After losing his 22 year-old-son to suicide in 2013, Dr Mark Worthing was compelled to write a book in the hope of helping others who are facing the same loss.
Next week Dr Worthing (BA, M,DIV, STM, DrTheol, PhD) will spend three days in Parkes speaking at various community events on the topics of suicide, depression and mental illness.
“My ‘expertise’ in the area of depression and suicide came about largely through our family’s own tragic experience,” he said.
“I feel much more needs to be said and done to help both those suffering serious depression and suicidal thoughts, and those family and friends who have lost someone to suicide.”
Dr Worthing wrote the book What the Dog Saw about the life and struggle of his son Cedric with mental illness and his eventual suicide.
“It is meant to help people, especially young people, talk about the issue of suicide,” Dr Worthing said.
It is the story of a troubled boy as seen through the eyes of his ageing Labrador, Baxter.
“While there is much that Baxter sees that worries him, there are also moments of humour and joy.”
Hailing from Adelaide, Dr Worthing is a Lutheran Pastor who has a Ph.D in the history of science and is a Doctor of Theology.
He has written a number of books on various academic topics as well as a couple of biographies, including that of Prof Graeme Clark, who invented the bionic ear.
Dr Worthing’s visit is being coordinated by the specially formed Hope To Live And Cope Committee which is made up of Lachlan Area Suicide Prevention Network, Parkes Rotary and Parkes Lutheran Church members.
He will be accompanied on his visit by Dr David Grulke, a pastor for Albury NSW and formerly an Australian military chaplain who specialised in depression and post suicide counselling.
Dr Worthing feels the best way to address issues such as depression, bullying and mental illness, which are major contributors to the tragedy of suicide, is to establish strong community-based networks.
The establishment of local suicide prevention networks has been one of the most effective and positive developments in recent years to support rural and regional communitiesDr Mark Worthing
“Having resources and websites available in capital cities is great, but there is no substitute for local people knowing how best to support and care for each other,” he said.
“For this reason the establishment of local suicide prevention networks has been one of the most effective and positive developments in recent years to support rural and regional communities.”
Dr Worthing said more people than we are often aware of struggle with depression and other mental health issues, or worry about their friends and family members and others are grieving the loss of those close to them, even when this has occurred years earlier.
“Holding public events gives an open opportunity for a range of people to come together and get information, hear from others who have been working through this issues, and simply to see that they are not the only ones dealing with these concerns,” he said.
There is no real substitute for opportunities to meet face to face with others who share a common concern to help those struggling with depression, or grieving the loss of a family member of friend to suicide
“Websites are great resources, but there is no real substitute for opportunities to meet face to face with others who share a common concern to help those struggling with depression, or grieving the loss of a family member of friend to suicide.”
Dr Worthing said young people, especially teenagers, experience high levels of stress and pressure and can be very vulnerable.
“Problems with anxiety, depression, bullying, etc often emerge in these years,” he said.
“It is important to provide young people the resources to help them deal with these issues early on.
“It is a mistake to not talk openly about issues like depression and suicide to high school students in the hope that we will thereby shelter them from such issues.Dr Mark Worthing
“It is a mistake to not talk openly about issues like depression and suicide to high school students in the hope that we will thereby shelter them from such issues.
“They are already well aware of them. We need to let them know that it is okay to talk about these things. School communities are one of the best places for this to occur.”
Dr Worthing is looking forward to his first visit to town.
“This will be my first time to Parkes, but I have seen ‘The Dish’ three times. Does that count?” he laughed.
Dr Worthing’s speaking program:
Friday, March 16
7am - 8.30am: Speak at Business Breakfast, Lutheran Church Hall.
Supported by Dr Steven Scally (local GP), Liz Mitchell (Lachlan Health Service Manager) and Dr David Grulke (retired RAAF Chaplain).
Breakfast catered by Rotary.
10am - 12pm: Meet with Ministers and Chaplains of Parkes.
Light lunch catered by Rotary.
1.30pm - 3pm: Speak with Parkes Christian School students and staff Parkes Christian School.
Visit to The Dish
7pm - 8.30pm: Speak with Parkes High and Christian School senior students, parents and teachers, Parkes High School Library.
Light supper served.
Members of the public are invited to contact the Parkes High School office for more information about attending this evening forum
Saturday, March 17
10am - 12.30pm: Speak at Lachlan Area Suicide Prevention Network launch, Bogan Gate Hall.
Guest speakers Dr Worthing and Robyn Lewis.
Mental health information and resources.
Jumping castle, snow cones and face painting
Free barbecue lunch.
2pm - 6pm: Speak at Open Community Forum, Coventry Room.
Part of a panel of professionals in their various fields of support.
Light afternoon tea by Quota.
Sunday, March 18
9.30am: Service at Parkes Lutheran Church.