Paula J. Clayton dies at the age of 86; Helped destigmatize depression and suicide

Paula J. Clayton dies at the age of 86;  Helped destigmatize depression and suicide


She also showed that while grief and grief can trigger severe depression, periods of grief, even if they last a year, were not in themselves depressive episodes. And it showed that far from going through a neatly described five-step process, grief was personal and peculiar – a finding that changed the understanding of doctors and the public about how we deal with loss.

Dr. Clayton resigned as chairman of Minnesota in 1999 and began teaching part-time at the University of New Mexico after moving to Santa Fe, NM.

But just six years later a recruiter got in touch with her: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention needed a medical director who could bring the work of its research network to the public.

Dr. Clayton took the chance and left her part-time life in New Mexico for New York. She made films for schools and parents and has been a constant presence at government hearings, from Congress to City Council.

She was particularly vocal about suicide among military personnel and veterans, as rates skyrocketed following the invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and among Native Americans. She urged insurance companies to improve mental health protection. And even after she retired in 2015, she continued to write and speak, convinced that with adequate public education, the country could begin lowering its tragically high suicide rates.

“In front of her, people talked about suicide as if it were this mystical, horrific behavior,” said Dr. Friedman. “Your work destigmatized depression, and that’s why so many people owe their lives to you.”

If you have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). For a list of additional resources, see SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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