When Depression Hits Out of the Blue

This family had to learn the truth in the most devastating way — now they're warning others

It seemed like any other night in Severna Park, Maryland. The Leikin family was heading out for a football game — though 16-year-old Ellie wanted to stay home.

She hugged each of them tight. And while they were gone, the beautiful, bright-eyed teen took her own life — something they would later learn she had methodically been counting down to for 10 days. It was Thanksgiving weekend.

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On the heels of a new report showing that teen depression and suicides continue to rise at an alarming rate — especially among teenage girls and young women — the Leikins are doing what they can to reach out to other families in their daughter’s name to raise awareness about the alarming statistics.

They’re doing it in her orange VW van, which can be hard to miss — which is precisely the point. They’re attending events, booking talks, and stopping by festivals whenever possible. Larry and Sherry Leikin told WBAL TV it’s important to speak out to others because they know other families can miss the signs of depression, too.

They say their daughter was artistic, spontaneous, dramatic, fearless — on the outside. But she suffered silently from depression, as a journal she left behind revealed. She was not bullied and wasn’t suffering from a breakout — just wanted to keep it hidden.

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[lz_bulleted_list title=”Signs of Depression” source=””]A major depressive episode lasts two weeks or longer and presents with either a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.[/lz_bulleted_list]

The Leikins noticed their daughter had been sleeping a bit more, but they chalked it up to normal 16-year-old behavior. She would have been 17 years old next month.

The devastated parents plan to continue working with local health officials and others to reach out. They encourage other parents to relentlessly check in with their kids and make sure there’s a good rapport.

More than 40,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States; it is growing public health concern and is the 10th leading cause of death overall.

Related: What’s Behind Your Daughter’s Depression

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or major depression, get help as soon as possible — particularly if suicidal behaviors are new or have increased recently. One resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24/7. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.

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