Kyah Jade Franklin had the world at her feet.
Bright and beautiful with a genuine warmth and overwhelming sense of kindness, the vivacious 20-year-old was a talented writer, musician and aspiring journalist.
Her academic achievements were heralded among the best in the state when she graduated from high school in 2017, she could fluently speak Japanese and to her family and friends, she was the epitome of a successful, confident young woman.
So, when Kyah made the fateful decision to take her own life on September 5, 2020, it blindsided her family and those who loved her, leaving them reeling in shock with an unbelievable loss to reconcile.
“Kyah was an amazing person,” said her mother, Dee Franklin.
“She was always happy, friendly and positive, always supportive and helping people. She doted on her younger brother and sister. She was intelligent, she was sporty as a child and she was incredibly musical. She played flute, piano and guitar.
“Kyah was naturally quite good at everything she did and anything she tried. I think that’s why this doesn’t make sense to all of us. Never in a million years would I have thought we would lose Kyah like this.”
What Dee did not know was the gravity of Kyah’s struggle with anxiety. She was drinking alcohol heavily at times, had been prescribed an anti-depressant and had re-engaged with a private counsellor.
“We had a conversation a week or so before she died. I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and we were chatting and she said: ‘I’m so happy at the moment, everything in my life is so good right now’,” Dee recounted.
“Then this happened and it blindsided everybody. We were absolutely stunned.”
Just weeks away from the first anniversary of Kyah’s death, Dee said she had been compelled to share the deeply personal experience of losing her eldest daughter to suicide in the hope it may save other young lives.
Last year, weeks after Kyah’s death, her grief-stricken family and friends walked 15km along the beach at Golden Bay in an emotional act of solidarity to participate in the inaugural Walk For Me – a community event to raise funds for youth suicide prevention
The group, named Kyah’s Tribe, raised an incredible $13,454 for Youth Focus.
In October, Dee will join a band of family and Kyah’s closest friends to take part in Walk for Me 2021, a virtual fitness challenge during Mental Health Week from October 9 to 16.
The event allows participants to decide where, when and the distance they will walk to raise greater awareness about youth mental health.
Participants can walk 15km, 24km or 49km, representing the 49 young people who died by suicide in WA in the 2019 and the age bracket of 15-24 of young people Youth Focus.
Dee said it had been hard to reconcile Kyah’s death because she had not seen any immediate warning signs but Walk for Me had given some comfort amid the anguish.
“I thought if we can save one family from enduring this pain, then it is worth it,” she said.
Kyah, a Murdoch University media/journalism student, had been living out of home but moved back to the family home in Golden Bay a year before she died, battling to manage financial stresses with university and part-time work.
Dee also believes the side effects of the anti-depressant prescribed to Kyah need to be more widely recognised, particularly suspicions that it heightens anxiety when combined with alcohol.
“You just have to look on the internet to see what the combination of this drug and alcohol does to people and suicidal tendencies is one of the biggest dangers,” she said.
Dee said the night Kyah died she was home alone and had tried to phone her counsellor twice around midnight. She said while she understood it was not the role of a counsellor to offer crisis care, she would like to see measures put in place to direct calls to help services if a counsellor is uncontactable.
“I think there should be a service where counsellors can put a message on their voicemail or callers can be patched through to Beyond Blue or another helpline,” she said.
“Young people also need to know how to help their friends if they’re struggling. There needs to be greater education and awareness about things they can do.
“I would say to young people out there: If you can’t talk to your mum or dad, please, please talk to someone you trust, whether it be a friend, a friend’s parent or Youth Focus. If your friend is struggling with their mental health, talk to their parents. Often it’s seen as ‘dobbing’ or intruding but it may be the difference between having them here or not.
“If speaking with their parents is not an option, help them take the first step to get professional help. Book an appointment for your friend and perhaps go along with them as support. Anyone can refer a young person to Youth Focus for help and the services are free.”
Funds raised from Walk for Me will help Youth Focus continue to provide free professional counselling sessions for young people and suicide prevention education programs in WA schools.
Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 49 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in WA in 2019.
Youth Focus is the only specialist non-government youth mental health service in WA and works to prevent suicide and improve the mental health of young people aged 12 to 25 through free counselling and community education services.
In 2019/2020, Youth Focus supported 6090 young people through its counselling, assessment and headspace services and another 5773 people through school and community education programs at 37 schools.
If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443