Kaitlyn, one of the deans at your medical school called me this morning. He is one of the two that stay in contact with me since you took your life, and one of the two that met me at your apartment the day I found out. These men, these deans of the school, who are also doctors themselves, stood there in your apartment with us on that day, were very grief stricken, horrified and confused that such a brilliant student took their life. They were very good to us, very sympathetic, had made reservations for us to stay at a motel that night and paid for it. (But we had to get back home).
Anyway, he called this morning wanting to update me on what was going on at the Wellness Center since there has been the fund set up in your name to promote suicide prevention and help for those students that are depressed. Soon, your self-portrait (a copy of it) will grace the Wellness Center.
He told me there have been funds appropriated to hire another staff member, a PhD in psychiatry to work in the Wellness Center in order to increase the effectiveness of the center and to reach out to students and make them aware of the services. There will be much going on in the way to let the medical students know that if they have problems with depression, anxiety, etc. that they do not need to fear that it will hurt their education, they will not be thrown out, and also, that the medical school staff will not know of these visits unless the student wants them to know because the Wellness Center is a separate building from the medical school. I told him that this is great because so many medical students fear admitting and getting help for depression for fear they will not be able to stay in school or not get a good residency when the time comes. I know this because so many medical students have emailed me and let me know they were depressed and feared telling it for this reason.
I also told him that I have been contacted by a resident and told that it DOES hurt a student’s chance at a residency because they do have to disclose to potential programs any history of mental problems. The dean told me this was true to an extent. They do have to report it, but all the very top residencies (brain surgeon, etc.) will not pick you as a resident because they do not need to be in these programs due to the potential for further stress due to the very high stress of these jobs. However, he says most residencies appreciate the honesty and if they are treated and doing well, they can still get into a good residency. He has many instances of this very thing. I told him students need to know this. He said they are going to do all they can now to let students know that they can still have a future in medicine even with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, etc. Of course one can’t continue if they are psychotic or anything, but depression and the like, they understand and will help.
All these things made me feel so good. That they are going to be reaching out harder to students to let them know not to fear asking for help, and now they are hiring more staff to help these students. Kaitlyn I know you would be very pleased. And it’s all in your name.
And then our conversation turned to you Kaitlyn. You were the only suicide in the history of their school. However he said that suicide is increasing in medical schools overall across the country. I told him I don’t know if the reason you didn’t get help was fear of being kicked out of medical school or not getting a good residency and that the only thing you left was a note saying you were sad all your life. But I do know that is why most medical students don’t get help. I told him I was still having a hard time and still trying to figure out why someone so brilliant with such a bright future would take their own life. He said you were a model student, making excellent grades, brilliant, kind and very determined, and not only that, your creative abilities were astounding.
We talked for a while and then I realized he probably had to go because he also has his own medical practice and was a very busy man. He said he would call me back in a couple of weeks to make arrangements to pick up your self-portrait and have a print made of it for the Wellness Center and we hung up.
I started thinking after that call once again Kaitlyn, how could it have come to this? As someone who loved you dearly once posted on your Facebook page after you died said, “The world was YOURS” and yet you took your own life. Kaitlyn it’s not everyone who has so very much to lose as what you lost when you took your life. You were beautiful, brilliant, creative, a writer, a poet; you were a master at everything you chose to do. You were two years away from a brilliant medical career. You could have gone to any city you chose. You could have gone to a city that had more people with your same interests, you could have had it ALL. Like he said, “The world was YOURS.” And it truly was. However, you could have not gone on like you apparently (only from your suicide note) were to make it to these pursuits. You could have not gone on like that. You tried to help yourself on you own until your depression overwhelmed you to the point that you could not go on anymore and wanted out of the mental pain you were in. You said “it’s the only thing that makes sense.” Kaitlyn, what would have made more sense would have been you seeking help before you got so far gone. Who knows, maybe you could have gone to a regular family doctor and he could have prescribed an antidepressant and you would have felt so much better. (It does happen). If that didn’t work, he could have sent you to a psychiatrist and he could have worked with you to find a medicine that would make you come out of the bleakness you said you had and no longer feel “broken.” Perhaps you could have gotten some counseling. And guess what? NO ONE would have had to know. Not even us, your parents. Not even the school. Perhaps you could have done a little research on the sly to see just how much a diagnosis of depression will affect the future of a medical student. Perhaps.
In all your brilliance Kaitlyn, you chose not to do any of the things above to try to save yourself. Not one thing to allow you to possibly be able to live a life not filled with constant sadness. I think you tried to do it on your own for too long and it just took you over, overwhelmed you, and took you away. Maybe one single pill would have done the trick. But maybe one single pill may not have done the trick and you would have suffered a life of trying to feel better and it not working. But we will never know, but it would have been worth a chance.
I’m not chastising you Kaitlyn. I don’t know why you didn’t seek help. But the world lost someone that was a credit to the human race, someone that would have made a difference in this world, and I lost my bright shining star on that day 4-11-13.
But Kaitlyn, I hate that you took your life. I hate that you were depressed and I didn’t know it. I hate all that. But you will be remembered by me and all that knew you for the wonderful person that you were. Your suicide does not define you. The great person that you were and what you meant to us will forever define you and last in all our memories.
“The world was YOURS!”