COMMUNITY members are encouraged to stay connected with loved ones as part of this year’s National Missing Persons Week which runs from 31 July – 6 August.
This year’s theme “Stay Connected,” reminds us that for every missing person, a dozen more people are affected in some way.
Bulahdelah resident Sandra McBride knows personally the effect a missing person can have on a family.
Mrs McBride lost contact with her son Damien when he six years old.
Following a search spanning over three decades, Mrs McBride was able to reunite with her son in an emotional family reunion last year.
Mrs McBride stresses the importance of staying connected and encourages people who have left home for any reason to contact their families.
“Family members are already distraught that you have disappeared and they just want to know that you are safe,” she said.
“If you run away, just phone home so your family know that you are alright, that’s all they want.”
Figures from the Australian Federal Police indicate more than 35 000 people annually are reported missing in Australia.
While most are found safe and well, around 1600 people remain missing each year resulting in extensive investigations and searches.
Bulahdelah Volunteer Rescue Association Commander Mr Peter Mostyn has been involved in many missing person searches in the local area during his 30 years of service.
These searches have included scouring the bushland of Coopernook, Violet Hill and Bulahdelah State Forest.
“When a person does go missing, vast amounts of resources and manpower are invested into the search,” Mr Mostyn said.
“Maps are drawn so that every section of the forest is thoroughly searched for vital clues.”
According to Mr Mostyn, as well as working closely with the police, the search process can involve other agencies including NSW Forestry.
“With more people involved who have experience in the search area, there is a better chance of finding the missing person,” he said.
Mr Moystn told News Of The Area while missing persons are frequently located, not all searches have had a positive outcome.
“Although this is heartbreaking, this tends to be rare in comparison to finding the person alive,” Mr Mostyn said.
Organisation including Supporting Those Left Behind, Lifeline and Beyond Blue provide free counselling services and support for missing persons and their families.
Members of the public are urged to contact local police or Crime Stoppers with any information they have relating to a missing person.