Casey: Always Loved, Forever Missed

n1225020119_30572438_8912

It was six months ago tonight that I checked Facebook one last time before going to sleep, and my heart just collapsed as I read the status updates: RIP Casey, Casey I ❤ U, Miss U Casey, among others. I started texting friends, then making calls, then realizing that this world just lost a most beautiful person.

My life has not been the same since.

A couple of days later, I wrote a memorial to Casey in my own efforts to come to terms with her death. The writing helped me get through those tough hours, but sitting here six months later, the pain of her loss is still strong, the memories forever in my mind and heart of a loving individual who struggled with depression. She never asked for that; nobody with depression ever does. It is one of the most misunderstood illnesses that affects nearly 20 million Americans. Those who suffer with it find its grip unbreakable at times, and those who don’t understand it wonder why people who are “sad” just don’t get over it and be happy.

When will we recognize that depression is not something we just “get over”? Isn’t it enough that 20 million of us are struggling?

I want to put a few things in perspective for us to consider.

Less than three months after Casey died, on April 23, word of the Swine (H1N1) Flu traveled fast around the world after two cases were identified in California. Six days later and three months after Casey died, with 91 confirmed cases, the World Health Organization raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to phase 5, stating that this is a “strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.” The next day, April 30, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) posted this statement on their website:

The United States Government has declared a public health emergency in the United States. CDC’s response goals are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to help health care providers, public health officials and the public address the challenges posed by this emergency. CDC is issuing and updating interim guidance daily in response to the rapidly evolving situation. CDC’s Division of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) continues to send antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection devices to all 50 states and U.S. territories to help them respond to the outbreak. The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviraldrugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. In addition, the Federal Government and manufacturers have begun the process of developing a vaccine against this new virus.

On June 17, in addition to the $1 billion already set aside by President Obama to combat the flu, the House of Representatives approved nearly $8 billion in additional funds. As of July 24, 2009, 43,771 cases of the flu had been reported.

And to think that it all started, just three months ago, when two people were diagnosed with the flu.

Contrast those statistics with these. The UPLIFT PROGRAM published these statistics on their website about depression:

Depression Statistics

  • Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. This includes major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder. [1]
  • Everyone, will at some time in their life be affected by depression — their own or someone else’s, according to Australian Government statistics. (Depression statistics in Australia are comparable to those of the US and UK.) [2]
  • Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants. At least four percent of preschoolers — over a million — are clinically depressed. [3]
  • The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23% p.a. [4]
  • 15% of the population of most developed countries suffers severe depression. [5]
  • 30% of women are depressed. Men’s figures were previously thought to be half that of women, but new estimates are higher. [6]
  • 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness. [7]
  • 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help. [8]
  • 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment. [9]
  • 92% of depressed African-American males do not seek treatment. [10]
  • 15% of depressed people will commit suicide. [11]
  • Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 — and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease. [12]
  • Depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder and costs employers more than US$51 billion per year in absenteeism and lost productivity, not including high medical and pharmaceutical bills. [13]

Stunningly, despite these statistics, little is being done to combat depression, a disease that now affects directly nearly 10% of the American population. Programs such as Active Minds are struggling all across the country for funding to reach out to teens in need. Other wellness resources are being trimmed back because of budget constraints. School systems around the country, from preschools to universities, are being forced to limit, divert funds from, or eliminate entirely programs aimed to helping children and young adults cope with the stresses placed on them and manage their depression.

In other words, the message I get is this: Unless you can spend billions of dollars on it, make a vaccine for it, administer it quickly, and then move on with your life and look really good and heroic about how you saved us all from certain tragedy, it’s not a pandemic. Twenty million vs. 90,000 makes no difference if the results aren’t immediate and heroic, or fit nicely in a 4-year term or seasonal time frame.

Just weeks after Casey died, a few of us recognized that help wasn’t easy to find for teens suffering from anxiety, depression, and addiction. We started a foundation called Lines of Love to build a bridge to those resources, and we had several successful events this past spring to begin our outreach program.

We’re still in our infancy stage, but on this six-month mark of Casey’s death, I ask you to join me in making that commitment to do everything in our power to reach out to those in need. Become a line of love with us. Get involved with local wellness programs that can provide help for our friends and loved ones, if not for ourselves as well. Join the Active Minds chapter at your school. And, if there isn’t one, find out how to start one. Lines of Love is committed to supporting you in your efforts to be that bridge to our loved ones suffering.

