This story is about Lee Thompson Young, an actor from Columbia South Carolina, who died of a self inflicted gun wound 5 and a half years ago. A year after his suicide, his mother and sister came forth telling more of his story as it related to having bipolar disorder and his rise as an actor. They started the Lee Thompson Young Foundation to work on erasing stigma around mental health and improving the lives of those impacted by it.
The reason this story is particularly impactful for me is because Lee Thompson Young was one of, if not the earliest and thus most significant instance of representation I experienced. I was 6 when the show The Famous Jet Jackson premiered on the disney channel. Lee played the main character, Jet Jackson, who was an actor and portrayed a spy named Silver Stone on the fictional show.
At the age of 6 you can be sure there was a lot of projection. Jet wasn’t someone’s goofy or stoic bestfriend. He was the main character, a kid juggling high school and fame. He was just a really cool dude, even had a black love interest. Jet had enough clout to convince the producers of his show to move filming from Hollywood to his hometown.
Young was significant in me being able to see myself in media at a young age and there was a weight that came at the news of his death and his diagnosis. The underlying thought or fear became, -wow, here’s this college educated, good looking, talented, successful black actor guy who was getting help and was on meds. His family even caught the issue early on in his life. Sure, there’s always stuff behind the scenes that we don’t/won’t know about but none of the previously mentioned factors protected him for very long. It may have delayed and helped him cope for a while yet he ultimately ended his life at the age of 29.
That hits hard.
Is there any inoculation?