Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cote Laramie. A life lost.

Genius: a brilliant, poetic writer; a compassionate friend; a talented musician; a heartthrob of a young man.

Cote Laramie.  Harvard undergraduate.

In early September, Cote, about to begin his junior year, killed himself.

I just found this out this morning, and I am still enraged.  How could this happen?

I've been meaning to write about teenage depression, especially amongst adolescent men.  It's a subject too close to my own heart.

I knew Cote from the St. Paul's School Advanced Studies Program, which he attended between his junior and senior year of high school.  I helped him as a college advisor. I knew, from our first conversation, that Cote possessed something more.  He had a way with words, a wisdom about him.  He had lived many more than his sixteen years, that was apparent.

I helped Cote with his college entrance essay—we corresponded during the fall after ASP.

He began his essay:

"When my mother got pregnant, my father wanted nothing to do with her. I was born not knowing who my father was. I still have no idea."

We talked about missing fathers: mine died when I was thirteen.

His essay continued:

"My mom is a manic depressant schizophrenic. At four years old I was taken away from her and put into a foster home, until my aunt adopted me. Soon after I was taken, my mom began antidepressants in exchange for visitation. From then, until my 13th Christmas, I did whatever I wanted to on the weekends with her. The night I learned of her illness, I became responsible for her actions as well as my own."

We talked about dependent mothers: mine developed Alzheimer's and I served as her legal guardian and care giver.

I knew Cote struggled with depression.  I encouraged him to seek help, to remember the joy as much as the unbearable sadness.  I was so thrilled for him when he got in to Harvard.

Just months after my own father died, in the darkest days of February in New England, at the age of 14, I came very close to taking my own life.  That's nearly twenty years ago, but if you've ever gotten to that place you will never forget it. Never.

I have been extremely fortunate to have received tremendous support and treatment over the course of my life, and now know much more about myself, about depression, and about how to live a healthy, balanced, emotionally complex life.

But it took many, many years.  And I doubt most people who knew me ever realised the depths of my depression at the moments it held me in its tightest grasps.

We so desperately need to educate and care for our selves and especially our children.  Innumerable teenagers suffer from depression.  Suicide, a highly preventable end, registers as the third leading cause of death amongst 15-24 year olds.  

Yet we act as if feeling a bit blue just comes with the territory -- of growing up, of hormones, of the turmoils of middle and high school.  

Maybe.  But it's more.  Too many people suffer, truly suffer, tragically suffer.  Were they walking around with broken arms and open sores, we would be aghast and develop a crisis plan.  But since it's on the inside, we pretend.  

We pretend, at great peril.  

Please: if you or someone you know comes even remotely close to considering suicide, get help immediately.  We all need help.  I only wish I could have helped Cote. There should be no shame.

1 comment:

  1. jesus. i'm so sorry. it is a real tragedy, to be unable to escape the grips of depression and a rough family life. i know where you're coming from. my father passed at ten. my mom was in and out of mental hospitals my teen years. when i was 15, i never thought i'd make it to college.

    my friend sarah's husband has been a real inspiration to me. he had the same story. father was MIA. mother was practically out of the picture. middle-lower class family, he never went to college. but he was swallowed by the skating community. kept him out of hard drugs (i had friends die of heroin). in his twenties he had a skateboard company and glassed for a pro surfer. now his boards are carried all around the northwest. (

    community. still seems to me that teens like you, me, or cole.... NEED community. to feel attached to something...