How one Wagga family turned tragedy into crusade against suicide as R U OK? Day nears

CHAMPIONING A CAUSE: Wagga school teacher Erin Elsley is on a mission to helping those with mental illnesses to turn their lives around. Picture: Emma Hillier
CHAMPIONING A CAUSE: Wagga school teacher Erin Elsley is on a mission to helping those with mental illnesses to turn their lives around. Picture: Emma Hillier

THE notion of turning tragedy into hope is being exemplified by a Wagga family as they ramp up their efforts to help turn around the lives of those experiencing mental illnesses.

Erin and Ashley Elsley and their family have been on a campaign to help remove the stigma with mental illness after their mother tragically took her own life earlier this year.

The late Margaret Oliver, described by Erin as being a "beautiful, caring person who would do anything for anybody", was 59.

Margaret Oliver (left) with one of her daughters, Erin Elsley. Picture: Supplied

Margaret Oliver (left) with one of her daughters, Erin Elsley. Picture: Supplied

"She was very artistic and creative, heavily involved in the craft and scrapbooking world around Wagga.

"We knew mum hadn't been well for quite some time, but it did come as a shock and it's not something we'll get over."

She said she started the campaign on a school level to raise awareness among the school community first.

"To have meaningful conversations about mental health," she said.

IN MEMORY: Margaret Oliver (centre foreground), who was involved in the arts and craft scene, was 59 when she died by suicide. Picture: Supplied

IN MEMORY: Margaret Oliver (centre foreground), who was involved in the arts and craft scene, was 59 when she died by suicide. Picture: Supplied

Erin's sister, 32-year-old Ashley, said it was crucial to have conversations about mental illnesses.

"It's really important that we speak up and tell our story - to make sure people get help and get help early," she said.

"I wouldn't say we weren't advocates before, but now we just know exactly how damaging somebody's mental health deterioration can actually be."

This month, their efforts will include a raffle and funds will be donated to mental health charities. Their advocacy is also to honour their mother's memory.

"Beyond Blue actually supported mum a fair bit, so we want to give back to them," Erin said.

Erin and Ashley's fundraising efforts will coincide with World Suicide Prevention and R U OK? days on September 10 and 12, respectively.

Anyone interested in donating to their campaign may do so at Wagga Public School's office.

This story How one family turned tragedy into crusade against suicide first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.