WHEN Northern Rivers resident Sami went for a late afternoon swim off Ballina's Lighthouse Beach on January 2, she was caught in a rip and was rescued by surf lifesavers and local police. This wasn't the first time Sami had been rescued from the ocean. Over the past four years, lifesavers have rescued her many times, often having to restrain her, kicking and screaming, to get her into shore. In one dramatic rescue at Evans Head in March 2012, a group of local lifesavers including Surf Lifesaving Far North Coast's director, Ben Redman, received a meritorious bravery medal for their efforts.
After recent news reports calling her a "serial surf rescue pest", Sami now says she wants the local community to understand that these rescue incidents came about as a result of her making poor choices, caused by years of being assaulted, bullied and dealing with mental health issues.
"Four years ago I was assaulted and I went berserk because of it," Sami said. "I had a broken leg and couldn't go to work and lost my job. I started drinking, hit rock bottom and felt suicidal. I remember going into the beach one night after drinking and blacked out. I went for a swim and lost control and found myself at the Ballina breakwall, screaming. Luckily, a fisherman was there and helped me."
Sami spent the following four years feeling like a victim as she underwent a series of assaults and bullying incidents, resulting in her self-admission to Richmond Clinic for mental health issues, where she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Now on a disability pension, Sami understands that her many attempts at suicide by drowning in the ocean were "poor choices", but also wants people to understand that constantly being bullied can leave someone feeling powerless.
"I understand why people die from being bullied," Sami said. "They suicide because they can't find the way out. If people are being bullied they need to keep asking for help... and the bullies need help to stop bullying, too."
Now living in the countryside, far from the coast, Sami wants to apologise to her many rescuers and tell them she is now in therapy and sober and "it won't happen again".
"I'm sorry I lost it at them," Sami said.
"I want to say thank you and I will make amends and make donations to surf life recovery when I get back on my feet again. I'm not meant to die and be driven off the planet by bullies."
For help with mental health issues, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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