Rachel Avcioglu, 19, Oberlin University student

Parents want to raise awareness about depression and suicide

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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

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.

Reader Comments

18 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Ronald Gibson from Oberlin, Ohio  

Posted: August 1st, 2014 7:45 PM

Dear Rachel, The passage of time here in Oberlin has not diminished our appreciation of your talented soul, nor our intense dismay at the manner of your death. Our memories are thus bittersweet and will always be there and for the larger loss that is your fam-ily's. We hold precious the memories we have of your all-too-brief time at Oberlin. We will never forget your embul-lient manner, your light step, and ready smile. You are surely gone, but there will always be a place for you in our hearts

Anonomous from chicago  

Posted: September 10th, 2013 7:55 PM

This is so sad to hear about a young person taking there life and its also crazy because he father is me teacher now. I'm sorry to hear this happened and my condolences go out to the Avcioglu family

Praying for the Avcioglu Family  

Posted: April 13th, 2012 9:42 AM

As a person who lost a sibling to suicide, it was devastating to read about the death of this beautiful young woman with a promising future. We never "get over" the death of someone beloved. We learn to live with/cope with it. When a life is cruelly interrupted, all the more painful for all. God bless this family and show them mercy in their grieving. May they be surrounded by loving support. Suicide remains one of life's greatest mysteries and cruelties. There are no satisfying explanations.

Andy from Oberlin from Oberlin  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 5:48 PM

You are missed every day, Rachel. I am grateful to have known you for as long as I did. I hope you are resting peacefully wherever you are.

Stormy (former OP resident) from Encinitas CA  

Posted: September 22nd, 2011 12:00 PM

Healing light to Rachel's family and friends. I am an OPRF graduate (Class of 1975) and have been treated for depression since I was 17. Clinical depression is a very serious illness. It is NOT something a person can "snap out of". Those who have never experienced its debilitating effects can't begin to understand what it is like. I am fortunate to have had very good doctors and the right medications. Hopefully dear Rachel's story will save other lives by raising awareness of depression.

Dierdre Kelleher from Oak Park  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 6:02 PM

My heart is heavy. I wish there were words that had the power to comfort at times like this. I am praying for Carmen's family.

Oz from OP`  

Posted: September 5th, 2011 1:52 PM

My condolences to the parents of Rachel. I am a friend of the father of this young lady and offer my deepest condolences on their loss. As parents, we are always conflicted when something like this happens. A hot yoga class can't hurt. May she rest in peace.

Rhino  

Posted: September 4th, 2011 5:23 PM

I don't think you ever realized how much you inspired me this past year. I don't know what I'll do without you, Prospie.

Oberlin Alum '11  

Posted: September 4th, 2011 4:32 PM

While I didn't know Rachel personally, I know that the Oberlin community is really grieving her loss--as a student, peer, and friend. So many people there love and miss her. My thoughts are with her friends and family, may you guys find the strength to heal from this tragedy.

A Boy From Rachel Math Class in High School from River Forest  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 4:49 PM

We will miss you even though we never hung out. All I remember is that you were in my math class and you said, "Hi!" To me and that meant a lot to me. I will be praying you guys.

C  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 12:57 PM

As someone who grew up in OPRF, went to Oberlin, and struggled with depression..I found this article very haunting. Just reading this article, she and I had a lot in common. To Rachel's family, I am so so very sorry for your loss, I'm sure you all are still in shock. I hope that all of you all seek out and get the help that you will need to survive this. Life will never be the same, but I hope that someday it will not hurt quite so badly.

Lori from Chicago  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 11:41 AM

It hurts my heart and soul to hear about such a tragedy. I am grateful to the family for sharing her story. This disease powerful and devastating. I hope others who read it and might be suffering from it, find the help they need. My thoughts are with her family/friends.

Terry Waite from Downers Grove  

Posted: September 1st, 2011 8:23 AM

Dearest Carmen, My heart is heavy from the news about Rachel. My prayers are with you and your family. If I can do anything for you, please let me know. Loving thoughts - Terry - Dr. Arof's office

OPRF Class of 2010 alum from Oak Park  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 11:45 PM

I'm so sorry for your loss. I also suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide, and I can't imagine what you're going through. Your daughter sounds amazing.

Melissa Ford from Oak Park  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 8:16 PM

Keeping Rachel's family and friends in my thoughts and prayers.

Parent  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 7:08 PM

My heart goes out to you. Thank you for your willingness to speak openly about this tragedy. I am sure it will help others.

friend  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 5:35 PM

We miss you so much Rachel.

CEPM from Oak Park  

Posted: August 31st, 2011 12:51 AM

My heart goes out to Rachel's family and friends. I am so sorry for your devastating loss. I wish I had words to comfort you.

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