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Mary Shomon

UC Chancellor Who Committed Suicide Had Severe Thyroid Problems

By June 27, 2006

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University of California-Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton, who fell to her death from a 44-story San Francisco apartment building in an apparent suicide on Saturday June 24, 2006, reportedly had been under treatment for severe thyroid problems, along with other health problems. Denton reportedly had a cancerous thyroid removed in her 20s. Various news sources said that Denton's mother confirmed that her daughter had been treated for "an acute thyroid condition." Denton also suffered other recent health problems, including ovarian cysts, which required surgical removal.

Various reports have speculated that Denton may have succumbed to the pressure of her job, or the intense scrutiny and controversy that has been focused on a high-profile university job given to her longtime partner, Gretchen Kalonji. Still others are looking at the thyroid connection as a possible explanation. At this point, no one knows if it was her thyroid, or a combination of many factors, to blame.

One thing is for certain: There is a very real connection between thyroid disease and depression.

The suicide of another thyroid patient prompted Dr. Barry Durrant-Peatfield, author of The Great Thyroid Scandal and How to Survive It, to write about the strong link and frequency of depression and hypothyroidism. "Depression causes untold misery and destroys lives," says Dr. Durrant-Peatfield, in his important look at the connection.

It's not always easy, however, to tell if you're just feeling a bit moody and have a temporary case of the blues -- or are suffering from a clinical depression. Even after thyroid diagnosis and treatment, depression can sometimes continue, an unwanted side effect of coping with long-term chronic illness such as thyroid disease. My Online Depression Quiz can help you see if you have some of the more common symptoms of clinical depression.

Sources: Ken McLaughlin, Becky Bartindale and Lisa Krieger, "UCSC leader had severe thyroid problem," Mercury News, Jun. 27, 2006, Article

Soraya Gutierrez, Matt King, "Denton's death puzzling for friends and colleagues," Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 27, 2006 Article

June 30, 2006 at 8:03 am
(1) renee boutwell says:

I agree very much about the connection of depression and thyroid disorder. If it had not been my mother talking me out of suicide, I would not be writing today. It is very serious, more serious than we realized and we need to address this more strongly.
I am now on meds and excerise regularly and always keep my self very busy- this prevents from going to the area of depression.
Areas to address is the importance of emotional and moral support through this ordeal of depression.

June 30, 2006 at 8:43 am
(2) Jan Kurth says:

Mary, you beat me to it! I saw this article in the NY Times this morning, and was going to send the url to you. I emailed the reporter. I think he missed an opportunity to educate the public here about thyroid conditions. That Ms. Denton was under a lot of personal and professional stress was clear. Still, the fact that her health situation very likely contributed to her apparent suicide was never mentioned.

June 30, 2006 at 1:58 pm
(3) Deborah says:

While it’s clear that hypothyroid and depression are closely linked, I have only once seen someone who’s being properly treated with Armour thyroid (and adrenal support, if necessary) who has continued in depression. That one person was also in perimenopause with severe estrogen dominance.

When people are treated with synthetic T4, they’re not getting all that they need. ESPECIALLY if they have no thyroid of their own.

June 30, 2006 at 3:24 pm
(4) Heather says:

I have suffered from Hashimoto’s disease since I was a teenager, and I am now 27 and still suffering. The only reason I am writing now is because I found Mary Shomon’s book. I only found her book because of a desperate attempt to save my own life. I know for certain this disease is the cause of severe depression. I just wish I could find somebody that understands and can help.

June 30, 2006 at 9:44 pm
(5) Kara says:

I had my substernal thyroid removed last summer. In 2002, I went through a period of depression that quickly led to intense anxiety, panic and then a suicide attempt by overdose. I was hospitalized for a few days and during that time my levels were checked. My thyroid hormones had plummetted from my previous dr. visit. I could not explain what had made me want to take my own life, but seeing those results
when I got out of the hospital gave me answers. The public needs to be made aware of this problem.

