Breaking the Silence: Wendy McNish

By Charmayne Allison

As part of Mental Health Week, nine locals from Echuca-Moama and surrounds will share their stories.

After her beloved husband Ray took his own life in 2016, Wendy McNish began a long journey towards hope and healing.

This is her story.

Produced by Cath Grey and Charmayne Allison

THERE’S one date Wendy McNish wishes she could forget, wishes never happened – but which will forever haunt her. It is February 8, 2016.

The day she came home to find her husband Ray after he took his own life.

And a day she never saw coming.

A dedicated local police officer, Ray had only just moved to the Rochester station and was loving his new posting in the tight-knit community.

His home and family life were happy, and while he’d admitted some struggles at work, Wendy felt he was working his way through it and looking to the future.

Until that horrific day that tore her life apart.

“It’s nothing you would ever want to happen to anybody else,” she said, tears running down her cheeks.

“Our entire world has been affected. Friends, colleagues, family. The ripple effect that goes out from this is enormous.

“It was difficult to grasp why somebody so outgoing and vivacious and funny could do what he did.

“But sadly that’s how he chose to stop his pain that he was clearly living with every day.”

Looking back, Wendy can’t recall any major alarm bells.

“People can become very good at hiding what’s going on to make you feel at ease,” she said.

“Because when people ask ‘are you okay?’ they will have it sorted in their head how they’re going to respond.

“That’s what he did with me – our home life and relationship were brilliant.”

Suddenly left alone to battle intense grief, Wendy also had to endure endless flashbacks of the moment she found Ray.

It was in the depths of this nightmare she discovered hypnotherapy – and hope.

“Flashbacks, PTSD, all those nasty visions I’d had since I found Ray – they’ve been dealt with,” she said.

“I’ve been given tools to control my grief and emotion towards the loss of Ray and the circumstances.

I’ve been astounded at how rapidly things have turned around.”

Wendy believes these alternative treatments could be vital in emergency services.

“They need to look beyond psychiatrists and psychologists and counselling and try holistic and alternative methods of healing. Yes they will work for some, but not all,” she said.

Above all, she believes there needs to be greater mental health support for those on the frontline.

Because that could be the deciding factor between another police officer living or dying.

“There are so many areas where the culture in the police is one of stoicism and ‘hardening up’ and that’s clearly not working,” she said.

“Someone may be a long-term police officer whose been able to handle things – but they may wake up tomorrow morning and there could be a trigger that just flicks a switch in them and starts them on a journey they don’t understand.

“A lot of them are self-medicating with alcohol. Then there are others who are happy to put up their hands and say they need help.

“But when they do that and are questioned, or laughed at by their peers, what happens then, where do they have to go?”

If you or someone you know needs help now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. If it becomes a crisis go immediately to the nearest hospital or phone 000.