In March 2011 in the NSW border town of Albury 15 year old Mary Baker took her own life after a 3 year battle with mental ill health. The stigma and silence that surrounds mental illness and suicide compounded her family’s grief in the days, weeks and months following her death. However, this personal tragedy also propelled them into the public space to confront the challenges of mental illness. Mary’s parents, Annette and Stuart Baker, became the first public face of a Walkley Award winning media campaign to end the silence of suicide.
In 2013 they, together with a committee of local supporters, began a unique healing event, the Winter Solstice. The public event, held annually in Albury’s main square, brings together thousands of people from the regional community to shine a light into the darkest night of their lives. The event has helped to change the Albury community’s response to mental ill health and suicide.
This year the Winter Solstice will, for the first time, live stream into another community. The rural town of Benalla, after participating in a place-based suicide prevention trial will host an intimate gathering of local residents to view the Albury based event via live stream.
But so much more needs to be done. Unfortunately the number of suicide deaths in Australia has continued to rise with rates in rural and regional Australia beyond those on metropolitan areas. Stuart and Annette are just two of many suicide survivors who are on the frontline supporting survivors of suicide, building stronger community responses to mental ill health and fighting for changes to medical funding distribution.
About Nomad Films
Nomad Films was born of a passion for storytelling and creating and since it’s beginning has been focused on giving voice, exploring the unknown and capturing the magical.
Based in Albury, NSW, Australia Nomad Films was founded by Helen Newman who is an award winning Australian filmmaker whose work over the last 15 years has taken her around the globe gathering stories from the inspiring to the heartbreaking.
About the film
The ‘Solstice’ documentary began in 2018 when Annette and Stuart Baker approached Helen Newman of Nomad Films to create a film that would become a voice for survivors of suicide.
From the Baker’s very personal journey ‘Solstice’ expands to reach out across Australia documenting the stories of other individuals and families who are struggling with mental illness. As they try to traverse a mental health system that is stretched beyond capacity, some of those stories become heartbreaking accounts of surviving the grief of suicide – the all to frequent outcome of mental illness.
The film aims to become a community resource that will begin conversations, unite communities and raise voices to fight for the changes needed to ensure everyone has access to adequate and appropriate mental health care.
As this project has evolved we have partnered with some incredible organisations working in the mental health and suicide prevention space.
Survivors of Suicide and Friends — Survivors of Suicide and Friends is an Albury based organisation whose aim is to bring the subject of suicide and mental illness into the public forum to be addressed without shame or stigma.
Australians for Mental Health — AFMH is a people’s movement fighting to fix the broken system. They are the 4 million Australians with mental ill-health, their family, and friends.
Beechworth to Bridge - B2B’s mission is to remove the stigma of suicide, improve the process of healing and promote the concept that depression is treatable and suicide is preventable.