Jenna Reiss School of Journalism and Communications Defining Moment “I knew he was out there that night I walked

into the forest and called his name, but I couldn’t make myself really believe he was there. Then the next day, I knew exactly where to go, where he was going to be, and this time I actually had to see it.” Whitney Davies, at 18 found her younger brother Brett Davies hanging dead by a rope across the street from her house. It was around two in the morning on June 11, 2004 and Whitney’s little brother still hadn’t come home. Trying to push the lump back in her throat, Whitney continued calling Brett’s phone; however, there was no answer. Unable to sleep, she followed her intuition to walk into the forest across the street. Not wanting to neither enter alone nor scare her parents for what she hoped to be no reason, Whitney stood outside, screaming her brother’s name. At that moment in the field, Whitney’s thoughts were focused on Brett Davies, her best friend, her confidant. Whitney had to decide to go all the way into the forest and find him, or go back inside and hope her gut feeling wasn’t true. Choosing to turn back towards the house, Whitney was filled with fear. With her older sister Kelsey off at college, Whitney was living with her mom, dad and two younger brothers, Brett who was 15, and Nick who was 13. Using humor as an alternative

allowed their family to avoid discussing their feelings, and as a result, Whitney described them as “a bit unemotional.” However, Whitney had a special relationship with her younger brother Brett; they understood each other without words. Their bond didn’t need to be expressed publicly, it was just known. They were always standing by each other’s side. They were each other’s courage. Others saw Brett’s social anxiety and sporadic tantrums as the behavior of a typical teenage boy; however, Whitney and even Brett knew it was more. Despite the many therapeutic attempts and persistent family support, Brett remained emotionally unstable. It was his mental state that brought Whitney to the forest that night. The forest is directly across the street from Whitney’s house in Lake Oswego Oregon. As you walk out the front porch of her house, you can see the beginnings of the forest. A small clearing of grass and twigs come before the actual tree engulfed forest; however, once in the clearing you can peer into the forest and see the trees covered with distorted branches. Whitney and her siblings called them their own personal set of monkey bars. Having spent too many childhood memories among these trees, Whitney pushed back the unimaginable thought of her brother that night. Engulfed by fear of the dark, Whitney chose to ignore her gut feeling and forced herself to bed. At 8:00 am the next morning, Whitney woke up for work but was instead immediately pressed for answers about where Brett was. Instinctively, Whitney walked out the door, into the forest, toward the monkey bars. She knew she would find him then. She knew she would find him at their sanctuary among the monkey bars, right where she had chosen to turn her back on the night before. Whitney had found him. She found him hanging by a rope, with a ladder at his feet, from the monkey bars. Seeing his white t-shirt, cargo shorts, sweatband on one wrist, “livestrong”

bracelet on the other and long stretched out neck, brought Whitney to her knees, as she let out piercing screams. These were the screams that brought her mother outside as Whitney turned away with unstoppable tears streaming down her face. The doctors had said Brett’s case wasn’t severe. His prescription to Zoloft and a few therapy sessions were supposed to be enough to keep Brett at an acceptable mental state. Therefore, the doctors never monitored him closely because they weren’t worried about his case. Contrary to the doctors concerns, Whitney remembers when Brett overdosed on his Zoloft pills by taking the entire bottle at once. She had found the empty orange pill container upside down on the kitchen table. Taking it upon herself to confront her brother, Whitney attempted to explain the seriousness of overdosing. Due to his inability to handle confrontation, Brett pushed past Whitney, went out the door and began running down the street. Fearing the intensity of the situation, Whitney ran after him and grabbed him by the arm. She explained to him that he would need to get his stomach pumped because overdosing was unhealthy and he needed help. Brett wouldn’t let Whitney come to the hospital that night, but she waited patiently at home for his return. Afterwards, Whitney’s worries slowly diminished because she knew Brett just didn’t understand what he had done. He was an impulsive person, and hadn’t thought about the consequences of his actions. After receiving an apology from Brett a couple days later, Whitney remembers Brett slowly returning to a stable emotional state. He was understanding his situation better now, and was smart about keeping his mental state under control. Attempting to find the exact dosage he needed, Brett was on and off the pills a few times and in and out of therapy sessions as well. He was beginning to show small agitation behaviors but the doctors were still firmly stating Brett’s case was not severe; therefore, Brett could generally self-medicate.

However, the doctor’s never told the Davies family about the tragic side effects that come from many medications, including Zoloft. Side effects that include hyperthermia, rigidity, autonomic instability with possible changes in vital signs, mental status changes, depression etc. When Brett started showing more signs then usual for mental instability, Whitney’s mother called the doctors. After much persistent reassurance, Whitney’s mother hung up feeling slightly relieved yet nervous. The doctors had told her that with Brett back on the pills, waiting about 6 weeks was necessary before worrying about any possible serious side effects because it takes that long for the pill to get into your body system. When Brett committed suicide, he was only a couple days into his fifth week of what doctors had claimed was not a severe case. Never having dealt with a situation like this before, the Davies had taken advice from the doctors and ignored the concerns they were having. They had noticed Brett was becoming more easily agitated and was over-reacting to situations; however, doctors had told them to just count the days until his medication would kick-in. Brett was successful in committing suicide just one week before his medicine was supposed to kick-in. What hurts Whitney and her family today is the feeling that it could have been prevented. The company that makes Zoloft had been withholding information concerning the side effects of this medication, information that could have saved Brett Davies life. Today however, Whitney and her family have ensured that Pfizer Inc. divulge any important information which their company might have found immediately after its discovery. The “black-box” warning that is now required to be on all antidepressants unfortunately came to late for Brett; however, can maybe help other families who are ill-informed about antidepressants. Whitney doesn’t remember falling to her knees and states that the events that followed were all a blur. She had been the one to find him, the one who had felt something wrong the

night before. However, Whitney knows she can’t live her life in regret and dwell on what could have happened if she had gone all the way into the forest that night. She only knows how her life is now and what she has to do with the circumstances she’s been given. Whitney was the only member of her family who spoke at the funeral. She knew she had to, she knew her brother would have wanted her to. Saying goodbye to Brett was one of the hardest things she had to do, but she knew that they couldn’t have his funeral without one of them speaking to him. “For a while Brett and I called ourselves twins. It wasn’t because we were inseparable or anything like that, but because we knew we were the same and we knew our bond was unbreakable.” It is this unbreakable bond that not only still lives within Whitney, but has helped her to realize her purpose in life. As a double major in human physiology and psychology at the University of Oregon, Whitney knows what has happened with her brother “doesn’t define me in the way people think, but does define my life.” She eventually wants to understand the problems people go through and find a new route for people, like herself and her brother, who don’t get enough out of traditional therapy session. “I want to do art therapy for kids, instead of being like ‘how do you feel?’ I can have them draw pictures to explain things, or throw paint at walls to get their anger out or just because that would be fun.” Whitney laughs at the thought of herself monitoring a group of kids throwing paint all over walls in a big white room. She knows that she wants kids to understand that there are many different ways to express themselves, ways to open up to people so they don’t have to go through things alone. Whitney believes that if this happened for any reason it’s because she’s supposed to be the person who can help someone. She can be the motivation behind others who believe that there’s nothing left and show them something good about life. Brett’s spirit is apparent in

Whitney’s daily life and although she doesn’t believe everything really happens for a reason, “… it’s the fact that it did happen that tells me I’m meant to do something, I’m supposed to be the person who can at least help someone else.”