The world received the extremely sad news last week that beloved Stephen tWitch Boss took his own life. tWitch was the kind of man that everyone loved and adored. He was also known amongst his community to have a firey, lively, positive spirit. His death came as such a shock to so many people because on the outside he seemed to not only have a fulfilling life but be an extremely happy person.
tWitch was an amazing and talented media personality and had a big presence not only on TV but on social media. Social media can create a total facade of someone’s life. Most of us only show our best on social media and omit any issues or struggles. We as viewers do not get the whole picture and forget that there even is a bigger picture to someone’s life…not just what they show on the internet.
This was the case with tWitch. tWitch was survived by his wife Allison along with three children. He and his wife had just celebrated their wedding anniversary days before tWitch committed suicide. We have been seeing a rise in male suicides and 80% of all suicides committed are by males. This is extremely disproportional to the 20% of suicides committed by women. Talking about mental health and getting help is stigmatized as a whole but particularly for men.
This is another great life lost too soon to suicide. We need to start having more conversations and calls to action to help those who are suffering from mental health issues. Suicide is a preventable death and we as a society need to break the stigma and get help to those who need it.
tWitch first made a name for himself as a finalist in the reality competition “So You Think You Can Dance” and went on to DJ and executive produce “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” tWitch was adored now only by his friends, family, and co-workers but he accumulated an extremely large and loyal fan base. tWitch was the kind of person that impacted a lot of lives whether he met them in person or simply made an impact through his work online and in the media.
A 2021 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that suicide attempts among young Black men were up nearly 80% compared with other races and ethnicities
Owner of Coffee, Hip-Hop, and mental health LeMark and three-time suicide attempt survivor said in Fortune Well; “There’s so much pressure because we live in a society where you’re only as good as what you have or what you do, and when you don’t have and you’re not doing, you don’t have a certain level of social or financial capital. You are deemed insignificant, and that’s hard,” he says. “As men, we really do feel like we’re not worth anything if you don’t have or you’re not doing. It’s societal pressure, family pressure, or maybe your own pressure.”
With the rise of social media and everyone posting their latest and best lives and things comes along with a lot of pressure and feelings of inadequacy. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to our peers and if you are unable to find the balance between real life and digital it can be a particularly distressing issue. Many use their platform to bring awareness to issues they struggle with including mental illness. But for many, it is a place where you are just posting your best. So even your family viewing your socials may see a happy healthy person when they actually are not.
Before tWitches death, phrases were trending such as “check on your quiet friends”, “check on your friends with mental health issues”, or even “check on your happy friends”. You should always check on your friends regardless of how it seems their life is going. You should not judge someone’s state of mind by what they are presenting on social media. You can create an entire character of who you want to be or how you want the world to perceive you which could be completely false.
High Functioning Depression
Many have been grappling with tWitches death because he had such an outward appearance of being completely happy especially on social media and through his work.
“High-functioning depression is scary as f–k because no one knows you’re not okay, and even if you say something no one realizes the severity because you don’t seem like someone who is falling off the deep end,” one of the tweets, posted by user @rusted_e30 before tWitch’s death, read.
United States Mental Health System Issues
Accessibility in the United States is so limited. Whereas there are free services such as a crisis text line where you can text 741-741 and speak to someone or free resources when you call 211. However, these and many other mental health services are completely flawed. If you are an American without health insurance the last thing you want to do is seek any type of medical care. Even if it means your life. Financial strain and pressure are big contributors to mental health issues and it’s one of the biggest issues that keep people from getting treatment.
If you are in crisis and text a free service they are obligated to call law enforcement for a wellness check if you are at risk of harming yourself or others.
Another problem is that suicidal ideation is a diagnosis. There is a difference between passive suicidal ideation and active suicidal ideation. Some people wake up every single day with the urge or thoughts to harm themselves or die. It is part of the disorder. These symptoms can be managed and a person with this disorder may never act on them. It is a passive thought that is part of their life with no intent or action. So you would think this person would need immediate intervention when they actually do not. Unfortunately interventing can do more harm than good.
Depending on the specific state you are in will determine how police or welfare individuals respond when someone is in crisis. In Florida, they have a baker act law where if you are a danger to yourself or others they can legally baker act you and commit you to a hospital or other psychiatric facility against your will for 72 hours. This again brings up the issues of finances and being re-traumatized. Just because someone for example is a self-harmer does not always mean they are a harm to themselves. I know this sounds completely contradictory and not all self-injurious behaviors mean that the person wants to end their life.
Self-harm is a coping mechanism that someone might use to cope with things such as stress, a distressful situation, emotional regulation, grief and loss, low self-esteem, punishment, etc. Self-harm can look totally different for each person. Self-harm can include cutting picking or burning while also including over or under-eating. Self-harm can also be the lack of taking care of yourself, overworking to the point of a physical breakdown, or pushing yourself too hard. There are so many ways someone can engage in self-injurious behavior.
Often people don’t need a serious intervention rather they need long-term mental health care. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of circumstances where one may need hospitalization but that still doesn’t come without its own set of issues.
One night I had a neighbor who was going through a really hard time. She was talking to some other neighbors when someone decided to call 911 without consulting her. What occurred next was like a scene from a horror movie. Next thing I know I see multiple squad cars with all male officers pull up. They spoke to my neighbor for a minute before placing her in handcuffs. The police ended up taking her away because she had an active warrant she didn’t know about for a silly traffic violation. After this situation, she told me she never received a court date to pay the traffic violation for driving on an expired license in the first place. Therefore she was unaware of the active warrant.
So instead of getting the help, she needed she had to spend the night in jail. Not only did she not get the help she needed but she ended up being even more traumatized because she had all these male officers running up to her without compassion and cuffing her like she was an active criminal that needed to be detained. My neighbor is also not unique in this situation. Most wellness checks are performed by police. And we all know police training is already sub-par especially when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. They more often than not retraumatize the person that just needs an ear or some help.
Mobile Crisis Teams
988 has been implemented to serve those in crisis versus needing to call 911 and automatically receiving the police. This is intended to give people experiencing a mental health crisis an opportunity to get safe help. 988 also has a mobile crisis unit that can be dispatched if needed if the caller needs immediate intervention.
Cost of Mental Health
2022 has been hard on a lot of Americans and having to pay for mental health is sometimes just not an option. Imagine having to go into the psych ward for a few days and coming out only to have a bill that is thousands of dollars that you cannot pay. How do you imagine that person may feel then? Certainly not better and they may feel worse than they did before due to financial burdens or being unable to pay the bill. This can deter them from seeking the long-term care they may need. In the psychiatry field, you indeed get what you pay for. Many don’t take insurance plans because it inhibits their ability to effectively treat the client. Some only take certain insurance plans so if you don’t have the exact carrier you cannot be treated. Also sometimes money does not even give you the best care you can have! It is completely up to the therapist or hospital or establishment how they want to run their business and some only take insurance and won’t even accept cash even if you have it.
It was an absolute tragedy that tWitch passed away. We hope that the family gets the space and time they need to grieve and process his death. I also hope that this encourages more conversations to take place about mental health that can lead to changing our system to be better suited for taking care of mental health needs.
If you are anyone you know is in an immediate crisis or contemplating suicide please dial 988, 911 or you can text the crisis chat line at 741-741. Know that you are not alone and you deserve to be here. If you would like to get more information on mental health resources please click the links below.