Nick Punal’s brother-in-law committed suicide 10 years ago leaving many questions unanswered, but as Hannah Sinclair reports, Nick has responded to the tragedy of depression through his music.

A Concert 4 Life is a community initiative that brings singers, songwriters, mental health support groups, local venues, local press and the community to raise awareness on depression and suicide prevention.

NP: Well, about 10 years ago my brother-in-law committed suicide, and for about the best part of ten years I didn’t kind of believe or mourn.

Nick Punal has always enjoyed song writing, but wasn’t sure how to vocalise the tragedy of his young brother-in-law’s suicide. He eventually wrote Seventeen.

NP: I didn’t want to write a song about how he went about it. I wanted the song to make a difference and have a positive message for people to talk about what they’re going through, and so when I actually wrote that song called Seventeen I actually felt quite sad about what happened and I shed a few tears and it was just a new beginning for me; I finally managed to deal with that.

The idea is simple enough, to bring people together through live music. But it’s the underlying message that sets aconcert4life apart. The performers want to help the mental health cause and many have been affected by depressive illness themselves.

Members of the audience all have different reasons for being there; most know someone with depression or other mental illnesses.

Person in crowd: My husband’s a Vietnam veteran and while he doesn’t suffer from depression, he certainly has a lot of interest in the other vets and the things that happened with them and wanted to have a better understanding of it so anything that’s going on to bring that to people’s notice, I think that’s really important. What we learn we can pass on.

Nick Punal wants to start a discussion. According to him depression is a lot more common than people think.

NP: When I finally have the courage to talk about what I was going to do, it’s “oh my best friend this” or my brother or my cousin, so it’s quite common once you start to look into it. I find that if you don’t ask questions you don’t talk about the subject. Once you open up it’s a lot more common than people think.

There is no single explanation as to what causes depression. According to Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute, Helen Christenen, sometimes people might not even know themselves that they are depressed.

HC: I think sometimes people can’t recognise that they do have depression when they do, they don’t put the word or term depression to the feelings that they’re experiencing. People who are depressed have other symptoms such as the loss of confidence in themselves, they don’t feel they’re worthy, they feel like they’re a burden on others, they feel guilty, day to day difficulties.

Helen says the best thing for family members and friends to do is to convince their loved one to seek professional help.

HC: That isn’t to say that friends and family can’t help support the person directly, or that the person can’t be encouraged to get some self-help, which is often available on the web, but when a person reaches a particular point of severity I think it’s always a really good idea to get them to some professional help.

Musician Joe Fenech plays the guitar and sings in The Torchsong Country Soul Band, he is an old friend of Nick’s and says that he’s on the right track, that music can help people through the toughest of times.

JF: I can use it as that tool, it’s a tool used for fun, it’s a tool used to get rid of your aggression sometimes, it works on all accounts.

Lifeline phone number: 131 114

Hannah Sinclair is a Reporter for The Wire