Former Dutch minister Ella Vogelaar dies at age 69

Former PvdA Minister Ella Vogelaar died at age 69 on Monday, her family announced on Tuesday evening. "She has been suffering from depression for quite some time and has put an end to her life", the family said in a statement, according to NOS.

Vogelaar was Minister for Housing, Neighborhoods and Integration in the Balkende IV cabinet for the PvdA. She had to resign a year and a half into her term at the end of 2008, after the PvdA had given up confidence in her. During her short time as Minister, she introduced a list of 40 problem neighborhoods in the larger cities that received extra investments during the cabinet term. The intention was that the quality of life in these neighborhoods should improve considerably within 10 years. Opinions on the results differ. These neighborhoods quickly became known as Vogelaar neighborhoods. 

She was succeeded as Minister by later Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan. After stepping down as Minister, Vogelaar was a member of the supervisory board of housing corporation Mitros and chairman of the Dutch Organization for Volunteer Work. She was also vice-president of trade union FNV. 

Fellow PvdA members and other politicians are saddened by Vogelaar's death.

"So sad and so sorrowful", PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher said on Twitter. "Ella Vogelaar passed away. A very strong and very involved woman with a big heart for others, who unfortunately suffered from depression. I wish her husband Onno and all other relatives a lot of strength in dealing with this enormous loss"

"With Ella we lose a beloved party member who devoted herself to every task with heart and soul", PvdA chairman Nelleke Vedelaar said on Twitter. "Ella's work for 'her' Vogelaar neighborhoods touches the core of social democracy and our party: the certainty of living well in a beautiful neighborhood. Not only did she listen to the people she spoke to on the street, she understood them too. We will miss her. My thoughts are with her loved ones."

Prime Minister Mark Rutte also responded to her death. "Struck by the tragic death of Ella Vogelaar. Good memories of our collaboration in my time at Social Affairs and Employment. She was a true social democrat with strong principles and a big heart for the weak in our society. I wish her family lots of strength."

Those in the Netherlands who are suffering from depression or contemplating suicide may call counselors at Sensoor, 0900-0767 (5 ct./min.), or call their volunteers at a local number. 113 Zelfmoordpreventie is also available 24/7 at number 0900-0133 A list of suicide crisis hotlines outside the Netherlands is available on Wikipedia.