After losing his daughter to suicide earlier this month, a father wrote a candid and honest obituary with an important message about bipolar disease and mental health.
In the tribute to Katie, Ed Schoener focused on his daughter's achievements and reminded everyone that her mental illness did not define her. He wrote:
So often people who have a mental illness are known as their illness. People say that 'she is bipolar' or 'he is schizophrenic'. Over the coming days as you talk to people about this, please do not use that phrase. People who have cancer are not cancer, those with diabetes are not diabetes. Katie was not bipolar - she had an illness called bipolar disorder - Katie herself was a beautiful child of God.
The obituary was published in the Scranton Times-Tribune, Schoener's local paper. According to the Washington Post, he hoped that by sharing Katie's story and addressing the stigma surrounding mental health he could help alleviate suffering of others. Schoener continued to say:
The way we talk about people and their illnesses affects the people themselves and how we treat the illness. In the case of mental illness there is so much fear, ignorance and hurtful attitudes that the people who suffer from mental illness needlessly suffer further. Our society does not provide the resources that are needed to adequately understand and treat mental illness.
Katie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2005 and despite living in a "cycle of therapy, medications and hospital stays", she lived a full and ambitious life, the Washington Post reported. In the tribute, Schoener continued:
In Katie's case, she had the best medical care available, she always took the cocktail of medicines that she was prescribed and she did her best to be healthy and manage this illness - and yet - that was not enough. Someday a cure will be found, but until then, we need to support and be compassionate to those with mental illness, every bit as much as we support those who suffer from cancer, heart disease or any other illness.
Shoener said that everyone loved Katie. “There’s nothing rational about this illness. Something in her mind told her she was a terrible person and everybody hated her,” he said.
Katie was not bipolar. She was a wonderful girl who had bipolar disorder.
Whether you're concerned about yourself or a loved one, these helplines can offer expert advice:
Bipolar UK - Charity providing support if you've been diagnosed with the disorder
CALM - The Campaign Against Living Miserably for men aged 15-35
Depression Alliance - Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of help groups
Mind - Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems