What would lead a 30-year-old, former high school valedictorian and Columbia University graduate to take his own life? The parents of Andrew Kukes know why, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Andrew suffered with social anxiety disorder and resultant depression from the time he was an adolescent. When other teenagers were going on dates and making new friends in college, Andrew was struggling. Although he did eventually seek treatment for the disorders, the depression became more than he could handle.
Earlier this year, 20-year-old Brandon Thomas took his own life because of his social anxiety and blushing. Those with social anxiety often also suffer with depression, which can lead to devastating consequences.
In memory of Andrew, and in the hopes of bringing awareness to the problem of social anxiety, the family has set up the Andrew Kukes foundation for social anxiety. The foundation has produced a DVD set to raise awareness. They are also hosting "An Evening of Understanding: Demystifying Social Anxiety" on September 6th from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. The event can be streamed live from the AKF website.
What can we do to prevent future tragedies amongst our youth?
Reducing stigma and raising awareness about social anxiety disorder is important. Most people with the disorder never seek treatment and over time symptoms can lead to depression.
Everyone who comes into contact with youth, including parents, other relatives, teachers, coaches and peers need to be aware and looking for signs of the disorder. Although Andrew's parents knew something was not quite right, it took a long time for a diagnosis to be made.
Hopefully with the work they are doing other children will not have to wait so long for help. Kudos to the Kukes family for trying to make a difference.
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