#LIFESaver Families Profile: Jade Lee Marasigan
What is your loved one’s full name:
Jade Lee Marasigan
What was their date of birth & their age at the time of their passing?
September 6, 2002; 17 years-old
Tell us about your loved one: What five adjectives best describe the positive they brought to this world, that now shines on in how they impacted you and all those they touched?
1. Beautiful: Jade had a beaming smile that lit up a room. She was a gorgeous mix of Korean and Pilipino genes with beautiful skin and perfect, long, black hair. She never believed she was pretty, but so many people tried to reassure her otherwise. More than just physically, her spirit radiated beauty.
2. Empathetic: she had a love of all animals, especially the ones no one paid much attention to. Whether it was her fancy rats Cheesy and Moo; the many praying mantises others feared while she affectionately raised them; the injured birds she would rescue and nurse back to health; respect and admiration for bees; the stray cats in our neighborhood, or the older ones at the shelter whom she gave attention to, Jade was always compassionate. She also cared deeply for her friends and family, often putting their needs before her own. Jade was always there to listen and offer help to those who needed support even when it was difficult for her to on the receiving end.
3. Funny: Jade loved to laugh and make other people laugh. She had witty responses, was creatively mischievous, and memorized quirky memes that were hilarious. Jade’s boisterous laughter would go hand-in-hand with the beauty of her smile, which made her joy tangible and infectious.
4. Creative: From her artistic ability to draw, to her talent to play instruments, to her stop motion movies and TikTok content, to finally her starting her own small business making jewelry, Jade was the epitome of creativity. From a young age, Jade hand-made cards and gifts for Birthdays, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, and especially Christmas. When she started Jade Lee Jewelry, she made her designs affordable for young people and aspired to spread the beauty of her creations around the world — in less than 6 months she had customers in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Estonia, Norway, UAE, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea.
5. Amazing: Jade was highly intelligent, an accomplished volleyball player, musical, artistic, an adventurist, observant, and gifted at so many things. As a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, pet owner, partner, friend, teammate, or student, Jade was often shy and low-key but stood out because of the beautiful and amazing things she shared with everyone who had the privilege of knowing her.
To the extent that you feel comfortable, please tell us what you believe were the circumstances/contributing factors around your loved one’s passing.What did you as a family wish you knew more about this topic in the year’s leading up to your loss?
First and foremost, Jade didn’t really know what was happening to her when she started feeling the effects of her depression and anxiety. We found out that she recalled her emotional heaviness starting in middle school, but she had no idea of the severity. She figured it was just a teenage phase, so she hid her pain masterfully behind a beautiful, disarming smile. It wasn’t until the stressors of junior year in high school that her facade really couldn’t hold up anymore and she began with self harm. It was something my wife and I didn’t really understand at the time and she couldn’t explain it to us. So we monitored her.
When it was brought to the attention of Jade’s pediatrician, we were prescribed a low dose of Prozac and were referred to a therapist. We trusted the medical system because we didn’t know any better. Our medical insurance failed to give us any kind of guidance to find appropriate help. Meanwhile Jade’s condition became more serious. From self harm, it escalated into an overdose attempt. The Social Worker in the ER agreed to not put her in a 5150 (hold) and referred us to a psychiatrist — again blindly trusting the system. This doctor misdiagnosed her with bipolar disorder and put her on meds she should never have been on. After 3 different SSRIs, this psychiatrist boldly claimed he “tried everything” and ended up belittling Jade for her struggles. Needless to say, we dropped him and had to look for a different provider — again, with little guidance from insurance other than a list of specialists for us to call.
Jade ended up going to see 3 different psychiatrists, and 6 different therapists until she found ones she was comfortable with. In that time, she had had a handful of ineffective meds in and out of her system, two 5150s for suicide attempts and ideation, and numerous episodes of self-harm. The system was failing her, and us as parents, to give Jade relief of her emotional instability. It got to a point that Jade even made me promise that I wouldn’t allow them to put her in another 5150 because it did nothing except take her off her meds for a week and remove her from her family and friends, at which point she would feel even worse (imagine a 3 minute consultation with a psychiatrist to determine if you’re deemed OK to be discharged; or simply discharged because your insurance is maxed out).
We were finally fortunate to have Jade admitted into the UCLA Max Gray Child and Adolescent Mood Disorders Program where she got quality care from a team of doctors. She was in residence for 3 weeks, then graduated to a partial hospitalization program to help her transition. Then COVID-19 hit and she was prematurely discharged and we were again on our own. She had a good psychiatrist and therapist, but quarantine introduced so many challenges since Jade didn’t have many outlets for her mood swings. She needed changes of scenery, socialization, distractions. Being confined at home was very difficult and she was more prone to depressive episodes. A breakup with her girlfriend was especially rough when her girlfriend gave her an ultimatum to stop with the self harm or lose her. Sadly, her girlfriend also struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm and didn’t have the strength to deal with Jade’s episodes in addition to her own. It made Jade feel especially alone and unloved, which in turn accelerated the frequency of suicide attempts.
