to whom it may concern;

I don’t know if my non-Canadian blog friends (HI EVERYONE, BY THE WAY) have heard about Nadia Kajouji, an 18-year old university student here in the city, who died as a result of drowning in April.  It wasn’t an accident; there was no foul play involved.  She did it to herself… and her disappearance and subsequent death shocked a city.

Soon enough there were letters being written, ‘experts’ being consulted, and tv and radio hosts bantering about what exactly went wrong and how best to prevent it from happening again.  It, being a suicide of someone suffering from depression.

After a few days of listening to well-intentioned but disconnected Otta-wans, yours truly decided to step in there and have a say; not just because I too am a university student with depression, but to put out there that the so-called ‘solutions’ older generations were calling for were nothing but band-aids – pretty covers that let the problem fester in the dark until resolved on its own.  And when it comes to depression; if you let us solve problems on our own, we may just end up dead.

As it turns out, the editor of the Citizen liked my letter SO much that not only was it published (shortened, of course) but my picture was included to draw more and more readers to my opinion.

Therefore, I humbly entrust to you the unabridged version of my now-published opinion.

As a third year nursing student with the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College, I have been receiving medical help for depression which I have suffered for as long as I can remember. Although I have some coverage under the University of Ottawa’s health care plan for full time students, I cannot get my anti-depressant drugs, which cost $250 for two months, under this plan. But unlike many other students, I can still get partially coverage under my parents for my medication as well as paying for them myself through my two part-time jobs. But since my anti-depressant drugs are prescribed by the campus physician, I would think that as a student, I would get coverage under our student plan. Although there are excellent health care providers at each campus, I sit here today because of students like Nadia Kajouji, where help comes too late, or not at all.  Counselors are time constrained, work odd hours, and are often not enough for those with depression.  In fact, students with official diagnoses are often referred to outside services, which ends up being referred to a waiting list.  It’s been over 6 months for me and I’m still waiting. Many may ask why depressed students don’t just go home. I’d like to state that it’s not that simple.  Leaving a hospital after surgery doesn’t mean you’re cured; there are still weeks of rehabilitation to follow.  Such is that of a person with depression.  And going home will not be an instantaneous fix.  To go home means that we have failed and that is not something you want to suggest to a person who is struggling with the will to live. Many might ask why Nadia didn’t confide in others about her inner struggles.  I would like to state that despite it being 2008, there is still a palpable stigma attached to those with mental illness.  We may be seen as weak and emotional.  After confessing to our difficulties we may be treated differently, we may be told to suck it up and deal with it, or we may be told that it’s ok to accept defeat.  I don’t know about you, but those options are not at all attractive and in no way, shape or form do they make me feel better.    I also have friends that I can rely on.  But there are many more who are not so lucky.  No matter how good a system may be in caring for its own, inevitably there will be some who fall through the cracks.  It is my hope that Nadia will have not died in vain, that her struggle and death will serve as a wake up call that more has to be done to prevent further loss of life and hope.


~ by Carrie on May 8, 2008.

31 Responses to “to whom it may concern;”

  1. Beautifully written Carrie, here here. I hope you’re doing well these days and that when it’s needed help is never too far away = )

  2. Good for you for speaking up. Many are far too scared to do this and you’ve gone the extra kilometer to do so. Thanks for sharing something so personal on your blog, that’s not an easy topic to put out there.

  3. I think it’s super important to write that. It is definitely a feeling a failure if one has to move home after trying to make things work.

    I’d love to see the published piece.

  4. […] Continue Reading  Posted on: Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 1:18 pm  Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. […]

  5. that was a great letter. And interesting to read that the health care system in Canada isn’t as perfect as we in America sometimes think it is.

  6. First, welcome back!!
    Second, you wrote a great piece. After a pretty long battle, I finally gave in and sought help for depression last year and have recently started going back again. I’ve learned just because there is something wrong with me, doesn’t me that there’s something wrong with me, if that makes any sense.

    I had no idea about your medical system prior to reading this.

  7. I want to tell you that John and I read your letter in the Citizen and we are very proud of you:
    for such a well-written letter
    for having compassion for Nadia Kajouji, and
    for being brave enough to talk about your own circumstances.
    Good for you!


