"I'LL never forget those images, the date, the time of day it happened."
Ernie Vaughan knew his life would change forever after he found his best mate who died by suicide.
It's what inspired him to organise one of the region's largest suicide prevention events, the Tannum Crab Classic.
But the father of two was taken back to his darkest days after losing the second person involved in the event to suicide, in 18 months.
"I was touched by suicide, I was there and it has affected my life forever," he said. "That will never change ... every story about another suicide touches you, it takes you back."
The Pacific Ranch man uses those dark moments to drive him in his ongoing mission to change the suicide rate.
"If we had a national road toll the equivalent to the number of suicide deaths, there would be an outcry, we wouldn't have a car on the road," he said.
But every group, support service and person he turns to has no idea how to tackle the black dog.
His approach is to educate the youth about depression and to create a "buddy system" for people to talk to others who have survived or experienced suicide.
"There's a massive gap between the time someone feels depressed to when they call for help ... By the time they call it's too late," he said. "We need to teach our children there's going to be times in life where you're going to feel gutted ... but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"I've done that with my children, and I'll do the same with my grandchildren."
Ernie said he wanted people to talk freely about suicide and depression, as they would breast or testicular cancer.
"Why don't we talk about suicide the same (as we do breast and testicular cancer and domestic violence), it's not a bad word, it's a mental illness, a disease, no diffe- rent to any other disease," he said.
If you need help phone Life line on 13 11 14.
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