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on August 18, 2016 at 10:37 AM, updated August 18, 2016 at 11:01 AM
The tragic story of Penn State alum Katie Shoener, 29, ended the way far too many end for people with bipolar disorder. She died alone and too soon.
But with the end of her story comes a new chapter for her parents Ed and Ruth Shoener, of Scranton. It’s a chapter focused on bringing more awareness to suicide and mental illness.
An obituary written by Ed Shoener, and published in the Scranton Times-Tribune, expresses the sorrow he feels for his lost daughter and the hope that the way we talk about people with mental illnesses can change.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 5 million Americans, or 2.6 percent of the population, have a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
“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.” Ed Shoener wrote.
“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.”
Katie graduated from Scranton High School. Ed Shoener told the Washington Post that it was the spring of Katie’s senior year that she first attempted suicide. Pills. In 2005, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Katie received a business degree from Penn State University and then a MBA from Ohio State University. She had friends and was well liked, Ed Shoener said.
But despite the love she received from her friends and family, Ed Shoener told the Washington Post his daughter couldn’t escape the “evil” illness.
“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.”
Ed Shoener wrote that our society does not provide the resources that are needed to adequately understand and treat mental illness.
In Katie’s case, he said his daughter had the best medical care available, 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,” he said.