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Coast woman fights to save lives after sister's suicide

FRUSTRATED: Amy Quattromani is dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness in the hope it will reduce the rate of suicide.
FRUSTRATED: Amy Quattromani is dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness in the hope it will reduce the rate of suicide. Roy Byrne

A SHARPER focus on mental health in schools is how Coast campaigner Amy Quattromani believes others will be saved from suicide.

Her 21-year-old sister Sophie's tragic death in October last year changed Miss Quattromani to her core.

She and her family had helped Sophie through a lengthy recovery from a brain injury acquired in a previous suicide attempt about four years earlier.

They had concerns for her welfare leading up to that first incident but felt they were not being taken seriously.

"We felt helpless and frustrated at the medical institution for brushing Sophie's symptoms off as just being a typical teenager and being hormonal," Miss Quattromani, 24, said.

"We felt that they never listened to our side of the story and only listened to Sophie's side which was a manipulation of the truth."

She said her sister's mood would fluctuate between extreme highs and lows.

"At the time we didn't realise Sophie was depressed, but she was fighting an inner battle, completely alone.

"She was ashamed to admit she was depressed, she felt as if no one would truly understand what she was feeling."

Miss Quattromani said support increased after her sister's suicide attempt.

"We found a really good doctor, we received support from the Nambour, Toowong and the Princess Alexandra hospitals and other holistic organisations.

Sophie was diagnosed with bipolar one disorder in February last year.

"This diagnosis finally gave our family the answer we needed to understand Sophie's behaviour and the highs and lows she went through."

Sophie learned to walk, talk and how complete basic tasks all over again through her four years of recovery.

"At the end, unfortunately, there were more lows than highs and she couldn't get back up.

"It only took a moment to succumb to the darkness."

Miss Quattromani said the change her sister's death caused was indescribable.

"Before, Sophie was my purpose.

"But her passing has given me a new purpose to spread her story and raise awareness for mental health and suicide."

She and friends Zepha Jackson and Kiah Stone started the Let Me Walk in Your Shoes organisation to honour Sophie and raise awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention.

"Let Me Walk In Your Shoes is built to bridge the gap, open up the conversation and help shift the stigma around suicide and mental health.

"Talking about mental health, sharing the insight and the wisdom gained through our own experience can have the power to save lives."

She wants her organisation to spread around Australia and internationally.

"We want to show that mental illness does not make us weak, it makes us human.

"We hope to help people find their voice, shed light through their darkness and build each other up, educate and walk together...in each other's shoes."

In the meantime, she called for earlier mental health intervention and support.

"It needs to start at a younger age.

"In the school system.

"We are constantly being bombarded with social media pressures, stress from school grades and exams, advertising (and) some children are bullied among others.

"We're not taught to have a positive relationship with our bodies (or) self.

"We aren't taught how to deal with stress, or express how we feel and this should be essential education, especially for young kids who may be struggling so they can have to tools to deal with these things.

"We're not educated about how a clean, healthy diet can affect your mood or dampen your mood.

"We feel that mental health is just as important as physical health."

For more information on the organisation visit www.letmewalkinyourshoes.org.

Topics:  editors picks suicide



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