In speaking with her psychiatrist, I finally told him that I was done messing around with all the trial-and-error of treatments. 3-4 weeks of ramping up dosage only to realize it’s not working and then tapering off over 10 days, then trying a new combination was something we had done for too long and we needed results. I was done trusting the system and pushing to be proactive in my decisions. Meanwhile, Jade was actively doing CBT and DBT, but she was still spiraling.
I spent many hours talking to her, playing card and board games, going out on bike rides, walks, and car rides. She adopted pet rats, whom she loved and gave her purpose. She shared a lot with me about how she felt. Jade even asked me to sleep in her room several nights so that she would feel safe. I know she was struggling horribly due to the isolation, her relationship breakup, anxiety about her future, feeling like a failure, online bullying to try and cancel her business, and believing she was unloveable. In spite of graduating high school with honors, starting a college program for Cardiovascular Ultrasound, global success with her small business, being a Humom to her pet rats, and being surrounded with love from her family, she couldn’t escape the nefarious lies generated by her mental health.
Jade was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Despite all the help that she was being provided, she wasn’t feeling any relief of the heaviness of her depressive state. At one point she had a social post that read, “I only take my meds to make my parents believe they are doing something helpful.” Because of all the failures to get her timely, age-appropriate, effective treatments, I believe she lost hope that things would ever get better. She told me that she felt like she was a burden to us with all of our failed efforts.
Jade once told me that she didn’t want to die. All she really wanted was for her brain to be quiet and allow her to rest. Her mind was relentlessly causing her pain even while she slept. After her last failed attempt, she told me that she lasted for as long as she did because she loved me, her mom and her brother so much and didn’t want to cause us to be sad. 2 months later, in the middle of the night, she left without saying goodbye…
The mental health system is broken and has never been right. I wish that we had known more about the available treatments and resources. I wish we had more guidance. I wish that this trial and error system of medication were not so arbitrary. I wish that there were better resources for adolescents. I wish that the stigma didn’t affect Jade so that she could openly ask for help and not feel ashamed or weak or judged. I wish my daughter didn’t have to suffer and I knew how to help her through her struggles more than I did. I wish we knew how to emotionally support her better.
What are the perceptions about suicide you would like your loved one’s story to help change?
There was no known trauma that we could find that triggered her emotional state except that she was ill-equipped to deal with stressors in life. She developed anxiety and we believe it contributed to depressive episodes that only got worse as her self-image declined over long periods of time.
Unfortunately, so many kids are like Jade. She told me about all of her friends who struggled. There were kids whose parents denied that their mental health struggles were real and were shamed. Others were trying to get treatment but couldn’t find appropriate services or were frustrated by the process. Then there were others who couldn’t afford treatments or get to their appointments.
After Jade’s Memorial Services, we didn’t want Jade’s story to end. We wanted to donate to a cause, but none lined up with making an impact the way believed should be made. Our family’s struggle and loss inspired me to dream up a charity to help individual families in ways the system failed ours. That if we could help save one family from the devastation of losing a child, Jade’s goodness would continue to be shared in this world.
In December 2020, the Jade Lee Marasigan Charitable Fund was created in partnership with a local hospital that treated Jade after one of her attempts. The main directive is to “think beyond current conventions and create change by filling gaps in the system to benefit kids who are struggling.” Programs have been organically created to provide at-risk teens with 1-on-1 guidance, support, access, and financial assistance to age-appropriate treatments services. Subsequently, in August 2022, we also founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Play For Jade Events Inc. to host fundraisers for Jade’s Charity while sharing Jade’s story and raising awareness for adolescent mental health and suicide prevention.
This tragedy can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, culture, color, religious belief, socio-economic status, or perceived success. We cannot compare how we grew up to what our kids are faced with today. It’s not about labeling someone as weak, crazy, an addict, selfish, or seeking attention. This world is full of stressors and trauma, and we all need empathy, understanding, support, patience, and love to get through the rough patches. We all have different life experiences so not everyone deals with the problems in their lives the same as someone else.
Those we have lost to suicide were struggling with something we can’t see. They were individuals who walked this earth, shared their spirit, lived, and loved. They deserve dignity and grace because their lives were defined by who they were and not how we lost them.
Families who have lost a loved one to suicide have survived a horrific event. They will be grieving for the rest of their lives. They deserve empathy, patience, love, support, and understanding. If you think you can relate to how they feel by comparing the loss of your grandparent, friend, or pet, you really have no idea and you should be thankful that you don’t.
Links and/or descriptions to any resources you would like to drive people to: