Monday, June 1, 2009


I read your text about Vineeth. It was so touching and painful, yet at the same time brave and beautiful and important to hear.

I never asked before, why he died; I suspected some illness, yet had no idea, what kind. Maybe you had written about it before, but I had missed it, I don’t know.

Year 2003 I lost my closest and dearest friend, Pekka, at the same way. I write you a little about him, not thinking, it would be the same than lose a child, but to tell you some of my thoughts and feelings of this illness. I hope it does not make you feel too bad or sad, but shares some part of your loss and thoughts around this mental sickness.

Pekka was more than a brother to me, and his suicide was really, really a shock for us all. He suffered from the same illness, and it got worse with the years. He had had several attempts during his life, the first at the age of 18, and then a few more later. He was very brave with his sickness. As he got older, the frequency of the difficult depression became more intense. He got hospitalized, and got only slowly better, and then only after 3 months, began to feel again the symptoms of a new depression. He was treated with lithium and electric shocks, and then he found some new medication, that seemed to help. Just before his death, the portion was made bigger.

We, his friends and family, had no idea that the new dosing might, before the cure, make him energetic enough to do, what he always had in mind these days. To me he always said that these thoughts just came to his mind, and he could not ever prevent them. There were impulses; strong and tempting images. He told me, that he has them all the time, but somehow manages to control them "normally". But then the fragile balance was made to break, with the new dose of the medication. He got very agitated, yet the depression was still on, and so were these endless, obsessive self-destruction thoughts. One day he then, to his own silent and well-organized, tidy way, managed to kill himself. (One part of his agony was, that he had to, while he still was sick, take care of all the plans for future, and all the burocracy to get help, as he did not want any help in these trivial works of fulfilling plancets...he should have started again his teaching job the very next day, even I told him, that he could apply more days off, and offered to apply it for him...)

I knew that he was not afraid of the death, but kept it as a friend and a relief, and wished to go to heaven. He was so tired, and did not want to continue his sufferings, and he felt like a burden to others, even he never was. We all loved him so much. We tried all we could to stay close to him and share his pains, but in the end, I guess, he felt that he was either still alone in the end, either that he was too close to all the friends, so that his pains made our lives painful, too. There is no answer, and maybe the both are true.

I might be wrong, but I understand him, yet I always asked and prayed him not to do it, to think of the pain he would leave for his mother and father, and I tried to make him hope for the new treatments etc. I tried my best, as did all; even we may have done errors, too.
He knew that he was loved and accepted, as he was. (He was a gay, too). He knew, too, that at least I would understand, why he did, what he did, and would not blame him fro that. I wonder sometimes, if I should have been harder in my opinions...but his mind was so close to my own, I felt almost all he felt...I knew how he sometimes really wanted to get away. We shared everything, yet, of course, it now seems, that I still could not share all the existing with him.

He just was too good and sensitive for this world. He felt everything so strongly, and took the pain of others, even people he hardly knew, to his own. It became all too heavy for him.

I also have another friend, so brilliant and genius, as these hypersensitive and extremely productive personalities often are. He is struggling with his bi-polarity and medications, and has, so far, managed some how. He even made his PFD this spring. But he is in constant danger. We can only hope and pray and try to keep in touch with him, even in his deepest moments, he almost looses the touch with everything and everybody. This is the nature of this terrible illness.

This guilty for what I could have done, should have said etc., is always there, and yet I accept this what happened with Pekka, as God´s will, anyhow. It was not Pekka´s own will, in the end, but the sickness lured him to think that way. I do not deny my guilty, as I was so close to him. In this we all are fragmented and week. In this world we do not always manage to stay as one...apparently. Nevertheless, we are united and of same being in Christ, even in this fragmentation.

I know, Pekka would never blame anyone of us.

What hurt me, was, that many did think, it was his homosexuality that made him kill himself. It is not so, but the attitude of the outside world is a burden to all different people, not their own differences. Also I just do not consider truly Christian those opinions that judge the people, who have made a suicide. There, unfortunately, are still those people, even in modern days...they are either ignorant and naïve, or sometimes, for some reasons, harsh and cruel people.

I am so grateful to my father in Christ, who with out hesitation organizes, (against the regular rules, as Pekka was not a member of our Church, and yet there are certain absurd rules for suiciders in the canons) panihidas for Pekka, and he always encourages us to pray for Pekka, and others, and shares my belief, that Pekka is in heaven, because of his own love for God ,and because of God’s endless Love towards him. Pekka is also with me, all the time. I truly feel that he never went away. I still talk sometimes with him, but not so much, as I did for some years ago.

