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‘Bipolar Did Not Define Katie;’ Father Pens Touching Obituary for Daughter

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SCRANTON -- A 29-year-old Scranton woman's obituary is getting national attention, and it's all because of how her father wrote it.

"Made all the phone calls and the arrangements for the funeral," said Ed Shoener, whose daughter Katie took her own life earlier this month. "And one of the things I thought at 3 a.m. was I have to write her obituary and I have to write this and explain to people what happened cause I didn't want there to be any uncertainty to what happened."

So the Scranton Deacon sat down and wrote it all out:

Kathleen "Katie" Marie Shoener, 29, fought bipolar disorder since 2005, but she finally lost the battle on Wednesday to suicide in Lewis Center, Ohio. Katie was born in Scranton and is the daughter of Deacon Edward R. and Ruth Shoener of Scranton. She was a graduate of Scranton High School, received her Bachelor of Science in business from Penn State University and recently her MBA from Ohio State University. She also leaves behind three brothers, Robert, San Diego; William and wife, Sarah, Scranton; Edward M., Old Forge; three nieces, Harper and Brylee, of San Diego; Grace, Scranton; and two nephews, Ben and Jacob, of Scranton.

So often people who have a mental illness are known as their illness. People say that "she is bipolar" or "he is schizophrenic." Over the coming days as you talk to people about this, please do not use that phrase. People who have cancer are not cancer, those with diabetes are not diabetes. Katie was not bipolar - she had an illness called bipolar disorder - Katie herself was a beautiful child of God. The way we talk about people and their illnesses affects the people themselves and how we treat the illness. In the case of mental illness there is so much fear, ignorance and hurtful attitudes that the people who suffer from mental illness needlessly suffer further. Our society does not provide the resources that are needed to adequately understand and treat mental illness. In Katie's case, she had the best medical care available, she always took the cocktail of medicines that she was prescribed and she did her best to be healthy and manage this illness - and yet - that was not enough. Someday a cure will be found, but until then, we need to support and be compassionate to those with mental illness, every bit as much as we support those who suffer from cancer, heart disease or any other illness. Please know that Katie was a sweet, wonderful person that loved life, the people around her - and Jesus Christ.

Shoener detailed his daughter's battle with bipolar disorder, an illness that causes extreme mood swings.

"That's not who they are," Shoener added. "They are a child of God. So I think a lot of it is how we talk about it as a society, that it is an illness and we should be able to talk about it."

And since Katie's obituary went online, Shoener learned he and his wife are not alone - in fact, far from it.

"The response has touched the core of many people around the country and around the world that we need to talk about mental illness," he explained.

It's been a glimmer of hope peaking through what's been otherwise a dark cloud hovering over the Shoener household.

"We just need to support each other and love each other through this terrible illness," he added. "Some day will come where there will be a cure for this. But right now, we manage it and support each other as best we can."

Katie's family and friends are planning a 5K race in her honor. The plan is to hold the race on what would have been her 30th birthday--Halloween. It's all part of raising awareness on the issue of mental health and to stamp out the stigma behind it.

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