As I reflect on Lee Thompson Young, because now as one of my Facebook friends noted, “I have to change my future plans,” I think about the tragic way he passed away. While I cannot speak personally about being hopeless to the point of having suicidal thoughts, I have known two people who have committed suicide. One was the brother of a close friend who was white and the other was a black guy who sat next to me in my AP English class in high school. I’m going to share the story about the guy in high school and what I learned from it.
I didn’t know the guy in my English class beyond our class. I proofread a few of his papers—one of which ended up in his obituary. Usually, his hair was not cut and his dress was somewhat unkempt—which now we know were signs.
While on a field trip to see a play, we had a debate on philosophy and religion. I had also debated with him at some point about my belief in the power of prayer. He mentioned to me before the play started that he could jump off the balcony and fly if he wanted to. I didn’t know what to think of it, but I said something to the extent that he sounded a little off or troubled. Again, it was something I really did not think of as a serious sign of being suicidal.
I meant to continue the conversation about prayer with him. There was even a point when I went after him after class, but he walked farther ahead of me and I didn’t run after him. I just thought I would catch him next time. I never got the chance to catch him next time.
Not that I know if I could have made a difference, this is one of those moments where I wish I had been less hesitant and less quiet. My mom said to me, “If God meant for you to help save him, God would have given you more time.” The complexities of the universe I don’t care to dissect or debate here, but sometimes you have to let go of the things you wish you had done and just take the lesson.
We never know what people are going through. We should not look on the surface and assume everything is okay. People who commit suicide are rich and poor; educated and not educated; sweet and not so sweet; and black and white.
What we can do is know the signs of a suicide. Though, sometimes there are no signs. We can try to make sure we stay connected and check in on those closest to us especially. Sometimes we need to get in someone’s business and offer encouragement, support, help or an ear.
Those who are going through something need to reach out. Depression and other types of mental illnesses have stigmas that make many people suffer in shame and silence. Past self included. Don’t suffer in silence. There is always hope. There is always hope! Your presence on this earth means much more than you can imagine.
Now that I can’t marry Lee Thompson Young and see his career suddenly bloom into something potentially great again, I will remember his pretty eyes, smile and positive portrayal of a young black male on The Famous Jett Jackson. I pray for his family and all those affected. I pray for the families and friends of those who have committed suicide. Let his death and the deaths of others lost to suicide remind us to notice, check in on one another and take care of ourselves.
Written in memory of Chrisen, Joey & Lee.
(Please click on the links highlighted and underlined throughout this piece for more information on depression and suicide.)