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Woman remembers fighting a depressed teenager after her family lost their home in Black Saturday fires

A young woman started her fight with major depression after her family lost everything in the deadly Black Saturday forest fires.

Mariah Payne was only 15 when her family home was stripped in the fire on February 7, 2009 in Victoria.

The town of Callignee in the Gippsland region was virtually wiped out, where four people were part of the 173 lost lives in the state in what remains Australia’s deadliest bushfire disaster.

Now 25, Payne shares her fight for mental health in the hope of helping young people who have been destroyed by this summer’s horror bushfire season.

Mariah Payne (photo) has started her fight against depression to help young people

Mariah Payne (photo) has started her fight against depression to help young people

Mrs. Payne and her family fled to her grandparents’ house after a neighbor had warned them that a fire was imminent that unforgettable day in 2009.

She still has vivid memories of returning to the damaged property with her family a few days after the fire.

While two tanks, a dog kennel and her father’s tractor remained intact, their house was destroyed.

“Seeing the damage for the first time was very unreal and hard to understand,” Payne told Daily Mail Australia.

“It didn’t really strike me in the beginning. Only six months later did it start to affect my mental health.

“Then it occurred to me that I no longer had a house. 173 people were killed that day. The complete loss of human life was tragic. ”

Mariah (pictured as a teenager) was 15 when she lost her family home in the fires on Black Saturday

Mariah (pictured as a teenager) was 15 when she lost her family home in the fires on Black Saturday

Mariah (pictured as a teenager) was 15 when she lost her family home in the fires on Black Saturday

The Black Saturday fires claimed 173 lives. Pictured is Bunyip Ridge bushfire, near Tonimbuk, about 100 kilometers from where the city of Mariah was wiped out

The Black Saturday fires claimed 173 lives. Pictured is Bunyip Ridge bushfire, near Tonimbuk, about 100 kilometers from where the city of Mariah was wiped out

The Black Saturday fires claimed 173 lives. Pictured is Bunyip Ridge bushfire, near Tonimbuk, about 100 kilometers from where the city of Mariah was wiped out

She admitted that she was considering taking her own life during her darkest moments.

“I was in a puddle and felt so helpless, unable to do anything,” Payne said.

“I lost my focus on school and became depressed because I no longer had what I had before.”

“There was little awareness or help for young people back then either.”

Mrs. Payne eventually sought help and support from Youth Insearch, a youth intervention that helped her overcome and overcome the grief over the loss of her home and property.

“I don’t know where I would have been if it hadn’t been for them, because I would have gone a few big ones,” she said.

But only in 2016 did she see light at the end of the tunnel.

Mariah sees the Black Saturday fire as a positive life-changing period instead of a negative one

Mariah sees the Black Saturday fire as a positive life-changing period instead of a negative one

Mariah sees the Black Saturday fire as a positive life-changing period instead of a negative one

The Gippland region was one of the worst hit areas in the Black Saturday fires in February 2009, including the city of Boolarra (photo)

The Gippland region was one of the worst hit areas in the Black Saturday fires in February 2009, including the city of Boolarra (photo)

The Gippland region was one of the worst hit areas in the Black Saturday fires in February 2009, including the city of Boolarra (photo)

The creative arts student Masters now works as a volunteer at Youth Insearch and Headspace, helping young people affected by forest fires that have recently destroyed the Gippsland region, which she still calls home.

More than 400 houses were lost in the recent fires in the region.

“They can’t brush it, talk about it and get support is the most important thing,” Payne said.

“I now see Black Saturday as a positive life-changing period.”

Mrs. Payne boldly shared her story with the launch of the annual End Youth Suicide campaign from Youth Insearch, which starts Wednesday.

Now, in the second year, the campaign encourages young people to talk about the taboo subject of suicide with their friends, families and communities.

Suicide is the biggest killer of Australians aged 15-24 and claimed 458 young Australians in 2018.

For each suicide, up to 200 other young Australians are trying to take their own life, according to Youth Insearch.

“I was in a puddle and felt so helpless,” said Mariah (pictured as a teenager)

BLACK SATURDAY

An estimated 400 fires swept through Victoria and destroyed more than 2,000 homes on its destructive path on February 7, 2009, now known as Black Saturday.

Of the 173 people killed, including Channel Nine newsreader Brian Naylor, 113 were in homes, 27 were in homes and 11 in vehicles.

Another six were in garages, five near vehicles and five more on roads.

Seven were killed in bunkers, some specifically designed to protect against fire.

A fireman, ACT’s 47-year-old David Balfour was killed near Cambarville when a burned-out tree fell on him.

Black Saturday burned 450,000 hectares of land and destroyed 3,500 buildings.

More than 11,800 head of cattle were destroyed, accounting for 2,150 sheep, 1,207 cattle and an unknown number of other animals such as horses, pigs and goats.

More than 60,000 hectares of grassland were lost and 10,000 km of fencing was destroyed or damaged. Almost 100,000 hectares of park had disappeared.

A Royal Commission investigation into Black Saturday led to increased fire awareness and prevention efforts throughout Australia.

The recent forest fires and drought crisis has serious emotional and mental anxiety for young people, according to Youth Insearch chief executive Stephen Lewin.

“Young people are under increasing pressure and are finding it extremely difficult at the moment,” Lewin said.

“We’ve seen a peak in mental health requests for youth care in bushfire-affected communities such as Gippsland in Victoria.”

Mr. Lewin welcomed the steps of the federal government to turn suicide prevention into a national priority and recent funding for mental health care in ruined bushfire communities.

“The financing is a recognition that the pain is felt not only in the loss of homes and infrastructure, but also in people’s minds,” he said.

Youth Insearch enlisted the help of Triple J Hottest 100-ranking musician G Flip, model Melanie Jarnson, NRl-star Corban McGregor for women and former bachelor’s participants Helena Sauzier and Brooke Blurton for social media reports about the End Youth Suicide- share campaign.

Federal politicians wear blue heart badges in parliament to raise awareness, including Sydney-based MP Julian Leeser, who lost his father to suicide.

“This is an important campaign to raise awareness about the help available to young people considering suicide and to put an end to the plague of suicide among our young people,” said Mr Leeser.

Mariah Payne (pictured with her artwork) says she would not be where she is now without the support of Youth Insearch, a youth intervention

Mariah Payne (pictured with her artwork) says she would not be where she is now without the support of Youth Insearch, a youth intervention

Mariah Payne (pictured with her artwork) says she would not be where she is now without the support of Youth Insearch, a youth intervention

Mrs. Payne had this message for young people whose lives have been destroyed by the recent bushfire crisis across Australia.

“You are not alone, there are people who will listen,” she said.

“It’s hard, but you have to contact family, friends, and support services.”

Details: youthinsearch.org.au/endyouthsuicide.

For confidential support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Help Line on 1800 551 800.

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