Face behind our horror statistic
WHEN she came across the pile of clothing sat neatly near the edge of the water, a jolt of panic shot through Claire Eardley.
They belonged to her 20-year-old son Kai, whose car she had just found parked a short distance away.
An hour earlier, Claire became concerned that her middle child wasn't at home or with his girlfriend, and that he had earlier ditched plans to have lunch with his best mate.
Using an app to find his mobile phone, she and her husband Martin soon came across what would turn out to be Kai's final resting place.
The Fremantle boy who had everything to live for - handsome, smart, athletic, a year into uni studies and adored by all who knew him - had suicided.
"For all and intents and purposes, he was a boy who had everything," Claire said. "On the outside, his life looked perfect but he was fighting some serious demons on the inside."
As a boy, Kai - or Kai Fella as he was affectionately known to his family - was spirited, happy and eager to try everything he came across, be it sport or recreational activities.
He was a bit mischievous and liked to test the boundaries, but that outgoing larrikin nature meant he had plenty of mates and an adoring girlfriend in Jasmyn.
When he wasn't fishing or at the skate park, he was exploring a burgeoning love of travel, with adventures in Bali and Cambodia already under his belt.
"He and his brothers were very close. There's two years between him and his older brother Cameron and four years between him and Joey," Claire said.
"As parents of three boys, there were lots of busy times with outdoor activities - fishing, snorkelling, surfing, sport … they were always on the go and there was never a dull moment."
Kai shouldn't be dead, his mother believes. He shouldn't have been one of those young men who slips through the cracks. She and Martin did all of the right things.
"I think there was a bit of anxiety through Year 12 with the pressure he felt to achieve. He definitely worked hard," Claire recalled.
"Midway through the first year of his uni studies, he started to have panic attacks about what was coming up and the pressure associated with exams."
A year before he died in July 2016, those early cracks had started to emerge and Kai's parents swung into action, taking him to a GP to get a mental health plan, booking appointments with a clinical psychologist and enlisting a psychiatrist to help with his crippling symptoms.
"At its worst, he couldn't sleep and had quite severe insomnia. He was agitated and a bit socially isolated. He would withdraw and not communicate. He avoided the family and didn't want to go out," she said.
"We were working on getting him help. I knew he was struggling but he shouldn't have been one of those children who slipped through the cracks. He shouldn't have died."
While it was evident he was battling some demons, Kai was the "master of deception" when it came to just how ferocious the storm inside of him was raging, Claire said.
The morning he died, she and Kai sat together at an appointment with a new psychiatrist. Claire wanted a second opinion about the heavy medication he had been on for three weeks.
Prescribed to help him sleep - he was barely able to at that point - the drugs made him sluggish and a shell of himself, and his mum was nervous.
"We had an 8.30am appointment with a new psychiatrist. The doctor asked if he had ever felt suicidal, and Kai admitted that he had thought about it. It was the first time he'd ever expressed that in front of me.
"I think he should've been admitted but he insisted he was fine, he didn't want to go to a clinic. So, at 10.30am he dropped me off at work. I believe he probably died around midday."
In hindsight, Claire suspects Kai had formulated a plan to take his life days or weeks earlier and ignored or not seen the "million opportunities" to hang on.
That terrifies her. All of the support available, the many obstacles the family had put up to prevent anything awful from happening, weren't enough.
As a mother, she still feels heartbroken that she wasn't able to fill the void he felt, to reignite the spark that had been so present before.
"It was probably about 5.30 that we noticed he wasn't at home and he wasn't at his girlfriend's house. I called his mate to see whether he'd gone to lunch but he hadn't, but friends had bumped into him. That's how we knew where to look for him.
"We found his clothing at about 6pm and called the police. The water police came out, there was a bit of a land search … the next morning we were out looking for him again."
A few hours after the sun rose, Kai's body was found. The Eardley family's world collapsed around them.
"Why would somebody who had the world at his feet feel this way and want to die? It's such a gap between what the world thinks you should feel and how you're feeling. I imagine he was so confused about what was happening inside.
"I think I parented the boys equally and loved them equally. Two of the three don't have the anxiety and worry that Kai carried on his shoulders and I don't know why. I just don't know.
"I don't understand the genetics that meant he was so troubled with the world and felt so much heartache."
One of the first things Claire did was to start an online fundraiser, calling for donations in Kai's honour for the mental health charity Beyond Blue.
It wasn't long before $80,000 had been given and the page was flooded with grief-stricken messages of condolence and love from the many, many people he had touched.
It inspired the family to launch the Kai Eardley Fund some 18 months ago, which has raised more than $100,000 since in support of the Tomorrow Man initiative.
Founded by renowned boys educator and development expert Tom Harkin, Tomorrow Man runs programs in schools targeting teenage boys and giving them with the skills to understand their emotions and deal with them.
"None of us are immune to going through difficulty in life that we don't have answers for. Everyone will have it happen to them - man, woman and child," Tom told news.com.au.
"If you haven't given a young man the skills to know how to talk, particularly at the toughest time, then he'll be isolated with a problem he can't solve. If that builds up … we've all seen the stats of those dire outcomes."
Kai's story is all too familiar, he said. It's the stark reality behind the statistics on suicide, which claims more young male lives in Australia each year than road accidents, alcohol and drugs or chronic illness.
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Of the nine people across the country who will take their lives today, six will be men.
In 2017, the number of deaths from intentional self harm was 3128. Of those lives lost, 75 per cent - or 2349 - were men, according to the Bureau of Statistics.
"The scariest occurrence for a community when it comes to suicide is the guy who's attractive, athletic, owns the sporting field, is smart and has everything going for him, but suddenly without warning checks out," Tom said.
"The reason that kid leaves is because no one has given him permission to struggle or taught him how. We need to normalise other behaviours for guys outside of one-dimensional stoic strength."
A little more than two years on from Kai's death, the Eardley family's reality has shifted dramatically.
Claire has thrown herself into the fund set up in her son's honour and her two other boys devoted significant chunks of their time to raising funds and awareness.
This year alone, the money they've collected has funded 160 different Tomorrow Man workshops in schools across the state.
"Tom tells me that those 160 workshops have reached 5000 boys, so hopefully that's 5000 kids who have been touched and know that they can reach out and get help.
"Kai left after 20 years. That wasn't my plan. That wasn't my intention for him. But I suppose he continues to touch lives and make change. His death was not in vain. We will continue his legacy and raise awareness of youth mental health, depression and anxiety.
"This is my mission now. This is what I will do with my life, for Kai."
Gotcha4Life is dedicated to an in-school program which helps educate young men about resilience and the importance of friendships and a scholarship program with Lifeline, which aims to train more male counsellors - better appealing to men in crisis.