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Eli Lilly heiress Ruth Lilly suffered from depression

Jenny Decker RN's picture

Announced by a family spokesman, Ruth Lilly died Wednesday at the age of 94. Ms. Lilly was the very last surviving great- grandchild of Eli Lilly. The great inheritance came from the family pharmaceutical business, also known for the antidepressant Prozac. Ms. Lilly was also known as a great philanthropist, who gave away about $800 million of her inheritance. Unfortunately, Ms. Lilly spent many years of her life suffering from depression.

A friend of Ruth Lilly remembers how she was in her early years at Tudor Hall School. She was a great artist, was well versed in French, and had a contagious smile. However, shortly after she turned 17, Ruth Lilly was hardly at school for much of her last year. Lilly’s onset of isolation and depression coincided with the Lindbergh tragedy. The Lindbergh tragedy frightened many of the wealthy families across the country and likely affected Ms. Lilly in a similar manner. Sometimes depression can result from a major life change or crisis.

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Ruth came out of her depression shortly after beginning therapy with the Lilly pharmaceutical drug Prozac. Her physician Jack Hall told the Indianapolis Star in 2002 that the antidepressant changed her life. He stated that Prozac, “made a world of difference,” for her. According to WebMD, depression is a serious medical condition that is a leading cause of disability around the world. . Depression affects about 121 million people worldwide.

Ms. Lilly spent much of her life in isolation. However, she also gave her money away to hospitals, libraries, theaters, museums, the National Easter Seals Society, and recently she gave $100 million to a poetry society in Chicago. Isolation is one of the symptoms of depression, however, it is not the sole symptom of depression. Other symptoms include sadness that lasts almost all day, every day with loss of interest or enjoyment in things that were previously enjoyed. Other symptoms may include feelings of worthlessness, trouble making decisions, thoughts of death or suicide, fatigue or lack of energy, sleeping too much, changes in appetite and weight (weight loss or weight gain), and feelings of restlessness.

Everyone has feelings of sadness every now and then. This is a natural emotion. It is when the feelings become overwhelming and last for a long time that depression may be present. Each person with depression expresses their own set of symptoms of depression. Depression also interferes with daily functioning. Most importantly and concerning is that depression may result in suicide.

If you think you or a family member may be suffering from depression, let your doctor know. Depression can be treated and you can return to a healthier happier person. If you or a family member may be considering suicide, call your doctor immediately or go to your local emergency room for assistance. Call 911 or even call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) if you need help.



How terribly sad that Ms. Lily suffered from depression for a great deal of her life. As another soul who endures a similar mental state, I identify with the "poor little rich girl." Unlike her, however, I struggle at the edges of poverty. Her life is proof that money does not buy happiness.