Eleni Pinnow lost her sister to “depression and suicide” just over a month ago. And she is not shying away from talking about it.
Pinnow, an associate psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin Superior, felt it was important to be honest about how her sister Aletha died “so that others might choose to live,” she wrote in an essay for the Washington Post.
She recounts standing on her front porch on a cold February evening, as she read a note Aletha had taped to the door.
“Eleni, if you’re the first one here don’t go in the basement. Just call 911. I don’t want you to see me like this. I love you! Love, Aletha.”
It was the most alone Pinnow said she’d ever felt. Police officers would later “plainly” tell her her sister was dead.
“What followed that stark statement was a sudden moment of lucidity in which only one thing mattered: the truth,” she wrote in her essay.
“By the time I sat down to write my sister’s obituary I knew that the opening line could only be one thing: Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, of Duluth (formerly of Oswego and Chicago, IL) died from depression and suicide on February 20, 2016.”
The obituary, filled with touches of humour, describes a “caring, genuine, vivacious, hilarious and sparkly” woman who “spent her life defying expectations and charting her own … unique path.”
The 31-year-old was a special education teacher for over a decade, the obituary said. “And she was, as she was happy to tell you, awesome at it. She saw the potential and value of every single one of her students and she loved them with a ferocity that would make a rabid mother bear quiver.
“Aletha was her family’s whole entire world.”
“Unfortunately, a battle with depression made her innate glow invisible to her and she could not see how desperately loved and valued she was.”
In notes she left for her family, Aletha told them not to feel sad because she’s “not worth it.”
Pinnow blames that misguided belief on the “lies” she feels depression cultivates in the minds of those who stay silent. For Pinnow, Aletha was her “anchor,” who supported her when she herself felt overwhelmed by anxiety and depression.
Her sister kept her depression hidden, though. As a result, her disease stole “decades of their lives together,” Pinnow wrote.
“The lies of depression can only exist in isolation. Brought out into the open, lies, like all lies, are revealed for what they are.”
“I can plead for people to seek help and treatment. I can talk about depression and invite others to the conversation. I can tell everyone that will listen that depression lies.”
READ MORE: 7 common suicide myths
The Pinnows hope their loss will help generate a community-wide discussion about mental health. They want “to pull the suffocating demon of depression and suicide into the bright light of day” and ask the public to break the “destructive silence and stigma” that surrounds mental illness and suicide.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, visit suicideprevention.ca for a list of resources.
In case of an emergency, call 911.
More to come…
© 2016 Shaw Media