“On November 23rd, Kristoff St. John and I lost our beautiful son, Julian St. John. Our son was the light of our lives, an artist with a beautiful mind and spirit. He fought long and hard against an illness for which there is no cure…Unfortunately the pain became too great for him and I dare not say he lost the battle–he simply chose to set himself free” (Mia St. John, Soapcentral.com).
Being a long time fan of the day time Soap Opera, Young and the Restless, like many others, I feel a connection with the cast that enter our lives five times a week. Understandably, when I read about the death of Julian St. John, son of Young and Restless actor, Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters), my heart was instantly filled with compassion and prayers were lifted for the family. As someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I do understand the array of emotions one feels when you first receive the news that someone you have loved a lifetime has died and the reason is because they chose to break free.
Julian’s mother, Mia, is quoted as saying, “He fought long and hard against an illness…”
I admire her strength for being able to recognize her son’s condition as an illness. Some might take offense to the term ‘mental illness’ and because of the stigma attached, I do understand. As a mental health advocate, I promote healthy minds and believe one’s mental state is maintained through education, making healthy choices and spirituality. As an advocate, I strive to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illnesses. As human beings, we desire to be healthy in our bodies and minds. When we are not healthy in our bodies we are sick and often say we are feeling ill. The same concept applies to our mental states. When we are not healthy in our minds for what ever reason, short or long term, then we are mentally ill. Everyone of us has experienced some form of mental illness in our lives. If you have ever had to grieve over someone you lost, then you know too well what a stage of depression feels like. This doesn’t make you “crazy”, rather, it makes you human.
Thousands of lives are lost yearly due to suicide. We tend to know about those that occur locally. This year we were impacted by learning of those with celebrity status that have been affected by mental illness. It has been occurring, but it received more attention. The reality is that mental health is important to all of us. It affects all of us. In order for us to help others break free; we have to break the silence, break mental health barriers and for us to beat mental illness we have to talk about it and not try to sweep it under a rug or be judgmental to those suffering.
There are many national and local organizations that have been working for decades to bring awareness and answers to this relevant cause. One that I will spotlight is NAMI. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.
In President Bill Clinton’s words, “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” Let us not be ashamed of the terms, the feelings or the conversations. Together, we can help others break free by breaking barriers to a healthy mind.
If you would like to do a tribute to someone you know that lost their life to suicide, I encourage you to help us celebrate their life by submitting a brief write up and picture so that we can add them to our 2014 Memoriam. You may send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org