Why Did Julie Take Her Life?
04/05/2004 AT 02:00 PM EDT
Instead, at 16, Julie's life took a dark turn. In the fall of 2002 she began having trouble at a new school and, in defiance of her parents' wishes, began dating a college boy. Julie became quiet and withdrawn, so much so that in July Tom and Kathy took her to a psychiatrist, who prescribed two antidepressants. She lasted on the medication just one week: On July 23, after discovering that their daughter wasn't home – and hadn't spent the night with her grandparents, as they had thought – her parents became alarmed. Tom walked out to the garage behind the house, opened the door and found Julie, 17, dead. "She had hanged herself," he says, his voice breaking. "I grabbed her, and I knew she was gone. I felt her, and she was cold."
Today, eight months after the tragedy, the Woodwards still sound as if they are trying to convince themselves that all of this really happened. "Julie was the most self-protective, self-preserving kid in the world," says her mother, Kathy, 47. Adds Tom, 46, who, like his wife, is a financial consultant: "I never in a million years thought this could happen to us."
But it did, and the Woodwards aren't the only parents to suffer such a loss. On March 22 the FDA issued a recommendation for manufacturers to begin printing warning labels for antidepressants, in response to growing concern that the very drugs meant to lift kids out of depression sometimes do just the opposite. "The labeling we are proposing won't say you can't use these drugs," says Dr. Thomas Laughren of the FDA psychiatric drugs division. "[But] the one thing that was clear from our hearings is that many patients were not being well monitored." The labels will caution patients to watch for signs of hostility and agitation, especially during the first days of use and whenever dosage is adjusted.