams by themselves. There are no formals, no “gathos”, no end of HSC celebratio­ns.

The numbers confirm they are struggling with increased suicides and increased pressure on emergency department­s. But what about those who suffer in silence?

It breaks my heart every time I’m told about yet another teen who has taken their life.

Past government initiative­s focus on the crisis-end. While this is important, we need to also make an impact way before this and we need to target young people who are not adequately considered.

Government and profession­al services say “when you feel down, talk to who you know and trust”.

They also say “reach out to those who need help”, but this message is not getting through to young people.

It is unrealisti­c to expect them to know how to navigate the many services and numbers out there, let alone spend time doing it or have the courage to ask for help.

We need to get into their [digital] world, speak their language, involve them as part of the solution and get in early before it’s too late.

After Harrison’s death, we started the Harrison Riedel Foundation and created the YourCrew app based on research, lived experience and young people’s input.

YourCrew helps young people mobilise their close and supportive network, friends, family and significan­t others and encourages them to communicat­e their feelings regularly through simple emojis and check in with their Crew.

We built YourCrew to pick up on subtle mood changes, alert Crew when things could be getting bad, and make it easy for young people to ask for help with the push of a button.


It breaks my heart every time I’m told about yet another teen who has taken their life.

It’s about picking up the ones who go silent.

It has everything all in one place, direct links to profession­al help, advice on what to say and do, for both young people and Crew, a private journal that can be easily shared and a chat function with relevant prompts so young people don’t have to speak face-to-face, and much more.

It is always with them on their phone, is free and available 24/7.

The aim is to build a sense of belonging and connectedn­ess through regular contact with known and trusted people who care about them – their Crew.

And research tells us that knowing someone has your back and cares about you can be protective of mental health issues and help you face life’s ups and downs.

It’s too late for Harrison, and us, but if we get young people building a support network early and regularly communicat­ing with them, they are less likely to fall through the cracks – like Harrison, our son, did.

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