July 1, 2006 at 4:20 am
(6) Maureen O'Neill says:

Just thinking about it is enough to make you depressed…as if the depression symptomology wasn’t enough to deal with, many of us have had to put up with years of misdiagnosis before finally getting treated. I was in my early 50s when finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and a look at my health history, which included twelve totally unexplained miscarriages thirty years previously, combined with nuclear imaging of my (hitherto undiagnosed goitre) confirmed that the condition had been present for decades.The past fifteen years of my life had been especially difficult, with multiple severe respiratory and other infections, chronic fatigue and severe chemical sensitivities, painful inflammation in various parts of the body, and daily suicidal ideation. These symptoms would be terrible on their own but to be constantly told that there isn’t anything wrong with you and that the illness is psychogenic is cruelty of the highest order. I cannot imagine that I would still be alive if I hadn’t been diagnosed at last. And I still suffer bouts of this terrible depression but, along with the other symptoms which are slowly diminishing with Armour, I can bear it because I finally know why it is happening. I also have a twin who is suffering from severe depression and anxiety, who is not responding to medication and is under the (care?) of a psychiatrist who refuses to even test for Hashimoto’s on the basis that “there’s no evidence that this could be thyroid related”. Can anyone figure that?

July 1, 2006 at 11:13 pm
(7) Ree* says:

I, too have been diagnosed w/ Hashimoto’s just last year at 55. My entire life I have been what they called “borderline” thyroid sensitive, whatever on earth that means. AT 39 I was diagnosed w/ MS. I worked for 8+1/2 yrs as an OR nurse, w/ slight problems of limping in between relapsing remitting exacerbations. ALl along I knew somethng else was wrong, my mood swings, my constant drifting back & forth thru endless days, months & years of a weight problem. Every doc told me it was a psychological problem. My divorce after 27 yrs of a poor marriage, escalated more problems until I was out of work on disability. My MS became worse, the fatigue relentless & I had to do something. An experimental Bone Marrow Transplant/Stem Cell replacement w/ Hi dose chemo & full body irradiation spurred on my Hashimoto’s & subsequent goiter. After a thyroid antibody check, it was deemed I indeed did have Hashimoto’s & was placed on Cytomel in addition to Synthroid. I felt like a roller coaster running thru my veins. I was sick, sluggish & couldn’t even lift my head off the pillow. I was taken off Cytomel & after a few weeks, felt slightly better. Right now I am still NOT regulated & am currently searching for a new doc who will treat me & help me get back on track, feel better & loose this unwanted weight. The fatigue from both Hashimoto’s AND MS is devastating & unrelenting & now I have arthritis in my right knee which makes it almost impossible to walk. Why cannot endocrinologists see this hypothyroid state is devastating too us?? I will not give up trying to find help, but it is not easy, your morale is down, & suicidal thoughts do creep in. I fight them & try to go on. How can docs abandon us like this??

June 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm
(8) Jeffrey says:

Hi i wanted to reply to an oldpost of yours because it sounds like me. I too suffered for about 12yrs with hypothyroidismuntil finally getting on armour instead of synthroid and i feel much better. Your right the docs and endos dont seem to care that we suffer and it is a shame. I hope your doing better. Email m if you want,jbbonzo72 at yahoo. Thanks.

July 4, 2006 at 10:23 pm
(9) Becky Boonman says:

I’m so sad for Denise, her family and friends; the pain involved with her death is enough, but not understanding the cause of that pain is the worst. I get the UCSC Alumni Review (yes, I’m a 1979 graduate of that beautiful place) and you could just feel the shock and sadness for everyone in the community when the UC sent out that death notice. I too, suffer from thyroid disease, and sometimes it seems like it would be easier to be dead than put up with all the pain I go through. Somehow, I can never get the Tsh levels right where they would make me feel great, and I love to feel great. Fortunately, I have lots of support and love to tough out the bad times, but poor Denise, at the top of her career as a woman scientist and scholar, how many true supporters could she have had if she was working all the time? If her family and loved ones tried to reach her, she was probably working like crazy to better the University or do something for a student. I didn’t know her, but I will remember her and thank Mary Shoman for letting us know about her thyroid problem. We’re all sisters when it comes to our thyroids….

