Eleni Pinnow wrote an obituary after the death of her sister Aletha Meyer Pinnow on February 20. In Eleni’s words, Aletha died “from depression and suicide.” The obituary quickly went viral, because people were touched by Eleni’s message: Aletha was so much more than her pain.

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In an essay for The Washington Post, Eleni expanded on why it was so important for her to be honest about how Aletha died. She writes about the terrifying discovery that her sister’s depression had overwhelmed her:

The most alone I have ever felt was standing on my front porch on a chilly February evening. My sister had taped a note to the front door that said “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.”

She put an identical sign on the back door. Even in the midst of consuming depression, Aletha tried to protect me from the full horror of her suicide.

Aletha Meyer Pinnow was a 31-year-old special education teacher in Duluth, MN, who worked most with children on the autism spectrum. By all accounts, she was a warm, generous, and funny person who was well loved. But as Elena wrote in her original obit, “Unfortunately, a battle with depression made her innate glow invisible to her and she could not see how desperately loved and valued she was.”

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Eleni and Aletha’s story will touch anyone who has experienced depression, or loved someone who has. It seems that in Eleni’s opinion, silence about mental health issues is what killed her sister.

My sister’s depression fed on her desire to keep it secret and hidden from everyone. I could not save my sister. I could not reach my sister through her depression. Aletha slipped from my grasp and I cannot bring her back. I can only urge others to distrust the voice of depression. 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. I can tell the truth.

The lies of depression can exist only in isolation. Brought out into the open, lies are revealed for what they are.

Here is the truth: You have value. You have worth. You are loved.

It’s a hard truth to remember, but an easier one to hear when your condition isn’t stigmatized or ignored. Eleni has started a scholarship fund in Aletha’s name at her alma mater, and encourages people to reach out for help when they need it.

You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit save.org.

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Image via Twitter.


Contact the author at aimee.lutkin@jezebel.com.