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Father's death behind MP's policy focus

AAP logoAAP 14/09/2016 Elise Scott

On a morning 20 years ago, Julian Leeser's mum's footsteps weren't the same as every day before.

"As a child, the sound of my mother's footsteps coming towards my bedroom to wake me in the morning was a reassuring feature of daily life," he says.

This wasn't a normal day.

"My mother approached my room to wake me but it was with a very different sound, pace and tempo."

Sylvia screamed as she flung open the door and sobbed: "Dad's gone".

On a glass table lay a note in red pen that said - "I'm sorry Sylvia, I just can't cope."

Mr Leeser recounted the story of his 55-year-old father's suicide in his first speech as the federal member for Berowra on Wednesday.

His dad's body was found at the bottom of The Gap, a notorious suicide spot in Sydney.

The MP recalls his father's choice of easy listening music - which became the soundtrack of his childhood.

"The day he died the music died with him," he said.

In hindsight, there were signs in the week leading up to his death.

He stopped taking pride in his car parking - an attribute he'd previously shown off.

"My father started giving us all very long hugs," Mr Leeser recalled.

Pledging to always push for good mental health policy, Mr Leeser said treating the "epidemic" as a health issue isn't working.

"Despite all the goodwill, it's a fight we're losing."

The MP wants to rebuild caring communities, made up of people who notice the signs and ask "are you ok?"

"Or more directly and importantly, are you contemplating suicide?"

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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