Dear Leonie

I receive e-mails occasionally from people looking for information on SSRI’s. Usually they’re from people with stories like mine with tragic endings but sometimes, just sometimes, there are nice stories of people who have survived their experience. Here’s one from a reader who would like to share; she wants to address the importance of an informed decision. Sadly, in Ireland, denial of the dangers of SSRI’s by the majority of the medical profession means that most Irish consumers will not be informed. I’m so glad that this one had a better outcome….

Dear Leonie,

I needed to let you know that your blog and Shane’s journey have had a profound effect on me since the moment I read the first post. Knowing depression/anxiety and mental illness has run in my family I was very aware of the subject matter and read your blogs and links with due diligence. Little did I know that the knowledge I was gaining would play a part in saving my own son from the brink of despair and possible great harm. I live in America; my son is 21 and has been away at college for several years. He was doing terrific, grades were great, involved socially in great things, fund-raising for worthy causes, it seemed everyone loved him and he loved life. Then my mother’s instinct kicked in. I knew something had changed, he had broken up with a girlfriend (not a serious relationship), his grades were dropping and he was not as involved in social events as he had been. We lost several close family members and friends in the last few years, he took each loss badly. Then a friend of his died from a combination of illegal drugs. I heard my son break on the phone when I called to tell him the news. I travelled to him regularly, each time worrying more than the last, offering him “options” to leave college, to change his life, any support I could. I hesitated to advise him to take anti-depressions based on Shane’s story, and found lots of natural remedies/ over the counter stress relievers but none seemed to have any long term support. All the time he was a 3 hour drive away from me. It was nerve raking.

To cut a long story short, one day in April I got a heart wrenching call from my son. Thankfully a friend had recognized he needed help and brought him to a hospital. He had voluntarily checked himself in to a clinic to help him with severe anxiety/depression. He had been self-medicating with drink and anything he could to escape his personal pain.

After several conferences with medical/clinical staff and my son, it was highly recommended that he go on an anti-depressant. I spoke to his caregivers (privately) and explained my concerns. Here’s the shocker when I said “I am aware that SSRI’s can heighten anxiety and actually give the patient suicide and homicidal thoughts” the answer was immediate and blunt “ooh that’s only with people who have already had those thoughts before taking them”. I quickly responded with a ton of knowledgeable medical research quotes and cases (thanks to your blog) and told them of Shane’s journey. I could tell by the silence (it was a phone call) and immediate empathy that the social worker had learned something valuable from my words.

That being said, I knew my son needed help beyond hand-holding. His situation was real and serious and I had no doubt from my visits with him at the clinic that he was a suicide risk. So I advised him of the risks to taking SSRI’s, told him I would support him with in whatever he needed but I felt he needed full medical supervision while he started the medications. Thankfully he and his team agreed. To say his first week on the meds was the longest in my life would be an understatement. However I felt comforted by the fact that he was in counselling, being monitored closely and I prayed, crossed my fingers, and even asked Shane to look out for him! Within a week my son was a different young man. He starting talking in a hopeful manner, by week two he was calmer. Months later he is now off the anti-depressant (they had put him on the lowest dose possible), and he attends group therapy and has made changes to take a lot of pressure away from himself. He’s closer geographically now, and my mother’s instinct has relaxed (although I’ll always be on alert!). I knew in my heart he needed help both in meds and support. If it hadn’t been for you sharing Shane’s journey I know I would not have been so insistent he got the level of supervision, the lowest dose possible, nor the full support of follow-up. Depression is a real illness, and it needs more than a ‘happy pill’ to treat it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to be an informed Mother, I was scared, and did the best I could with what I knew. Just as you did. That’s all we Mothers can do. Thank you for giving us more information to make more informed decisions/give advice to our young adult children. I’ve already thanked Shane, so now it’s time for me to thank his Mum.

Thanks Leonie.

From one Grateful Mom.

4 thoughts on “Dear Leonie

  1. This is, without a doubt, probably the best story i have read in a long time. Great work Leonie. I am sure this makes you feel so worthwhile and validated in the endless campaigning and educating you do everyday. Keep the faith.

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  2. This story had me until the end…That said, it is absolutely vital that people be informed and actively advocate in order to get good care for themselves and their loved ones. There’s no doubt you are helping ensure that is well known Leonie!

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  3. I’m so glad that Shane is making a difference. I knew Shane in Trinity and can honestly say that he was one of the best. He made my life so much easier when I needed a friend. No matter how busy he was he would always take the time to talk to the outsider, at least that’s how I felt at the time. I miss him.
    Niall

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  4. Thanks for the comments, it means so much that other people are willing to speak out. Yes it was a lovely letter, one of many, but the first one who wanted to publicise to raise awareness. I get lots of lovely e-mails from people who knew Shane, usually on days when it’s really needed, so I thank all his friends for that. They have been so amazing to myself and my family, I could not have come so far without their support.
    Leonie

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