There is no death, we do know it.

Today is the day, when our Lord Jesus Christ rose to Heaven. The heaven is our hearts, where all and everything is vivid; all is living, as we breathe the Holy Spirit. There are no limits, no isolation, yet the pain we feel, does not go away, but transcends to the wounds of our blessed Christ.

It is so good you shared with us your thoughts. We need to talk about this. We need not to hide anything of our fellow people’s pains and sicknesses to the secrecy, or feel ashamed or helpless, but let’s fight for the openness, and against the prejudges and the darkness of so called "normal" people’s minds around the mental is not the sick, but us "healthy", that cannot cope with the sicknesses like bi-polarity; our world does not yet have a place peaceful and safe enough for them. We must look at our modern lifestyles, and be critical about it, to provide more sustainable living situations for all of us. Your letter, John, is a strong contribution to this fight, and a sign of great personal maturity and love.

Warm hug to both of you,
From your Finnish friend,
Tiina Malinen
My dear John,
It wasn't easy for me to read through the pages you had mailed to me, particularly the letters of Vineeth. We used to say that Depression is contageous. Besides, I am also a father of three children, some of whom cause serious concerns some time or the other.
It is sad that we still don't have an easy way to treat depression. Some depressions are not considered that serious and goes away with or without treatments whereas certain types are lethal. Most of them respond to medication. But some are very hard and suicidal. Unpredictable too. They all go through severe suffering. Some attempt suicide impulsively, but get out of the crisis most of the time. But the type that Vineeth seems to have had is more lethal. They plan and execute their suicidal attempts very carefully, and it is pretty hard to prevent it. Next to impossible, I would say. Many of them look happy a day or two before they actually do it. And they even say or write that they are OK, and that all their problems have been resolved. This is the most lethal time. It is an indication that they have decided to do the final act.
In the hospital where I served as Director of Psychiatry we used to admit them right away, and physically check them every fifteen minutes until their depressive mood lifts. Their inner suffering is intense and they believe that their suffering will never end. So put an end to this agonizing pain! It is hard to prevent this, especially when it is chronic and well-planned. In the US we can't keep them hospitalized for years for medico-legal and financial reasons.
It was a little better (I think) when I worked in the Mental Hospital in Trivandrum. I must say that the State Hospital (Perurkada or "Oolampara") was very crude and one woudn't want to see one's relatives live there. But the Ramakrishna Hospital in Trivandrum where I used to consult in the 1960s the inpatient units were not so bad. I have been involved in the treatment of many celebritis that you must have heard of. For the Suicidal type of Major Depression my colleague Dr. Jacob (the only Psychiatrist in Southern Kerala at that time,and me the only psychologist at that time) used to administer Electroshock Therapy. It was gruesome to watch, but patients responded well. I have never seen any famiy member watch it. It is seldom used in America, and the the psychiatrist who administers it has to have special training and licence to do it. I would still recommend it as a life-saving last resort. However, as I have mentioned before, carefully, deliberately, planned suicidal attempts done by people like Vineeth are very hard to predict or prevent.
I do feel that mental diseases are like any other physical illness. Unfortunately, our society puts a stigma attached to it. I remember when I practiced in Trivandrum many well-known people came to see me at night. Some nationally known political leaders would apologetically request me to see their folks at their homes. I believe things have changed for the better now even in Kerala. It may look like there is no social stigma about mental illnesses in America. But there is. I am not sure if Vineeth would have got a good health insurance or life insurance if he has a major psychiatric record. Employers take this into consideration. These things should change. No wonder people don't want this in their medical records. Usully I give a benign diagnosis for the patient for insurance purposes. The court can subpeonae the patient's records, and I had to send some. Insurance companies ask for the records too. Ever since those experiences I would write nothing that would harm the patient in his record, and no very personal issues either.
Sorry it took me two days to write this. Franky, I felt depressed and didn't know what to write. I believe Vineeth paid a big price mostly because of social constraints. You did not have much of a choice. You had to honor his wish to keep it confidential. But then who would ever think that this tragedy would happen?
May God give him peace. My faith assures me that Vineeth is at peace and is with our Lord.
Love and prayers,
Dr. Joseph Thomas, Chicago
Dear John Kunnathu,
I was very moved by reading your account of Vineeth. I feel previlaged in knowing that you have chosen to share such intimate matter with me as a special friend. I must compliment you for not taking the secretive approach.
I have been giving some thought to the matters you had described in some detail in your blog, regarding your very dear Vineeth. I felt that you wanted my reaction to this story and these are my humble views. This may appear to be too harsh or too clinical; it may not be what you wanted to hear.

