Andrea, Len and their sons Cooper, 16, and Nelson, 19, mourn the death of 18-year-old Riley.
Andrea, Len and their sons Cooper, 16, and Nelson, 19, mourn the death of 18-year-old Riley. Warren Lynam

Devastation as son with 'beautiful smile' takes own life

THE Sunshine Coast has lost another son after 18-year-old Riley Owen ended his hard-fought battle against the "personal demons" that plagued him for years.

Those who knew Riley best will remember him as a boy with a "beautiful smile" who always went out of his way to help those who needed it, even when he needed help himself.

Riley Owen
Riley Owen Contributed

Riley's family and friends gathered at the Gregson and Weight funeral home in Caloundra on Tuesday to pay their respects and share memories of a bright spark lost.

The former Caloundra State High School student leaves behind his mother Andrea, father Len and brothers Nelson, 19, and Cooper, 16.

Mrs Owen said her son's death "came out of the blue" after a "really hard six years" helping Riley through mental illness.

"We're devastated," she said.

"We thought we were getting on top of things.

"I really don't know where to go from here."

Pastor Stuart White led the service and said it was the hardest funeral he'd been a part of.

The weight of Riley's demons weren't unfamiliar to Mr White, who was not just his chaplain for five years, but his friend.

For Mr White, Riley will be remembered as a teenager who was "comfortable in his own company", "always ready for a smile and a quiet laugh", "insightful and self-reflective".

"He was deeply intelligent and he probably over thought," Mr White said.

While the Owen family struggles to come to terms with the tragedy, it's clear Riley's death has reverberated far and wide through the community.

 

Cooper and Nelson Owen remember their brother Riley.
Cooper and Nelson Owen remember their brother Riley. Warren Lynam

Riley's "tight group" of close friends joined the funeral crowd, but his mother said the room was also filled with others that his family weren't aware he'd touched so deeply.

"We will never forget him," Mrs Owen said.

"He's always going to be part of our family."

In a Facebook tribute, Mr White mourned "another one of Sunshine Coast's sons lost to suicide" with "another family left in the wake of senseless tragedy".

Both Mrs Owen and Mr White said they wanted to get across that mental illness was "not something to be scared of".

"It's time to have real conversations," Mr White said.

"My hope and prayer for any person, young or old who struggles with suicidal thoughts, would be that they find hope and peace through connected relationships."

 

Andrea, Len and their sons Cooper, 16, and Nelson, 19, mourn the death of 18-year-old Riley.
Andrea, Len and their sons Cooper, 16, and Nelson, 19, mourn the death of 18-year-old Riley. Warren Lynam

Friends of Riley and the wider community have posted touching tributes online to the teen that they loved dearly.

"You will be missed but never forgotten Riles. Love you mate," wrote Rhys Evans.

Nick Ingleton said, "If only we could all tell you just how much you mean to us, just how much all of us love and need you. You still have so much life to live".

Deaths such as Riley's are far too common, but seldom spoken about - Mr White wants to see this change.

"We need to remove the fear," he said.

 

"People are afraid if someone tells them they are harming themselves, or they're going to kill themselves.

"You don't have to be the solution, you don't have to have all the answers.

"Just speak love to one another."

If you, or someone you know, needs help call Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 224 636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.



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