Mic Eales with some of his artwork dealing with issues surrounding suicide at the Next gallery in Lismore.
Mic Eales with some of his artwork dealing with issues surrounding suicide at the Next gallery in Lismore. David Nielsen

Art heals the artist

WHEN local artist Mic Eales received a phone call telling him his brother had suicided in 2002, his first thought was: “The bastard. He succeeded and I failed.”

But through his art, Mr Eales said he had been able to heal.

Mr Eales, who received a $5000 scholarship last year to complete his PhD in visual arts at Southern Cross University, has been invited to speak on art at a conference in Italy.

His artwork, Too Few Ladders, is based on his personal experience of suicide, which began in his early teens.

Mr Eales said that on hearing of his brother's death he was reminded of his failed suicide attempts at the ages of 15 and again at 18.

“I was able to rationalise in that I was the one living with the family and had everyone loving me, but then within six months I was planning my own death again,” he said.

During this time, Mr Eales said he had to bring his 23-year-old daughter home from Melbourne because she was suffering from depression and had been suicidal.

“I couldn't do it while she was still under our care. I had to make sure she was okay, but when we sent her back to Melbourne I started working out 'Okay, when am I going to do this'.”

Mr Eales said for reasons of which he is still unsure he decided to reach out for help.

“In Too Few Ladders I used an Adelaide telephone directory for the original because I'm from Adelaide, but also because Adelaide has a population of 1.1 million people, which is the same amount of people that commit suicide every year.”

Of this amount, an average of one-in-10,000 people commit suicide in Australia, and each year at least 14 deaths are attributed to deliberate self-harm across the Ballina, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Byron Bay council areas, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But Mr Eales said he thought the statistics were wrong.

“Everyone says suicide rates are going down, but they aren't. It's just our method for calculating them is different,” he said.

Mr Eales said he hoped his artwork gets people talking and reflecting on suicide in a positive way.

“The pain that people leave behind is absolutely horrendous, and so I want to get people to think that this is my life. There's an enormous amount of joy in here, but that's the thing with life. It's full of joy and sorrow,” he said.

“You're not going to know real joy if you don't experience sorrow. But the one thing that gets me through is the one constant in life is change, the only thing you can really be certain of. It might get worse, it might get better, but it ain't gonna stay the same.”

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