When depression kills: Son’s suicide moves father to help other parents

Whenever San Jose State alum Reggie Burton looked at his son Avery Burton, he saw a smart, athletic overachiever with a bright future.

Avery Burton at his graduation from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas in May 2017. (Courtesy of Avery Burton)

In the summer of 2017, Burton was delighted that his 22-year-old was about to pursue his dream: Getting a a PhD in physical therapy so he could help people recover from injuries. He never imagined that Avery was privately overwhelmed by depression, saw himself as worthless and thought he had to die.

On July 24, 2017, Avery drove to the bridge crossing the Colorado RIver, near the Hoover Dam and the family’s home outside Las Vegas. There Avery left his car and iPhone. In a suicide note posted to Facebook, Avery wrote that his death was “nobody’s fault …. I was living a fake life.”

LIke other parents whose children die by suicide, a grieving Burton was left to pore through his own memories, as well his son’s social media posts and other writings, to try to understand what happened and what he had missed.

“I had blinders on,” admitted Burton, a former reporter who runs a PR firm in Las Vegas. “When you look at my son outwardly, he was the image of a kid who was just excelling. But the signs were there.”

Reggie Burton, author of “This is Depression”

The search to better understand the major depressive episode that afflicted Avery is the subject of Burton’s new book, “This Is Depression” (Rushmore Press, $10). Burton will be doing a book event at Barnes & Noble Blossom Hill in San Jose at 10 a.m. on Sept. 14.

Burton said he wrote the book because Avery’s death revealed how little he and his wife Ann Burton understood about mental illness. He wanted to help other parents identify when their adolescent and young adult children are struggling.

But statistics counter this assumption: One in four college students suffers from depression. The suicide rate among Americans, ages 15 to 24, has reached its highest level since 1960, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for this age group.

Burton thinks these statistics should resonate at this time of year, as the school year ramps up at Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Jose State and other schools.

Helen Hsu, a staff psychologist for Stanford’s counseling services, said Burton’s book offers an important family perspective that focuses on

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle


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