11-year-old starts foundation in dad’s memory — (The Times-Call)

SSRI Ed note: Man experiencing employment setbacks seeks help for unstable mood, is prescribed antidepressant, dies by suicide. Bipolar disorder blamed.

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The Times-Call

Magdalena Wegrzyn Longmont,  Times-Call

Posted: 06/06/2011 11:02:28 AM MDT

LONGMONT — Jordan Holloway smiles faintly as he recounts the good times with his fun-loving dad, Rory.

He remembers racing the family’s beagle after his dad let the dog off its leash. He laughs as he recalls tripping, falling onto the concrete and scraping his face, as his father looked on in horror.

Another time, he and his dad carved tiny wooden boats from scrap pieces of lumber to sail on a pond.

Then there are the preciously mundane nuggets of family life: playing Pac-Man and Atari video games together, sampling his dad’s “gourmet mac and cheese” and building LEGO villages.

His mom reminds Jordan of other moments, like how before any kind of separation, no matter how brief, his dad always squatted down, clapped his hands together twice to call Jordan and then enveloped him in a tight bear hug.

Jordan prefers talking about those memories. When it comes to his father’s death, he approaches the topic with a mature, matter-of-fact attitude well beyond his 11 years.

“He was bipolar and didn’t have enough money to get a good doctor,” the Altona Middle School sixth-grader explained.

His father, Rory Holloway, hanged himself on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2007 — 20 days before Jordan’s eighth birthday. He was 37.

In Colorado, 940 people committed suicide in 2009, accounting for 3 percent of all deaths in the state that year, according to the most recent information available from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Nearly 4 percent of all Boulder County deaths in 2009 were suicide.

Last year, Jordan started a foundation in his father’s name. The Rory Holloway Foundation raises funds to help those struggling with mental illness obtain medical care.

“I want to help other people to not kill themselves because I know what that feels like,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s mom and Rory’s ex-wife, Erin Murray, said Rory had bipolar disorder, but went untreated for years because his episodes were initially lengthy and spaced apart — unlike the rapid mood swings that often characterize the illness.

In 2007, Rory lost his job as a reimbursement manager for a financial company and when another job offer was rescinded, he spiraled into depression, said Murray, 45.

Murray, who now has Rory’s medical records, said he went to a low-cost clinic, looking for treatment for his bipolar disorder. He was prescribed an antidepressant that can increase suicidal behaviors, especially among those with bipolar disorder, Murray said.

That, the family believes, is why he killed himself.

Though she and Rory divorced in 2000 after nearly two years of marriage, they remained close friends and bought houses a 10-minute walk apart in Longmont. After Rory’s death, police first notified her at 2 a.m. Rory had put her phone number in his suicide note.

“I said, ‘He’s dead, isn’t he?'” Murray remembered of that night when officers came to her door. “They all just bowed their heads, and I started crying.”

She told Jordan the next day that his dad was dead, but did not tell him it was self-inflicted — something Murray said she regrets to his day. It wasn’t until a week later that Jordan inadvertently learned how his father died.

“He was really angry at me for lying to him,” Murray said. “Then he started doubting everything; every other fact was in question … For almost a year and a half, he had severe trust issues.”

With help from a grief support circle at HospiceCare of Boulder & Broomfield Counties, the family worked through the issues and started to heal.

Then they got the idea for a charitable foundation. At first, Jordan solicited donations from friends and family. By October, he’d raised $600 and presented the money to Justin Furstenfeld, the lead singer for rock band Blue October and a spokesman for suicide prevention, when the band performed in Boulder.

Since then, Jordan has raised another $2,000. His goal is $10,000 by the end of this year.

Murray and Jordan are still figuring out how to distribute the funds, but said they want the money to go to middle-income people like Rory, who, despite being able to financially support themselves, cannot afford the additional cost of medication or therapy.

Jordan also is accepting submissions on the foundation’s website for a cookbook that will contain recipes and stories. Rory, a lifelong cook, graduated from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and made a career of opening high-end restaurants throughout the country.

Now, four years after his father’s death, Jordan said he’s learned to deal with the grief and anger.

On the foundation website, Jordan writes that although he misses his dad, he is determined to help others with mental illness.

“I am going to help people feel like they have choices other than dying,” he wrote. “I don’t want any other kids to feel like I feel, to lose their dad or their mom or their sister or brother or friend or you.”

Magdalena Wegrzyn can be reached at 303-684-5274 or mwegrzyn@times-call.com.