HELPING OTHERS: Damian Eales is using his own personal pain to help others, after his son died by suicide.
HELPING OTHERS: Damian Eales is using his own personal pain to help others, after his son died by suicide. Stuart Quinn

Father still struggling to cope with tragic loss of son

IT HAS been more than seven years, but Damian Eales said he still thinks about how his 19-year-old son Alex died every day.

On August 16, 2011, the happy go lucky boy - who had shown no signs of depression or mental health problems - killed himself.

"It came out of the blue, he was in Townsville doing TAFE and then one Sunday afternoon two police officers turned up and told me he was gone," he said.

"He was just a normal 19 year old, he played rugby and he was a karate champion... out of the blue that happened, all of his friends were asking what happened.

"They didn't see it coming and he didn't leave a note."

Struggling to cope with the sudden loss of Alex, Mr Eales alongside his wife Lois and their two daughters slowly began the process of coming to terms in the wake of Alex's death.

At the time of Alex's death the family began to build a close support network of friends, family and professional psychological support.

Mr Eales said he has still not come to terms with Alex's death. He never will. Too many questions have been left unanswered, his son is not coming back and at the end of the day the memory of that night endlessly plays on his mind.

But through the emotions that plague his life everyday, Mr Eales has managed to use his pain to help others.

Committing himself to work tirelessly against the "elephant in the room" Mr Eales said all he wanted to do was make sure nobody else feels the pain he felt.

He said his experience losing Alex gave him the perspective to help others who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Currently Mr Eales is an integral part of the Support After Suicide. The group facilitates small sessions with people who have lost a loved one to suicide, offering first hand support to those who need it..

"It is a totally different type of took me five years to be able to step out in the public because the grief was just so overwhelming," he said.

"What we are trying to is I suppose just ease the pain a little bit."

Mr Eales said he spent a number of years thinking about why Alex killed himself. Initially he placed blame on himself because on the night of Alex's death he forgot to uphold a long-standing tradition the two had on texting each other when the footy was on. "I cry everyday because [Alex] is always in my thoughts," he said.

"It will never go away, it is just trying to manage those emotions."

Tattooed on Mr Eales right wrist is tribute to his son. Simple and unmistakeable the word continue, now permanently marked on his skin as a reminder to keep going, is a summary of the message he preaches.

He explained the tattoo which replaces the 'i' with a semi-colon (;) is part of an international suicide prevention campaign.

Mr Eales said authors use the semicolon in a sentence when they could have ended it, but chose not to.


Local services


24 hour, Free service for Adults & Youth

1300 MH CALL (1300 642 255)

  • Headspace Mackay

Youth Mental Health Foundation 12 to 25yrs

4898 2200 | 123 Victoria Street, Suncorp Building, Level 2, Mackay, Queensland 4740

  • YIRS One Stop Youth Shop Inc

Free support & advisory service for 12 - 25 year olds

4957 7949 | 72 Victoria Street Mackay

  • LIFELINE Mackay-Whitsundays

Face-to-face counselling service

4944 2300 | 287 Shakespeare Street, Mackay QLD 4740

National Services

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14 | Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 | Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527