Sad news from the television world yesterday with the apparent suicide of Lee Thompson Young. (The authorities have not yet issued a definitive cause of death, but Young’s publicist has confirmed that he took his own life.)
I never saw him in his first big vehicle, The Famous Jett Jackson, but I’ve been watching Rizzoli and Isles since it premiered a few years ago, and I was very fond of his character, Barry Frost. Of course, the loss to the program is at the bottom of the list of priorities right now, with his family and friends suffering a much greater loss than fans of a fictional character.
Still, there is the reality of the job he left behind. Just last week Rizzoli and Isles was renewed for another season, and they were in the process of filming what I assume is the tail end of their current season when this tragedy occurred. The show has shut down production for a couple of days, both to allow co-workers to cope and to evaluate what this means to the program. I don’t know what the powers that be will ultimately decide in terms of dealing with a now-missing character, but I’m going to go on record as saying that I think it would be nice if the show could somehow take the opportunity to address the almost-taboo subject of suicide and depression. Obviously, I don’t know the circumstances behind Mr. Young’s decision to end his life—probably no one ever will—but I am quite confident that depression played a role. And I’m not saying that R&I necessarily needs to go the route of a “very special episode”, but I think there are far too many people in our world who feel that depth of depression but think they’re the only ones, and I think media—even entertainment media—should take what opportunities are presented to try and make a positive difference in society. If even one person could see an episode of a television show that could somehow make clear that other options exist, then the episode would be worthwhile.
Of course, it might be far too difficult for the cast to deal with a storyline that had Frost the victim of suicide, and I completely understand that. Some things are just too close to home. But maybe Frost could be called back home to help out after losing a family member to suicide. That would still give the show the opportunity to have a discussion about the topic and perhaps raise some awareness. At the very, very least, I believe the show needs to do a PSA during the first episode without him, maybe others. (I haven’t seen tonight’s episode yet, so I don’t know if they addressed it in any way during commercial breaks.)
As I said, I can’t begin to guess at the despair Young was feeling to lead him down such a dark and desolate road, but I know 29 years old is far too young to die. And if television can make a difference in the life of another struggling young person, it should do what it can.
RIP, Lee Thompson Young, and I hope that you have found the peace you needed.