“ending depression, ending stigma, ending social isolation, ending fear, ending suicide…” — philip albert lederer md

i have thought frequently about death, since the tragic passing of one of my best friends, luke sink, in august 2000. luke, a rising sophomore at vanderbilt university, died in his sleep, from undiagnosed ehler’s danlos syndrome (a genetic disease) and a ruptured pulmonary artery.

from his obituary:

Blair student dies unexpectedly Luther Williams “Luke” Sink, a rising sophomore at Blair School of Music, died unexpectedly at his home in Lexington, Ky. Aug. 21 from a rare connective tissue disease. Sink was a vocal major and on a pre-medical track. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and an Original Cast participant. “He was a wonderful student,” said Mark Wait, dean of the Blair School of Music. “It struck me that he was ideally suited to get the most out of the Vanderbilt experience. He gave as much to the community as he received.” Gayle Shay, Sink’s vocal instructor, added that Sink was “strong-willed in a good way. He was very supportive of friends and colleagues” and that he “always had a smile.” The funeral was held Aug. 25 in Lexington. A memorial service for Sink will be held Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the Blair Auditorium.

a couple years later, i took a music of death and dying course at brown university, did rotations and research in hospice and palliative medicine, and contemplated a career in the field. however, i became fascinated by infectious diseases and public health and decided to head that direction instead.

recently, as many people know, i’ve been struggling with depression and suicidal ideation (but none currently).

the 24/7 working culture is what’s hurting us. we need to figure out a way to work 8-9 hours a day and spend the rest of our time relaxing with family, gardening, exercising, cooking, singing, etc.

suicide is a tragic consequence of altered neurobiology, social isolation, a broken culture/ amoral society, and devastating stigma/ fear which leads to the social isolation. mental illness is also about power, because some people get “sick” and others don’t. i suggest reading the work of foucault to learn more about power.

please read my blog post about my prior suicidal ideation, and how my friends, family, and colleagues rallied around me to help.

if you have thoughts about suicide, please contact me on twitter dm here, or leave a comment on the blog. i also suggest calling the national suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255. i called back in july and it was helpful.

we shall overcome the stigma of mental illness, and help people become healthy again. natural happiness is possible, if we embrace the field of integrative medicine, which combines the best of conventional wisdom and alternative therapies.

i am organizing 500 miles against suicide/ 500 miles against fear, to end the stigma of mental illness and suicide. I hope you will join me in this work.


best regards,

philip albert lederer md

With my son when he was a baby (he’s three years old now).