1. The suffering of the suicide victim.
It is often the gut-wrenching anguish experienced by the victim over a long period of time and often with no end in sight, that makes them decide to take this final step. I believe often, others around them are unable to comprehend the degree of despair they are experiencing. Often it is not possible for others to dive deep enough into the complex situation, to estimate the agony of emotional and psychological pain they are undergoing.
Such unbearable suffering can be physical, such as terminal illness with no end of pain or loss of dignity, in sight. On the other hand mental depression is often an insidious 'bastard' which creeps up on the sufferer, without the victim realizing its nature, until it's got them in its grip. When such individuals, of no fault of their own, become mentally unwell to the point of wanting to die, they are sadly -quite literally- not in their right mind.
Is it possible to commit this final act by a person in a rational frame of mind? Or could it be that the perpetrator could be temporarily insane at the time of the act? There are some who claim that attempts at self harm and/or suicide are by their nature not rational. To level accusations or selfishness and cowardice against those who succeed in taking on their own lives, is simply unhelpful.

2. The suffering and anguish of the loved ones left behind to grieve.
When you cannot save the person you love the most from themselves, the sense of futility and guilt can be so great that those having to cope with the burden frequently end up depressed themselves. The toll on those dealing with mental illness is immense and that for every person who commits suicide, others are left damaged.

3. The ethical issues.
Does any one have the right to take his own life? Is it a birth right of an individual to choose the time of departure from this world? Some people harshly maintain that suicide is often, but not always an act of anger and revenge and ultimately an act of selfishness. But is it any more selfish than the desire of others to compel the would be victim to live, when they choose not to. Dying with dignity is not imposing ones will on another. It could be said that decision to end ones life is making a choice for one person only, that of the individual who is suffering. The issue here is, choice to decide when suffering is enough and not having others insist that suffering continue, because their death makes others uncomfortable. The question is, should one have the choice to end life if an incurable disease cause unbearable pain and loss of dignity which cannot be controlled.

4. The moral issues.
It is flippantly said that suicide is another form of murder and murder is forbidden in the Ten Commandments. In our Orthodox prayers we ask for a merciful release and to be spared from sudden death. Both are profound statements in my opinion. The Last Rites set for the dying, in Orthodox tradition is a good one in normal situations. But death happens not always in 'Normal' situation. People who die suddenly in motor car accidents and other forms of accidents or medical illness, by this standard will be denied of this sacrament. Are they all condemned souls? God is far too merciful to judge in this way.
There are passages in St Paul's letters that he suffered chronic severe pain in his body and asked his Lord for a cure, but the Lord said "No, my Grace is enough". What are we to make of this? These are issues for which we do not have an easy answer.

Death is often the end solution to severe and unrelenting pain and suffering. The historical Jesus experienced such anguish and physical pain which even He found difficult to bear and cried out before he died, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" .