July 9, 2006 at 2:25 pm
(10) James M. "JimLow" Lowrance says:

One really unfortunate problem that goes on today, is the fact that many Doctors believe that once an autoimmune thyroid disease patients is on hormone replacement, any continuing symptoms, such as depression or fatigue, are not thyroid related. I feel this is luicrous! Thyroid Hormone Replacement Medication replaces the missing hormone, so that hypothyroidism doesn’t continue to progress but it does not cure the autoimmune disease aspect. Many research conclusions, by reputable medical sources, including U.S. Government studies, have concluded that the autoimmune process, despite normalized hormone levels, can cause emotional disorders, including depression and anxiety disorder. I feel it is important to a patient who needs additional help, with an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, that the Doctor states in their medical records, that it is thyroid disease-related.
To say it is a seperate issue, in my opinion, is a disservice to patients, who have a right to be recognized as having thyroid-related emotional disorders.It is incredible that Doctors believe thyroid hormone medications, as important as they are, completely resolve symptoms of the disease in all patients!

July 12, 2006 at 9:38 pm
(11) Michele says:

Although I cannot prove it medically now because bipolar disorder and depression did not prompt thyroid function tests at the time, I know for sure that thyroid disease was the reason for my depression and suicide attempts. I have Hashimoto’s disease and when I was a teenager many moons ago, I couldn’t stand the swings from near psychotic hyperactivity to lows so bad that I wanted to crash my car into a gas station. I was diagnosed with Hashi’s in my late 20′s and today I take Armour Thyroid and have not had a single bout of depression since. I still get hyper episodes, but since I no longer dip into depression, the hyper episodes are nothing. I believe that had those doctors tested my thyroid and my antibodies, they would have caught my disease in my teens and saved me years of pain. I am a very strong believer in a connection between depression and thyroid disease. I am happy that some psychiatrists do test thyroid function and some psychologists order the tests now and wish all of them would do it. Depression is not a normal state of being and I believe that all depression is caused by a physical problem in the body and antidepressant drugs are not the answer.

January 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm
(12) Sydni says:

I feel like I’m dying a slow death, and lately my mind has wanted to hasten that by suicide. I have never had thoughts like this in my life but I feel that my thyroid (hashimoto’s) has crashed again. They always change my armour and cytomel based on my numbers but it’s been over 4 months since my last lab work due to insurance problems. i crash easily after an adjustment and since i couldn’t see the doc i guess it’s taking a major toll. I pray that good comes from the tragedy of others and that someday, people who are suffering can have peace.

November 5, 2009 at 7:16 am
(13) Virginia says:

Im raising a beautiful boy whos now 8 yrs and whos mum took her own life when her son was 9 mths old.
I love my son very much and his dad (ive raised him sonce he was 3rs) but I grieve for a women I never met, who misses every day the joy of this amazing little boy . Please get what ever help you need and have someone stay with you at all times, until you get the right help. Im not an expert but it was later diaganised that she had Hosiemoses (spelt wrong) and she was put in the bucket of ‘post natal depression’ even though some things didnt add up.

September 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm
(14) Elliot says:

It’s one thing to be undiagnosed hypo, but as has been said – to be told that it’s all in your head, or it’s an untreatable illness is just awful. I went undiagnosed for 10 years and lost friends, lost family and 10 years of my life – almost everything. I came very close to ending my life battling an illness that was never in my head but could be treated with inexpensive medicine.
If you think about it – it’s one of the worst illnesses you can get, you feel sick you go to the doctor and get told your nuts, or that you have Fibromyalgia; all the while your life slowly falls apart and you get convinced that the problem is in your head and your fault. I understand this women’s suffering, I went through the same thing and it almost pushed me over the edge too, how many more people have to suffer before they admit that Synthetics aren’t right for everyone?.

October 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm
(15) Carole Babb says:

I suffer from both hypothyroidism and Adrenal Insufficiency. I have been to eight Endocrinologists, each of them being unbelievably arrogant and unwilling to listen to anything I had to say regarding my symptoms and the issues I continued to have even after starting a regimen of Armour Thyroid.

I provided a list of my symptoms to each Endocrinologist I went to, only to have each of them either set it aside without reading it, or throw it in the garbage can right in front of me.

I ended up in the hospital because I had gone so downhill that I have absolutely no fuel (vitamins, cortisol, etc. – based on blood and saliva tests) in my body. I was bedridden and absolutely miserable. The hospital doctors said I need to stay in the hospital, however, the next day, after talking to the endocrinologists who had treated me, they decided to release me, as the Endos told them I was fine. None of my test results in the hospital attested to this, nor did the fact that I was passing out continually at the hospital. However, since the Endos said I was alright, well, this was just fine with the Docs at the Hospital and they sent me on my .way. I thought I was finally going to get help, only to be let down by the Medical Community yet again!

