Remembering Actor Lee Thompson Young: Suicide At 29

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It’s been nearly 10 years since Lee Thompson Young, who starred in the kids show “The Famous Jett Jackson” and had a recurring role on the popular television program “Rizzoli & Isles,” was found dead at the age of 29 from an apparent suicide.

In 2013, the young actor took his own life and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Lee was more than just a brilliant young actor, he was a wonderful and gentle soul who will be truly missed,” said Young’s long-time manager Jonathan Baruch in a statement.

Lee’s mother, Velma Love, remembers her son well.

“He would just kind of seek out where ever he could get an audience,” Love said. “And he would perform – he would tell stories. He would do poetry. He would do speeches.”

 It might have been a phase for any other child, but Young took his passion for performance into his own hands.

“The next thing he asked was if he could have some business cards made,” Love remembered. “And I said ‘what will they say?’ And he said, ‘Lee Thompson Young, actor, poems, stories, and speeches.’ And I had the cards made and he would just hand them out to whomever, where ever, we’d go to church, at school, where ever.”

Born in Columbia, Young persuaded his mother to move to New York at the age of 12. There, he was quickly signed by a talent agent.

“I remember being in a meeting when I got the phone call about the Big Mac and I jumped up,” Love said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! This is it! This is it!’”

Young would earn roles in prime time television shows, movies, and commercials. He would eventually land the starring role in ‘The Famous Jett Jackson,’ but there were some things he could not predict or control.

“In his late teenage years, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I noticed some periods of sadness and that stabilized quickly,” said Love. “Some of a person’s inner life, you really don’t know.”

His mother, however, wasn’t the only one who noticed.

“He would sometimes call me and say he was feeling a little sad again,” Lewis said. “It was always a quick recovery and I, too, feel that he was always concerned about us. He was always protective of us.”

With medication and therapy, Young continued on his road to success and the roles got bigger. By the age of 29, he was …a regular on another popular television show, playing Detective Barry Frost on TNT’s ‘Rizzoli and Isles.’

In August 2013, something changed.

“After we knew that Lee was found dead in his apartment from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, we, of course, were stunned,” said Love. “I guess that’s the question that everyone would ask. And we really don’t know those answers and there’s really no way to know.”

After almost a year of silence, Young’s family is finally opening up about his life and tragic death. They’ve just launched the Lee Thompson Young Foundation to try to help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“I do feel like having someone like Lee impacted by it and it being in the news and that sort,” Lewis said, “It sort of kind of makes it okay. People know that Lee wasn’t the only one. And for them to see everything he accomplished in the 29 years, it’s more than some people accomplish their whole lives. He was able to do that with a mental illness and, yes, it ended tragically but, through that we’re inspired.”

Since then, Lewis and Thompson sister have formed the Lee Thompson Young Foundation to address the mental health needs of the community. You can find out more more by going to LTYfoundation.org

What’s The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder & Depression?

A man in a red sweater rubbing his temples with his fingers

Both depression and bipolar disorder are serious illnesses that can impact your quality of life. While they have their similarities, its their differences that really matter when it comes to treating either one of them.

Depression is more than just feeling low. It’s a deep sadness or emptiness you can’t shake. You might feel hopeless, worthless, and restless. You might lose interest in things that you used to enjoy. Depression (also called major depressive disorder or MDD) often goes hand-in-hand with sleep problems, changes in appetite, and trouble concentrating. It can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. People who suffer from depression might have some days that are better than others. But without proper treatment, their mood tends to remain low.

Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) is different. If you have it, you have extreme mood swings. You experience periods of depression (similar to MDD). But you also have periods of great highs.

A person suffering from major depression has experienced a period of at least two full, consecutive weeks of several of the following:

Depressed mood or anger

Significant changes in appetite

Changes in sleeping  patterns

Decreased libido

Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness

Difficulty concentrating

Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

In severe cases, thoughts of suicide

The individual with bipolar disorder may have several of the same symptoms as someone with depression for the same duration of time, but in addition, there is a period following the depressive episode where they may experience several of the following:

An elevated sense of self

Decreased need for sleep

Engage in impulsive behaviors

Distractibility

Rapid speech and thoughts

In addition to the above symptoms, I have had patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder describe the manic period as the Energizer bunny at full-throttle, with no way to slow down. A person with bipolar disorder may not always or ever experience depressive episodes, but do experience periods of manic behaviors that may be present from several days to weeks. A qualified mental health professional can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment depending on the individual.

4 Ways To Be A Better Friend To Someone With Bipolar Disorder

If you have a friend who was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she will need your shoulder to lean on. She not only has to come to terms with therapy and any prescribed medication, but also a pendulum of moods swinging from anger and depression to confusion and sadness.

It’s possible that your friendship may never be the same again. The new and ongoing stress your friend may feel while battling bipolar disorder could change her behavior toward you. She may lash out at you randomly, or even distance herself at times.

You must keep in mind that it’s the mental illness talking, not your friend. She still loves and cares about you as much as she did before. Now, you must be supportive of her struggle.

Here are some ways to help your friend while maintaining a strong relationship through the fight against bipolar disorder:

1. Learn about the illness.

There are a lot of misconceptions about people suffering from bipolar disorder. Don’t believe everything you hear. Read up on bipolar disorder and learn as much as you can about the illness. This will lead to a better understanding of what your friend and the 5.7 million other U.S. adults are going through.

2. Learn the early warning signs of an episode.

The warning signs of a manic or depressive episode vary per person. Pay attention to your friend’s attitude and habits, such as eating and sleeping changes or excessive shopping. When you get to know the signs, you can warn your friend and her physician about the episode before it happens.

3. Positive influence.

It’s important that you help your friend make healthy choices. Instead of a bar, suggest cooking dinner or going to the movies. It may help, too, if you exercise with your friend or engage in healthy eating together. Make your activities a collaborative effort instead of something your friend has to suffer alone.

4. Attend treatments.

Let your friend know that she isn’t alone in her struggle by going to doctor visits with her. That way, you can also alert the physician of any habits or concerns that your friend may not recognize as a problem. You’ll also benefit directly from the visits, too, as you’ll learn more about the illness and how you can better help your friend.

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