March 29, 1987 — June 7, 2018
When Debbie Millich saw the somber face of the Buffalo detective, she knew.
She had seen the same look on the face of a Cheektowaga officer on Aug. 27, 2016, when he came to tell her that her youngest son, Tyler, was dead at age 21 of a heroin overdose.
This time the tragic news was about her daughter Amanda, her firstborn and only girl, a woman who fought hard against the anxiety and depression that caused her to take her own life on June 7.
"As soon as I saw his face, I knew," Millich said.
The week Miss Hess died, America was rocked by two celebrity suicides — designer Kate Spade on June 5 and chef and author Anthony Bourdain on June 8. Between them, her family and friends suffered the searing loss of Amanda Hess, 31, of Buffalo.
Besides the anguish of her brother's death, Miss Hess suffered many trials in her short life, including struggles with drugs and alcohol, nagging injuries from a car crash, a physical attack by a man she was in a relationship with, and workplace stress.
After her loss, her mother is raising her voice to inspire those who see a friend suffering: Step in. Offer a shoulder. When you see a cry for help on social media, don't just add the sad face emoji and keep scrolling.
"Amanda was very verbal," said Millich. "She would let all her friends on Facebook know she was going through depression and anxiety; she was very open. She was not ashamed about it, and people would mock her for that, saying she was just trying to get attention."
Now that her daughter's Facebook page has been converted to a memorial page, she said, "People are posting now, 'I love you, I'm going to miss you,' but where were these people when the only ones around her were two close friends and her family? She was struggling, and she was struggling for almost two years. If you see someone expressing what they are suffering through, talk to them and try to help them, and especially don't bully them if you are in a workplace. Don't ignore it."
Miss Hess, daughter of Dale Hess and Deborah Millich, was born at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo. She attended Northwood Elementary School in West Seneca and West Seneca East Junior High and High School.
After starting her work career with AmeriCorps, she found her passion in life when she started working for an agency that assisted elderly people in their homes. She earned her Emergency Medical Technician certification, but never worked in that part of the medical field, her mother said.
Miss Hess worked as an aide at Mercy Hospital for about four years, said her mother. "She loved the patients and their family members," said Millich. "If nobody visited, Amanda would take that extra five minutes and sit and talk with the patient, or comb their hair. She just loved people."
Miss Hess had recently been out on disability due to workplace stress, said her mother, and had returned to work just a few days before she took her own life.
After a struggle with heroin addiction, she had been clean for about seven years, Millich said. Shortly after Tyler's death, she started abusing alcohol, but had been sober for three or four months, her mother said.
Her brothers' death pained Miss Hess, said her mother, because she was busy with her own life and blamed herself for not being around enough for him. "Because she had gone through it herself, she wanted to help him," Millich said. After his death, Miss Hess had her brother's name and dates of birth and death tattooed in flowing script on the inside of her forearm.
But there was more: A significant relationship ended in March 2017. She suffered nagging back injuries in a car crash in August 2017. Then, on Nov. 18, 2017, she was, as she put it, "brutally attacked by a man I trusted," who broke her nose and hand.
When she posted the photos of her bloody and battered face after the attack, Miss Hess wrote, "This is the biggest reason why I am depressed, anxious and need many good people in my life. ... Be a friend. Ask how I am doing. Don’t just scroll by and ignore. Because domestic violence and being brutally attacked is no joke."
In March, the man who attacked her was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years probation after she made a victim impact statement in court.
On Oct. 21, 2017, she wrote, prophetically, "Wow, tonight really showed me I have not 1 person I can count on when I am in need of help. I don’t care about our history, if someone is reaching out to you, you answer their text and help them. Because before you know it, they could be gone. And that’s gonna really suck for you."
She fought the anxiety and depression, seeing a counselor, taking medication and even getting inpatient care at Erie County Medical Center, her mother said. "I thought she was doing good. I'd seen an improvement in her. But she may have been pretending, but hurting inside."
Millich last saw her daughter on June 5. "She was at my house, we were talking, she seemed happy," she said. They made plans to see her niece and nephew. "She did all her laundry," her mother said. Two days later, after not hearing from Miss Hess for a day, a friend called Buffalo Police, who found her.
Besides her parents, Miss Hess is survived by two brothers, Dale Jr. and Michael, and aunts and uncles. A committal service was held on June 13 in the Chapel at St. Matthew's Cemetery in West Seneca.
"Amanda was a good person, she loved her job at Mercy," her mother said. "She loved her niece and nephew and I still don't understand why."