Sixty-nine phenomenal students graduated from Waynflete School in Portland on Friday. There should have been 70, but one of them couldn’t attend.

It was my daughter, Beata Vest, who died last March.

The cause of death was listed as suicide. But I see it as a complication of a disease — a brain illness.

This disease surpassed behavioral issues, existential angst, victimization by bullying, or the catch-all diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Her condition caused so much pain and suffering that it became terminal. This child loved and lived a full life; she loved her people, her family and her school. She knew and felt her love was reciprocated.

Beata was amazing. She could do anything. She was intelligent. She could communicate in four languages, picking them up as easily as most teens can learn the lyrics to the latest pop songs. She was an incredible artist and dancer. She played the violin and taught herself piano. She was an integral player on three varsity teams. She made the honor roll, and aspired to be an engineer. She was equally passionate about social justice as she was about climate change. Her idol was Angela Merkel. Beata was beautiful, adventurous and best friend to many.

During the fall of her sophomore year, she started manifesting symptoms of illness. She was hospitalized for suicidal ideations with a plan. She was not given any tests, except a pregnancy test upon admission. She did not see a doctor; she saw a nurse practitioner and a social worker. She was released three days later with the plan to attend a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program.


DBT is a wonderful program, teaching patients positive tool sets such as mindfulness, coping with distress and regulating emotions. Everyone can benefit from DBT exercises. But they did nothing to cure Beata or her disease.

Coping methods can facilitate healthful behavior in all forms of patient. They can include easing the stressors of treatments, surgeries, and living with a disease. But these tools do not cure the underlying pathology. To get at the root cause of the disease, more is required.

When a patient presents with a disease of the body, extensive tests are run to diagnose and treat the illness. Beata, with a different kind of disease, was given no such assessments.

Unlike physical illness, where blood can be analyzed, tumors can be scanned, Beata’s symptoms were sometimes subtle, and with a high pain threshold, masked. On the outside, she continued to be her impressive self, earning two scholarships to study Arabic in Morocco for the summer.

Beata traveled, returned, started school, then went into crisis and was re-hospitalized in November of her junior year. We tried to get her scans, testing and treatments such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Boston, but we were told she had to fail “traditional” treatment modalities first.

She was discharged after a 10-day hospital stay without any outpatient care other than a follow-up appointment two weeks later with yet another team. This lack of outpatient support is a recurrent theme in our system. I have spoken to parents of three other teens who were discharged from the hospital with either suicide attempt or ideation without any scheduled follow up. This does not happen to patients with life-threatening diagnoses discharged from medical hospitals. They are discharged with appointments for medication, radiation, nutrition, home health visitors, counseling, etc.


During the last academic year, at least five teenagers within a 10-mile radius of where I live have died from complications of psychological brain disease. Among my acquaintances, I know of five other teens that have been hospitalized. Two other teens were unable to obtain an inpatient hospitalization, and more than 15 teens are on psychiatric medication.

These teens were suffering before Beata died, so while her death probably did not help their situation, it certainly didn’t cause the disease.

I exist in a small community. I don’t know that many people in Maine, so if this is what I know of personally — what are the actual county or state figures?

And, more importantly, why are there not more facilities, testing and treatment programs accessible to these children. This is a local, state, and national emergency.

The seriousness of their condition is misread, as evidenced by the lack of adequate, timely, diagnostic testing and successful treatment programs. These kids are not dying because they are sad; they are dying because we have failed them as a community.

Victoria Vest of Portland is the mother of Beata Vest, who died by suicide last year.

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