On his good days, Patrick Yurek enjoyed sketching, playing the saxophone, or just spreading joy. He was caring, loved everyone, and had a quick wit, according to his friends at Tech.
At other times, he struggled with addiction, suicidal thoughts, and hating himself.
“People who are suicidal are hard to be friends with, but they’re the ones who need friends the most,” Armanda Crawford said.
Armanda, a senior, said she met Patrick their freshman year. They became good friends and often went hiking around Cummins Falls on the weekends.
“He cared so much for the people in his life,” she said. “but he had a hard time loving himself.”
Patrick didn’t hide his depression from his friends and admitted he sometimes felt “stuck emotionally,” she said.
He lost his battle with depression and took his own life on Jan 14. He was found dead in his apartment in Tech Village.
“We thought we were on the good track with doctors and medications,” Jason Yurek, Patrick’s father, said.
He spoke with his son only a few days before his death and he’d been in good spirits, telling him about his plan for school and his future, Yurek said.
“If they knew Patrick was struggling so much, why didn’t they let us know? Why didn’t you tell someone?” Yurek said of Patrick’s friends.
Armanda learned about Patrick’s death when his father posted on Facebook asking that people “Please pray for our family. We lost our son to depression today.”
She said the news was completely unexpected, so she asked a friend to drive her to her parents’ house at 2 a.m.
Patrick was a business major with a variety of talents. His father described him as an intellectual and “an incredible artist.” Patrick also published his own stories on the internet and was a musician, his father said.
Despite all of this, Patrick still struggled with demons. He used illegal drugs to medicate himself and got in trouble with the law, Yurek said.
“You don’t give up on your child. You fight damn hard,” Yurek said. He always forgave his son, but Patrick couldn’t forgive himself, he said.
Patrick’s pain ended the day he committed suicide, but for others, the pain is still fresh. He left behind his loved ones, including his father, his mother Shannon, and his siblings Meghan and Nolan.
“The effect of suicide is like dropping a pebble into still water. It sends out a ripple effect,” Yurek said. “A child dying is a parent’s worst nightmare.” He believes he and his family are just now coming out of a “fog.” Yurek has retired from the military and is currently volunteering in North Carolina for Hurricane Florence clean-up.
Armanda said she began battling anxiety at school after Patrick died.
“Sometimes just going about my day, my body would just go into this flight response to where it felt like something was wrong or something was happening,” she said. “Like right before you take a test you haven’t studied for. But, there would be no reason or trigger.”
Yurek said it’s important not to mourn the dead so much that it’s debilitating. One must keep living life, he said.
“I know he’s in heaven waiting on us,” Yurek said. “I always look up at the stars at night and know he’s looking down on me.”
Armanda said that while suicide is a difficult subject to talk about, she wants others to join in the conversation because it’s so important. She also believes removing the stigma from counseling would help people.
“Don’t give up,” she said.
Yurek said the best thing people can do is just to be there for another. “Reach out to them and ask them how they’re doing, just put a hand on their shoulder and let them know you’re there.”
“I think Patrick would want people to be nice to each other, be nice to Mother Earth and forget about the politics,” Yurek said.