Willy John Daniel, Melbourne, Australia.
I'm not sure if you remember me, but I was one of Vineeth's friends in college. I think that he may have introduced me to you all as Nestor. Anyway, I gave Vineeth rides home to Jersey Village a few times from UTD over the holiday breaks (I lived in Sugar Land), and we became rather good friends during our time in college.We became friends freshman year (2003) when a shared acquaintance introduced me to Vineeth, and from the outset of our friendship, I always marveled how witty, well-read and clever Vineeth was. Being an intellectual myself, the conversations Vineeth and I had (dozens if not hundreds) were always refreshing and thought-provoking. Over those formative years, I considered Vineeth to be one of my best friends.
I had graduated early from UTD (December 2006) and accepted a consulting job, but always tried to stay in contact with Vineeth. When my work would bring me back to Dallas, we always made an effort to hang out with one another.
Last spring, I was in Houston working on a project, and left my laptop open. Vineeth had sent me an innocuous message ("what's up?", or maybe it was "how's it going?), and I was away from the computer, unable to respond. We hadn't spoken for sometime, and the first thought in my mind was to give him a call, or send him an e-mail or message so that we could catch up over lunch or maybe see a movie. He had told me that he was currently interning back in Houston, and I was excited to hear about all the changes in his life and I wanted to share with him all the things I had experienced traveling across the country.
A day or so had passed, and the thought lingered in my mind to give Vineeth a call. I was so busy on that project. The day after, Gabe had told me of the news. I was so shocked. Devastated, really. I wish I could have visited with him, had another one of our deep conversations on movies or politics or economic policy, and taken him out to a meal. When in Dallas, I remember Vineeth had grown fond of the Ahi Tuna roll at the Cheesecake Factory.
Vineeth and I had shared so many lasting memories together, and it was beyond comprehensible that he wouldn't be there anymore to share new experiences with. I could only imagine how you, as his parents felt, which is why I couldn't muster the courage to introduce myself to you and share condolences at his funeral last year.It has been a year, and I still think of Vineeth so frequently. I wonder what kind of person he would grow up to be; he was so talented. Whether an actor or a businessman or a entrepreneur, I always saw that he had the motivation and talent to pursue whatever he wanted, but just lacked the confidence. I believed in him. I know his friends and family did too. We all miss Vineeth so much
-Jay Pulanco
Dear John Uncle,
Where did a year go? Even today I can remember Vineet's doleful smile when you visited us in Delhi. But then he had this amazing ability to replace it with a warm one in a jiffy...I remember Vineet just as you described him-- always the silent one, inquisitiveness but never blunt or rude, always wanting to advance his understanding, and always respectful..
I remember this incident when we (Vineet, Rashid, Mini and I) had gone for a movie, it was well past midnight when the movie got over, and Vineet and I decided to walk back from the movie hall. It was quite a walk, some odd 30-45 mins. It was well past midnight, the weather was good, so we decided to take a walk, engaging in jovial banter. It was Vineet who realized after a while that we were being stalked. We tried to shake him off, but no avail, and he was gaining on us. So we both decided to turn sleuths, put our thinking caps on, and came to the conclusion that we should take to the bylanes. (that I knew extremely well--every nook and corner of RK Puram) and go around the place to try and throw him off our trail. After some 10-15 mins of meandering through the bylanes we finally managed to shake him off and get home safely. We both shook hands and congratulated each other, and in an odd sort of a way were thrilled by this mini adventure. I think that was perhaps the only time during that trip when I saw Vineet give a full-blown whole-hearted smile. I remember remarking-- dude u r quite handsome! I ain't taking you anywhere near any of my girls! And he smirked. Both of us had a good laugh.
I have his pic on my cupboard door, and every time I see it, I remember this incident and it brings a smile on my face. You know uncle, I won’t pretend that I knew Vineet very well, but from the few days acquaintance that I made of him in Delhi, I came to know of him as a wonderful person with a brilliant albiet slightly sarcastic sense of humour, but it was always good naturedly; he could crack hilarious stuff with a straight face. I look at that photo and say to myself. I know dude you are at a better place. I hope you have found what you always wanted--peace.With the hope that you and aunty are keeping good health. Regards
Danny, New Delhi
Dear John
I opened the mail very late, but I could not stop reading about Vineeth. I read the whole thing. I see lots of lovely memories. In order for him to do something like that to you both, he had really suffered a lot silently. Poor thing! You would have felt better if he was alive, but he would have really suffered a lot more. For him the place where he is now is better than here. At least he is not suffering like he did before other than thinking about you both.
I know two men who suffered the same. One Malayalee girl from here married a guy from Kerala a few years ago. She kept his disease a secret for a year. Finally he left to India for good. His father thought that after marriage he would have got better, but he never wanted to live or to be with her. He is still alive. Another man around 35 had the same problem. He was very intelligent. He never shared his problem with anybody. He was admitted in the hospital a few times. Only after his death we came to know about his problem. His wife suffered for 14 years. He wanted her to leave him alone completely. At one point he made her go and live with her sisters. Out of pity she came back and lived with him again. When she came from work one day, he was under the blanket dead. After five years she remarried and now lives happily. Before she never had a happy face and she never made friends. John, I hope you will feel better.
Cicily Sunny
Dear John:
Thank you for giving me the privilege of reading your moving account of your son's struggles with a disease process which as you say is still misunderstood by both the laity and professionals in the developing world. Your essay is also a nice tribute to the human and caring side of your son by recounting his compassion for those who may suffer from his act even at the tail end of his life. You may want to write a more detailed monograph of your son's life with a full rendering of his life which culminated in the unfortunate end and the struggles both he and those who knew him intimately had to deal with. Again, thanks for letting me read it. With best regards and prayers that you and your wife will find solace in doing works that relieve the suffering of the mentally ill. If you have not seen the recently released movie, "The Soloist", I highly recommend it. It will remind you of "A Beautiful Mind" (Movie).
C. Alex Alexander, M.D.

