Woman pens honest obituary about sister’s depression, suicide

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DELUTH, Minn.– A woman’s honest words in her sister’s obituary are sparking conversation.

Aletha Meyer Pinnow died on Feb. 20 at the age of 31.  Like many obituaries, it lists her interests, her career and her family.

But the words from her sister, Eleni Pinnow, address mental health head-on. The obituary, which appeared in the Duluth New Tribune, said her death was caused by depression and suicide.

“Aletha was her family’s whole entire world. She enriched the lives of countless colleagues and students. Unfortunately, a battle with depression made her innate glow invisible to her and she could not see how desperately loved and valued she was,” Eleni Pinnow wrote.

The obituary also encourages people to have open discussions about depression and mental health to eliminate the stigma.

This week, Eleni Pinnow wrote an essay for The Washington Post called “I told the truth in my sister’s obituary, so that others might choose to live.” In it she describes the pain of finding Aletha’s suicide note.

“Depression lied to my sister, told her that she was worthless. A burden. Unlovable. Undeserving of life. I imagine these lies were like a kind of permanent white noise in her life — a running narration of how unworthy she was. After years of the lies and the torment, my sister believed that depression told her the truth,” Pinnow told The Washington Post.

“She was so wrong. Depression lies. I have to tell the truth.”

A scholarship has been set up in Aletha’s honor at her alma mater Northern Illinois University. Donations can be made to NIU Foundation, PO Box 746, DeKalb IL 60115-0746 with “NIU Aletha Pinnow Endowment” in the check’s memo.

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