Remembering Lee Thompson Young and the Tragic Impact of Mental Illness

Remembering Lee Thompson Young and the Tragic Impact of Mental Illness

Had his story taken a different turn, February 1st would’ve been been the 32nd birthday of actor, Lee Thompson Young. He was most known for his role in the late 90’s on the Disney Channel as The Famous Jett Jackson, a kid who balanced life as a famous actor and regular student in a small town.

Young tragically committed suicide in August 2013. According to his mother, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his late teen years and went through several highs and lows in terms of sadness.

Dr. Velma Young, his mother and Tamu Lewis, his sister, launched The Lee Thompson Young Foundation in 2014, “to promote mental health literacy,” as noted on the website.

The African-American community persists in a strong stigma against mental health issues. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services reported that African-Americans are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than whites, yet are less likely than whites to seek help.

The popular hip-hop drama series, Empire has attempted to add to this conversation through the character of Andre Lyons, played by Trai Byers. The character deals with bipolar disorder yet is discouraged from speaking about it and has to persevere through the illness often alone.

As we celebrate the life of Lee Thompson Young, let’s look back on how his story can make the black community stronger especially during Black History Month.

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