real life

'I chose to tell the unfiltered truth in my sister's obituary. And this is why.'

Aletha Meyer Pinnow was just 31 when she suicided.

To family and friends she was a “caring, genuine, vivacious, hilarious, and sparkly” young woman. Devastatingly, the positivity she exuded to others was invisible to herself, and on the 20th of February she took her own life.

Out of their pain and loss, her family has chosen not to turn a blind-eye to the disease which claimed their Aletha, but to cast light on the darkness of mental illness. Her obituary, penned by adoring sister Eleni and published in the Duluth News Tribune, reflects just that.

sad girl on the windowsill looking out the window
Devastatingly, the positivity Aletha exuded to others was invisible to herself, and on the 20th of February she took her own life. (Image via iStock)

The opening line of Aletha’s obituary set the tone for what is a moving and powerful piece: “Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, of Duluth, formerly of Oswego and Chicago, Ill., died from depression and suicide on Feb. 20, 2016.”

Eleni has since discussed why she chose to be so honest in the tribute to her sister with The Washington Post.

“The most alone I have ever felt was standing on my front porch on a chilly February evening. My sister had taped a note to the front door that said “Eleni, if you’re the first one here don’t go in the basement. Just call 911. I don’t want you to see me like this. I love you! Love, Aletha.

“She put an identical sign on the back door.  Even in the midst of consuming depression, Aletha tried to protect me from the full horror of her suicide…

“My loneliness and terror on the front porch was nothing compared to the absolute isolation that depression had imposed on my sister. I had to tell the truth.”

And because she lost her beautiful, glowing sister to an illness that robbed her of self-worth, Eleni decided to break that very pattern. She chose to shine light and truth into a very dark place.

Depression does not discriminate, watch Jessica Rowe discuss her battle with depression below (post continues after video).

Instead of dodging around the reality of her sister’s death, Eleni spoke of “the destructive silence and stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide”.


“Depression lied to my sister, told her that she was worthless. A burden. Unlovable. Undeserving of life. I imagine these lies were like a kind of permanent white noise in her life — a running narration of how unworthy she was. After years of the lies and the torment, my sister believed that depression told her the truth. In the notes she left for my parents and me, Aletha wrote, “don’t feel sad, I’m not worth it.”

“She was so wrong. Depression lies. I have to tell the truth.”

While she can no longer save her sister from the grips of the debilitating condition, Eleni believes she can save others who are fighting.

“My sister’s depression fed on her desire to keep it secret and hidden from everyone. I could not save my sister. I could not reach my sister through her depression. Aletha slipped from my grasp and I cannot bring her back. I can only urge others to distrust the voice of depression. I can plead for people to seek help and treatment. I can talk about depression and invite others to the conversation. I can tell everyone that will listen that depression lies. I can tell the truth.

The lies of depression can exist only in isolation. Brought out into the open, lies are revealed for what they are.”

“My sister’s depression fed on her desire to keep it secret and hidden from everyone.” (Image via iStock)

And for anyone suffering with mental illness at the moment, Eleni has a clear message she wants you to really hear:

“Here is the truth: You have value. You have worth. You are loved. Trust the voices of those who love you. Trust the enormous chorus of voices that say only one thing: You matter. Depression lies. We must tell the truth.”

To make sure her sister is remembered for more than her pain, Eleni has started a scholarship fund in Aletha’s name at Northern Illinois University.

Those who may be contemplating suicide are urged to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or to visit this website.

Featured Image: Facebook/Eleni Pinnow.

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