Dear John Kunnathu Sir,
Thank you for keeping in touch. I read your blog. Together with several other consolations that you received I found mine too. I was surprised. Thank You. It shows that you took all the consolation as a treasure. Treasures always make us rich. In this World, this is how Christ likes us to be. That was why Church was made. I am happy and consoled to know that there are more brethren of ours to console us during the hours of our grief. I used to think that each individual is alone in this world. But your blog has made me change that perception. As the saying of the great writer Alexander Dumas goes "All for one and one for all". This has been proved again in the form of the consolations that you received and also through the Blog that you maintain. I thank Jesus for uniting us through His Mystical Body without which we won't know each other. Let us remain one in His Body. May the Holy Trinity grant us the everlasting peace amidst all trials and losses. Also, we hope to meet on that beautiful shore together with your son Vineeth John. Let God Bless Us.
Cheriyan Thomas

Dear John Sir& Lissy Chechi,
It’s very nice to hear from you after a long time. I know how difficult it would have been for you and Lissy chechi to come to terms with the loss of your most precious gift. We can just imagine how extremely difficult it had been for you both to live each moment of your life without Vineet.

They say that time heals all wounds. Your cut was the deepest and it might take many years to get through all this. However, your unfettered faith in God and your wisdom to look at the positive side of all this and the sincere prayers of all the wonderful people that surrounds you, I believe, will get you through all this with more strength. Your compilation of Vineeth's works is really magnificent. It surely keeps the memories of Vineet alive. Your Sharing about Vineet's untold side of the story does teach us all many things.

Many times we forget to cherish the blessings we have got and take things for granted. We forget to think that all the wonderful things that we enjoy are a gift of God. He gives it to everyone as he pleases and he takes away when he wishes.

I am really happy to know that you are keeping upbeat through your writings. Your writings and thoughts have been really inspirational. Suni tells me that there is not one day when she does not pray for Lissy chechi and you. Reading through your blog I can see how much you both are cherished and loved by so many people near and far.

I know we have not been keeping in touch more often and I am sorry for that. We have dropped by your home couple of times after the church but you both were not there. We will always keep you and Lissy chechi in our prayers.
With love and regards
Sam & Suni

Hi John,
I was reading on your blog and I couldn't help but notice about your son. I wanted to extend my most sincere sympathy for your profoundly tragic loss and to tell you that I will keep you all in my daily prayers. No words can adequately comfort you, but I do hope that God's love will provide the comfort you need. Your son's intense pain has been alleviated at last. I know you sought a different resolution, as we all would have done. My daughter is bipolar as well, but it seems to be well treated by medication for the time being. I live with the fear that has unfortunately been realized for your family. I know all too well what can go wrong, but pray that we escape the fate that befell your precious son. You seem to be walking in Grace, even though your heart has known such an horrific tragedy. Bless you, John. I have no doubt that you were a wonderful father, and that as a parent you did everything humanly possible to provide the security, support and care your son needed. I'm so very sorry to hear that it ended this way for him. This link I play in honor of your son.

Blessings to you, dear man.
Jackie Sue Barnes

My daughter, who was schizophrenic, jumped off the balcony of a 15th floor apartment building. She was egged on, even driven to do it, by two other people in her building, who wanted to rob her of the contents of her apartment. They told her "Jesus wants you to come to him. He wants you to kill yourself so you can come to him in heaven." After her death I went to her apartment and found it amost empty, with the TV, stereo, paintings on the wall, etc. all missing. I'm a professional investigator. For a year after her death, I worked to gather evidence to charge these people. I never got enough for the police to act, but did get enough to publish a newspaper article that caused two police officers and a coroner to resign from their jobs for failing to investigate a suspicious death.It didn't bring her back, nor ease the pain, but at least for that year I felt I was doing something for her, something in her honor. Eventually, I found some equilibrium again, and though I'll always mourn her I can function again.
The lesson I drew from it was that if you do some constructive thing, in your child's memory, no matter what the thing is, it helps you heal to the point where you can function again. If what drove your child to death was a disease, you can educate people about it. If it was a social situation, you can fight to change it. The important thing is to do something, which you see as a kind of memorial in your loved one's honor. No amount of graveside prayers or long talks with friends can replace this form of healing. My daughter died several years ago, but still I find myself sometimes breaking into tears when I think of her. Then I remember the year of fighting for justice for her, and feel better. I say a prayer then: "Ruthie, I tried." I hope something like this can help you.
Vietato Fumare

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