More than ever, in the memories of all of the beautiful people who have lost their battle with depression, I am committed to building this bridge.

Please join me. We cannot wait for federal declarations of emergencies or impending disasters. We’re already there, and our loved ones need help today.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Casey: Always Loved, Forever Missed

  1. VW-

    You wrote this beautifully, as always. It is definitely hard to believe that this was truly 6months ago; it’s almost like yesterday. Casey definitely had a tough battle for many years and you made it clear what many others should be doing and look to; amazing.

    Like

  2. Thanks, Lacey. It frustrates me so much that we must fight so hard for help with this battle. Lines will be working diligently in the coming months to reach out…I hope you’ll be able to join us in some capacity. I know it’s so hard with the upcoming semester; I’ll keep you updated…

    Like

  3. Rus, Once again, thank you for you diligence and passion. Please know you are never alone in your pursuit to bring awareness and aid to those suffering. If there is anything I can do on the west coast to help please do not hesitate to call on me.
    I cherish my memories of holding Casey when she was a baby, holding her hand when she was a toddler and watching her grow into the beautiful, loving soul that she was and is. You said it best, “Always loved, forever missed”.

    Like

  4. I went to high school with Trina Kalathais, through facebook we connected and somehow we connected….i have enjoyed reading your blogs and found this tribute very touching. I think everyone knows at least one person who has dealt with depression or bipolar, I know it hits home for me. I live in SC but am interested in helping in some way….any ideals? thanks so much

    Like

  5. Thanks, Jim. I will certainly be in touch about efforts to work with those in need on the west coast.

    Lisa, I thank you for the kind words, and I thank you for your offers as well to help out in South Carolina. I will be in touch shortly to let you (and others) know how they can help beyond our work here in Maryland. Blessings to all.

    Like

  6. Your post could not be a more accurate depiction of the discrepancies between mental health and physical health in this nation. I work in the community mental health field and we struggle to provide quality services to the most individuals we possibly can and we daily fall short because the demand far outweighs the resources to combat that demand. Not because money isn’t out there, but because mental health does not have the ‘glamour’ that the physical-health-issue-du-jour does. It is really sad, especially considering the rate at which our government is wasting money, throwing it irresponsibly around. Okay, don’t get me started…

    Like

  7. Rus,
    This is so well-written and heavily researched. The statistics are shocking and therefore quite powerful. Your comparison of this country’s response to the flu compared to depression is surely unique and makes a strong point that our priorities are out of whack.
    Twenty million vs. 90,000.
    Even without the comparison to the flu, your summary of the impact of depression would be enough to convince people that we need to address this. (Preschool kids??! I was shocked by that.)
    Very well done, my friend. I’m sorry for the loss of such a beautiful, giving soul.

    Like

  8. Rus,

    Accolades on a heartfelt and well written information on depression and suicide. The bottom line is depression kills and yet as a society we don’t seem to get that. As you said, we spend more money on other diseases, why not mental illness?

    185 days tomorrow since Casey died. A person dies by suicide every 16 minutes. About every minute a person attempts suicide. That means since Casey died, 16,650 americans have died by suicide and 266,400 have attempted suicide. Let’s put these numbers in better perspective. Since about 58,000 americans died in the Vietnam War, that means every 2 years the number of americans that die by suicide equals the number of americans that died in the Vietnam War. So roughly, in the last 6 months, the number of americans who died by suicide is equivalent to 25% of the total americans who died in the Vietnam War (which need I remind anyone, a war that lasted YEARS)!

    Depending whose numbers to believe, suicide is the 2nd to 4th leading cause of death of young adults 15-24 years old. In Maryland, the youngest suicide reported was 5 years old! Yes, 5 years old. About 12 youth complete suicide a day, that means a young person is dying every 2 hours and 12 minutes.

    There is a shame, stigma, and silence associated with mental illness and suicide. We fear talking about these topics might make them contagious. Actually, quite the opposite happens. Studies have shown if we talk about depression, bipolar and other mental illnesses, we will save lives.

    That’s what I think the gift of Casey’s life is. She and others have helped us learn more about depression and mental illness, saving other families and friends from the tragedy of suicide. I’m so sad for the loss of a beautiful young woman. But maybe, her gift, Lines of Love will help others.

    Like

  9. Thanks, Rus, for reminding us about the urgency of the cause. And thanks for remembering Casey. She will always have a special place in my heart.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s