  8. YAY!!! Once again, I am sooo proud of you! DO tell me when it’s out k 🙂
    Miss ya!

  9. I’m sooo proud of you? Is your picture going up too? Eeep! Sooo cool. Sorry I couldn’t call you back 😦 stupid work always getting in the way of our gossip chats lol

  10. That’s really well written, I think it’s very brave to have written that and been a voice for many people who also suffer from depression but unfortunately don’t have your courage.

  11. We do something soon babe? I love you! XO

  12. Love you!

  13. Dear Carrie
    Just thought I would drop you a quick note to say I really admire you for your letter to the editor. It was articulate, and brought to light a really important problem. If ever there is anything that I can do to help, please let me know. Val

  14. Very Cool! Congratulations.

  15. Right on! The price of antidepressants alone is enough to send some people over the edge 😦

  16. I’m glad you sent that letter in. It clearly makes the case that it’s not just one issue that needs to be resolved (e.g., that counsellors should have notified her parents). There are many aspects of the system that aren’t working (e.g., wait times to see a counsellor/psychologist, poor long-term mental health care options, poor health care plans for students, strong stigmas against mental health issues, etc.)

    It annoys me when people talk about this as though she slipped through the cracks in the mental health care system. It would probably be more accurate to say that she was led to the gaping holes in the system.

  17. Well done Carrie … you, as usual, stated what you wanted to say very eloquently. I don’t think you painted an accurate picture of depression though. You know where I leved for well over a year … a heartbeat away from killing myself … because I was not good enough, because everybody hated me, because I was alone … and I could go on. For the Americans who have stated that they are learning something new, that our medical system is not heaven on earth in the medical world … yes there are those who have to wait too long. I was more fortunate and can see my psychiatrist or therapist almost on demand … perhaps that’s because I was staring death in the face at the time I met them.

    I am sorry that you don’t have the medical coverage you need Carrie. Once again, I am fortunate that I do. Between the anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and all of the insulin, syringes and blood test strips for my diabetes … it would cost me approx $6,000 per year. I cannot understand how people manage if they have to pay for medications.

    How have the exams been?

    You did good, girl.

  18. Wow! Great Job!

  19. Kudos on an excellent letter. Very well articulated. I can see why they wanted to publish it.

  20. @ Kyla – hey girl. Thanks a lot! I am doing well, and I have found great people that I can reach out to if I need a hand.

    @ Egan – I must admit I was scared shitless when the editor not only called me and said he was going to publish it, but when he said he wanted to include a photo of me with it. I didn’t know if I could face the reaction of people that know me because I hadn’t been that public with my diagnosis, but figured that if I could help other people by reaching out and not being afraid to say that I was a real person with depression, than it would be worth it.

  21. @ distracted spunk ~ Thank you; it was in the paper and online version of the Ottawa Citizen. I don’t know if it’s still available, but I will check it out!

    @ Noelle ~ The Canadian health care system is good; but it’s universal accessability creates long wait times, line ups, miscommunication, and lost souls. We try our best, we really do, but the nature of our system is that only those who are (supposed to, anyway) at the end of their line can receive the help they need. Unfortunately, this down-stream way of doing things leads to loss of life.

  22. @ Michael C ~ that makes complete sense. I’m happy you sought help- it takes a lot of courage to do so. And yes – our Canadian system is ‘free’ health care, but it’s really free sick care, and there are so many ‘sick’ and not so sick people who take advantage of the system that it generates frustration in those who really really need help.

    @ Stephanie ~ Thank you!!

  23. @ Nicole ~ haha thanks you! Did you end up buying the Citizen?

    @ Ruby ~ Thank you girl; I know that my big mouth sometimes (lots of times?) gets me in to trouble, but if it means I can help others get out of trouble, then it’s totally worth it.

  24. @ Donna ~ YES!

    @ Angelica ~ I love you too!!

  25. @ Val ~ Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch.

    @ Carmen ~ Thanks girl!

  26. @ Valerie ~ I KNOW EH? Granted they work and I am really fortunate to have found one that has restored my faith in life, but my goodness does it ever burn a hole in my wallet.

    @ psych grad ~ I agree with your last statement; but unfortuantely news papers don’t want the hard truth, but a watered down version for the readers. I hate having to play this game, but at least some of what I was trying to say got out there.

  27. @ George ~ like my email said; depression is so personal and subjective and situational it would be impossible to truly give it justice for those who have it. But it’s a start- I know of many people who still believe depression is a crutch instead of a barrier; maybe now it’s no longer de-humanizing to be associated with this illness.

    @ evans ~ Thank you!

    @ Carla ~ Thank you very much!

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