Recent Posts

Recent Comments



CW: Mentions of suicide.

In the wake of my father’s suicide, when I was just 12 years old, I was engulfed in a storm of grief, guilt, and confusion. During a late-night internet deep dive, I stumbled upon a report by the John Hopkins Children’s Center that found that children of parents who die by suicide are three times more likely to meet the same fate. This statistic struck a particularly raw nerve because my Vovó, my dad’s mother, had also taken her life a decade earlier. The question that stayed with me was personal and unsettling: Could there be a genetic link to suicide? 

I was terrified of what my father’s death could mean for my future. I remember his ballooning belly laugh and peppy personality, and I shared so much in common with him. I would think to myself—should I no longer be proud of our similarities? His identity, pulsing through my body as billions of strands of DNA, cast a shadow over my life. I needed to understand this man, who for twelve years I called the “Best Dad Ever” and who would forever occupy 50% of my genetic code. Thus began my journey down the rabbit hole of scientific research—a journey that would ultimately help me heal and offer me a new perspective on my dad’s death.

During long car rides home from soccer practice, I would bombard my mother with questions about my dad. She would recount stories of his childhood, tales that painted a picture of a boy growing up in a poor Oakland neighborhood with an abusive, teenage mother, a brother lost to gang violence, and a life burdened by early independence. Listening to these stories, I challenged myself to empathize deeply with his experiences and to attempt to see the world through his eyes.

Over the next two years, I tried to better understand my dad’s life and the possible factors that might have led to his tragic end. I read articles from publications like The Atlantic and explored countless online forums, absorbing information about depression and mental illness. I allowed terms like “intergenerational trauma” and “adverse childhood experiences” to enter my vocabulary. When I could not find satisfactory answers in research papers and medical journals, I took matters into my own hands. I conducted novel research on depression language markers using Reddit data and later joined a neuroimaging lab focused on adolescent psychiatry.

What I discovered from research and stories was a revelation. The thing that I believe ultimately killed my dad was not merely a mental illness that can be explained with science and genetics. I believe rather, he also died from a complex systemic issue, one that tangles factors including poverty, childhood mistreatment, urban environment, lack of education, and more. While it is often easy to point blame at the individual or the family, it’s crucial that we lift our gaze to the broader systemic issues at hand. Our world desperately needs leaders who can address mental health issues not only through neuroscientific research but also through proactive measures that enhance education, accessibility, and awareness.

Fear was my initial motivator; however, I allowed my questions and curiosity to guide my healing journey. As a result, I’ve come to a new understanding of the problem at hand and am determined to work towards liberating those trapped in the cyclical and systemic traumas, hardships, and inequalities that often drive mental health challenges. It’s been over four years since my dad’s death now, but I am healing by turning grief and fear into action and advocacy.

If you are struggling or in crisis, please call or text “988” or chat online at for support. Support is free and available 24/7.


There are no comments.