I have run out of options and have set in motion my plans to commit suicide. I only have a couple more things to take care of regarding my estate planning, and then I intend to jump off of a building. I could not bring myself to use a gun, and was worried that pills would not work, so I decided that jumping off of a building was the best option, especially since I have gained 58 pounds from the endocrine issues and the steroids prescribed for same. The extra weight should guarantee a very hard fall and definite death. The truth is, I am really looking forward to ending this continual nightmare I have been living. I am not excited about the jump, but plan to get very intoxicated to assist in this endeavor.

February 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm
(16) Scott says:

My wife suffered from severe anxiety and depression over the last 3 months. We bounced from Dr. to Dr since October. After trying for 3 months to get the Dr to run a TPO test we got a high antibody result, comfirming Hashimoto’s. but it was too late, she committed suicide in January five days are the diagnosis. Why wouldn’t the doctors listen to us in October? Maybe we could of seen an endo before Thanksgiving and get the medications adjusted before she got worse.

June 14, 2013 at 9:09 pm
(17) Marla says:

PLEASE CONTINUE this forum. I have been to two docs and have my first Endo appt in 3 days. IF I can stay alive that long. I was diagnosed 3 mos ago with Hypothyroidism. Synthroid is leveling my numbers but I am MISERABLE! I cannot live like this…this is NOT living. I cry ALL the time, I am lethargic and dizzy and weak. I used to be the outgoing-fun, positive person that just wanted to be a blessing to everyone I met. Now, you look in my eyes and there is NO joy. Pray I will hang on for 3 more days and then…until they get me fixed.

July 12, 2013 at 7:17 pm
(18) Surfergirl says:

47 years old. Please help me. Please…I can’t take this anymore.

I’m a working Professional and recreational athlete who’s struggled with her weight -both overweight and anorexic, but more so struggling with these damn last 7-10 lbs for DECADES while eating 1200-1500 and exercising 1-3 hours a day.

No sugar, no processed foods,
drink plenty of water, eats 4-6 servings of veggies daily, 2-4 fruits, 60-80 grams lean protein, 20-30 grams of monounsturated fat, some gluten free grains, legumes, occassional dairy.

Struggled with hypothyroidism and depression/anxiety since I was diagnosed at 21. Synthroid alone for most of those decades, then I asked my Endo to prescribe some t-3.
I take compounded slow release t-3 as well as t4 and
small amount of fluoxetine, but I STILL get so down very often I want to KILL MYSELF. This is one of those hellish times. I understand why that woman wanted to kill herself. The pain is too just great to keep living in such a struggle….

Wanted to kill myself before the fluoxetine and now after, so why am I taking it again?

My energy has severely depleted, can hardly exercise an hour a day. now, ..want to sleep….sad, confused…it’s affecting my job performance with my career!!! I’ll kill myself before I get fired.

August 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm
(19) Lins says:

I also battle continuous anxiety and depression. I have Hypothyroidism, but my levels are never stable. I usually have to get them changed every 3 to six months. I swing from under medicated to over medicated and it does my head in. At the moment I am going up with my Oroxine (thyroid medication), which means I will lose the weight (I hope) I put on from being under medicated. However I am now having problems sleeping because my shoulders and neck ache again. My back doesn’t ache like it did before, it will though when they put my meds down. I wake easily because i feel the ache in my neck etc. I have had Hypothyroidism for around 4 to 5 years and my levels never get fixed, so my mood is always up and down. I don’t have friends these days. I just can’t be bothered anymore and I am just so sick of feeling moody, aches and pain, depression, fat etc. Wanting to kill myself too.

April 27, 2014 at 3:58 am
(20) Chrystal says:

I had my thyroid removed two years ago because of thyroid cancer. I now have neck bulge and weigh gain, fatigue. I have been thinking a lot about ending my life. I hate living like this. I hate suffering and can not deal with a recurrance. I pray that God will heal me. My life is in his hands. I can’t take this anymore and I will end my life. I will continue to pray for God to heal me and if this is his will then i will put myself out of this misery.

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