"In fact, Kevin stopped taking his medication at some point in the spring of 2003. He was scheduled to attend an advanced ROTC training camp that summer and didn't want to report that he was taking medication for depression."
SSRI Stories note: Withdrawal can often be more dangerous than continuing on a medication. It is important to withdraw extremely slowly from these antidepressants, usually over a period of a year or more, under the supervision of a qualified specialist. Withdrawal is sometimes more severe than the original symptoms or problems.
Couple shares their story to raise awareness about suicide, depression
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, October 3, 2010
By DAVID TARRANT / The Dallas Morning News
Maj. Gen. Mark Graham and his wife, Carol, are raising awareness about depression and suicide after their 21-year-old son, Kevin – a promising ROTC cadet at the University of Kentucky – killed himself in June 2003.
"I think we've come a long way. It will never be fast enough for any of us," said Mark Graham, deputy chief of staff of Forces Command in Georgia. "And it's not an easy issue. If there's a physical wound you can see, it's a lot easier to tackle it."
Kevin was the middle child of three children and was more sensitive than the others, Carol Graham said. His older brother Jeffrey, nicknamed "G.I. Jeff," looked forward to a military career. Kevin wanted a similar career, but on the medical side. "From the time he was a child, he'd always wanted to be a doctor," Carol Graham said.
The moves that military families make every two to three years helped the Graham kids draw close together. "They were each other's best friends," said Carol Graham. Later, when Kevin followed Jeff to the University of Kentucky, they shared an apartment.
The Grahams were aware that Kevin suffered from clinical depression and was taking Prozac, an anti-depressant medication. At the time, Carol thought that Prozac was like taking an antibiotic and that, after a while, he wouldn't need the pills.
In fact, Kevin stopped taking his medication at some point in the spring of 2003. He was scheduled to attend an advanced ROTC training camp that summer and didn't want to report that he was taking medication for depression.
"He was the top ROTC cadet," Carol said. "He had been selected to be battalion commander his senior year. He didn't want anyone to know."
But in June 2003, he hanged himself in his apartment at the University of Kentucky. "We blame ourselves, and we always will," Mark Graham said. "We missed it and didn't see it coming with Kevin."
That tragedy was compounded eight months later when Jeff died in Iraq after a bomb exploded while he led a foot patrol.
The Grahams mourned privately for several years. But as the military struggled with an increase in suicides, they decided to tell their story to raise awareness about depression.
"Kevin wanted to be a doctor, and he wanted to help other people," Mark Graham said. "We decided that if people wanted us to talk, we would do that, especially if it could help other people become aware so this wouldn't happen to someone else."
Mark Graham was a featured speaker at a spring conference in Dallas sponsored by Contact Crisis Line, the nonprofit 24-hour suicide prevention hotline.
The Grahams plan to continue telling their story as long as needed.
"People need to know that you can die from depression. You can die from untreated depression," Mark Graham said.