Published on August 20th, 2013 | by Nathaniel


Suicide is Real…Remembering Lee Thompson Young


lee-thompson-youngThings we remember about the late 1990s? Your favorite pair of skater shoes, Bagel Bites, Pokemon trading cards, and The Famous Jett Jackson. The super-smooth, yet invariably humble Jett Jackson, played by Lee Thompson Young, was the prototype for the millennial teen. In the original Disney Channel series that lasted three seasons, he effortlessly juggled two characters on the hit-show, playing fictional TV star, Silverstone, and the good-natured son and friend, Jett.

After The Famous Jett Jackson ended, Lee continued to book steady roles on television shows and movies like Scrubs, Lincoln Heights, Flash Forward, Friday Night Lights, and Akeelah and the Bee while also graduating from USC with a degree in Cinematic Arts. Most recently, Young appeared as a series regular on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles, playing Detective Barry Frost.

I remember seeing him at a restaurant some months back in North Hollywood and even though I didn’t know him personally, you could just see his spirit. So when reports surfaced on August 19th, 2013 that the talented actor had taken his life at the age of 29 sans suicide note, I was shocked and had trouble sleeping. According to TMZ, he died from a self-inflicted gun-shot wound. It is now being proposed that his involvement in Yoruba, an African-religion, affected his outlook and mental state. Regardless of the cause, various celebrities took to Twitter to express their sentiments:

Columbus Short: “My heart is broken today. RIP to my dear friend and brother Lee Thompson Young. Writing partner/Friend/Brother. #HeartAche…I’m going to make sure the world sees and knows what an amazing writer and visionary Lee Young was. I’m going to make our movie. #NoMatterWhat.”

Gabrielle Union: “I had the pleasure of working w/ #LeeThompsonYoung on Flash Forward & he was an extremely talented beautiful soul. My thoughts & prayers are with his loved ones. #RIP.”

Wes Craven: “My sympathy to the family of Lee Thompson Young and to all those who knew and loved him…I had the pleasure of working with him in 2007 on Hills Have Eyes 2. He was a pro, gifted and warm. The tragedy of this kind of loss is particularly bewildering and painful.”

Despite his continued work, Lee had never been in the media for any overtly malicious, insidious, or attention-seeking reasons like many other notable celebrities. He had no history of drugs or alcohol. In fact, reports suggest that he avoided the Hollywood party-scene altogether. Talented, handsome, humble, and warm- are just a few of the recurring descriptions and traits that his former co-workers associate with him.

Suicide is real. It’s easy to think that money and fame equate with a happier life- a more “cushioned” experience for everything that is existence, but that’s a fallacy. It doesn’t matter how many “friends” or “followers” we have, how much equity is in our name, none of us are immune to the realities of life.

From the perspective of a Believer, it’s easy to look down and say, “What a shame. He needed Jesus.” Or “Maybe if someone woulda, coulda, shoulda just prayed with the brotha, he’d still be here.” While these statements may be true, they’re only one piece of the puzzle. According to Christian Today, 35,000 Americans every year or every 15 minutes commit suicide. And no, there’s no statistical delineation between non-Christians and Christians.

Every human-being exists in a world where there are ups and downs, trials and triumphs, mountains and valleys and while our faith can give us the gift of hope in the midst of an uphill battle, it’s only one component. We need to continually be encouraged and give encouragement in order to truly live a healthy life. In the West, materialism and fame are increasingly becoming the driving forces of our economy, shoving our desire to connect with God and others into the cheap left-over Tupperware containers. We make the assumption that someone is “doing fine” because we see their Facebook pictures from Aruba or their 500+ Instagram pics, where they’re always smiling.  

When it comes to suicide, the worst thing we can do is assume someone is fine- assume that they’ve got it all together. Even the uplifters need to be uplifted. Even the smiling need to be smiled at. Even the encouragers need to be encouraged.

Don’t allow suicidal thoughts- thoughts not of God to convince you that you don’t matter to this world. We need to be honest with ourselves and others. Don’t neglect the recurring thoughts. You do matter and you are important. Things will get better.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

What are your thoughts about Lee Thompson Young’s passing? What does it mean in the larger context?

Have you or someone you know had any experiences with suicide?




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