Rachel Avcioglu, 19, a sophomore at Oberlin University and a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School died by strangulation, Aug. 24, in her parents' home in Oak Park.
Rachel had been treated for depression for several years, said her parents, Ilhan and Carmen Avcioglu. "In her [suicide] letter she asked us to have doctors examine her brain so they could find a cure for this horrible disease," said Carmen.
According to her parents, Rachel showed none of the typical signs of someone considering suicide, such as engaging in reckless behavior, saying goodbye to friends/family or giving away prized possessions. Rachel and her mother had just shopped for new shoes, and she seemed to be living for the future.
"We are devastated," she said. A doctor had recently changed the dosage of a medication, said Carmen, who wants to make sure other parents know about the dangers of teenage depression. "If one life can be saved, it will be worth it."
Rachel earned the nickname "Rachel Ravioli" at Julian Middle School when fellow students stumbled over her Turkish last name. She swam with the Millennium swim team in middle school.
According to her mother, she never ate a meal without something to read at the table. "She'd have the New York Times, Newsweek or a book. ... In third grade she fell in love with Harry Potter and was a reader after that."
At OPRFHS she participated in Student Council, the Minority Student Achievement Network and the Photography Club.
An avid writer, Rachel joined the staff of Trapeze, the school newspaper, as a freshman, assigned to news and photography. At Oberlin, she worked as a photographer for the Oberlin Review and wrote arts and entertainment reviews. She played for the Oberlin rugby team and worked as a camp counselor for a local journalism camp in Oak Park this summer.
With a blended heritage, Turkish, Jewish and Puerto Rican, she was sensitive to cultural differences and tolerant of all religions, said her mother. She often discussed "injustices in the world with her father," Ilhan, a high school history teacher. As a camp counselor for middle-schoolers she would insist that rough-housing boys "respect each other! I mean it!"
Rachel was a fan of music, specifically the Arctic Monkeys and Mum. She enjoyed hip-hop dancing and photography. "She spent hours editing photographs," said her mother. She loved animals as a child and throughout her life. She enjoyed the movies Wicker Park and Garden State.
During high school, she travelled to Turkey and Israel and lived as a foreign exchange student in England. Every Christmas, the family traveled to Puerto Rico.
"We are a close family," said her mother.
At Oberlin she finally felt she was being intellectually challenged. She also felt free to "be herself with nobody judging her," said her mother. The tattoo on her shoulder of a sparrow in flight represented "freedom of artistic expression," she said.
With her mother and father, she is survived by a brother, Rafael.
Memorials can be made in Rachel's name to Oak Park Temple, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
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