I knew her only briefly and have several friends who knew her much better and are dealing with her suicide. Because of many email problems, I only just received this email:
I am writing a very personal note about a recent tragic event. I am a doctoral student in civil engineering and over the past year was able to sponsor a neat project to build an All-Terrain Wheelchair for Julie Harrison, a local young woman with a spinal cord injury.
Julie has had a life-long history of depression (which is what led to her spinal cord injury), but had the problem under control through the use of medication. The project, an official ME450 senior design project with some of my former students, was to build a working model of a wheelchair designed for rugged outdoor activities, specifically in Julie’s case, camping in the National Forests near the Rocky Mountains.
Yesterday, after several months of being off her medication, Julie killed herself. You can read about this on the front of today’s Ann Arbor News.
I am writing to encourage my friends and associates here in engineering to support, encourage, and understand those with depression. While I was a student at the University of Cincinnati I knew of two engineering students who killed themselves due to the pressures of earning their degrees. Further, medical depression such as Julie’s can exist despite the apparent absence of any local or personal stress. Finally, just as you don’t stop taking insulin because your diabetes is under control, you shouldn’t stop taking anti-depression medication because you are no longer depressed. If you know someone who has stopped taking their anti-depression medication, they could have a literal, life-threatening, REAL risk. Julie was, and now she is dead.
Life is wonderful. Please stick around to enjoy it and encourage others to do the same.
Website about our wheelchair project. AllTerrainWheelchair.org
Website to article in Ann Arbor News
Respectfully submitted, John Norton
Thoughtful words for this highly stressful time of year. Good wishes everyone…