Lee Thompson Young's Family Speaks Out About Actor's Bipolar Disorder, 'Rizzoli & Isles' Airs Tribute Episode
Lee Thompson Young’s family is speaking out about the Rizzoli & Isles actor’s battle with bipolar disorder as they launch the Lee Thompson Young Foundation in his honor.
Family Confirm Lee Thompson Young Was Bipolar
Lee Thompson Young committed suicide in August of 2013 at the age of 29 while filming one of the final episodes of season 4 of Rizzoli & Isles. Young became famous at an early age with his starring role on Disney Channel’s The Famous Jett Jackson. After the show ended in 2003, Young continued to appear in many television shows and films before landing the part of Detective Barry Frost on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles.
Young’s death came as a shock to fans, who were unaware of Young’s mental illness. When his cause of death was revealed to have been a self-inflicted gunshot wound, it was soon reported that Young was being treated for bipolar disorder. Though Young’s condition was publicized, his family remained silent until now.
“In his late teenage years, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I noticed some periods of sadness and that stabilized quickly. Some of a person’s inner life, you really don’t know,” Young’s mother, Velma Love, revealed to WIS TV on Tuesday, June 24.
Young’s mother and sister revealed that he had been in treatment and would reach out to them in times of need, but they also suspected that he tried to protect them from worrying about his illness.
“He would sometimes call me and say he was feeling a little sad again. It was always a quick recovery and I, too, feel that he was always concerned about us. He was always protective of us,” said Young’s sister Tamu Lewis.
Lee Thompson Young Foundation
Love and Lewis have decided to speak out to promote the launch of the Lee Thompson Young Foundation in his honor. According to the Foundation’s website, the organization seeks to increase public awareness and education of mental illness.
“We envision a world in which mental illness is recognized by all as a treatable, biological disorder and the stigma associated with it no longer exists; a world that supports and encourages wholeness and wellbeing at every stage of life,” reads their mission.
Love and Lewis hope that the Foundation and Young’s legacy will remind others suffering from mental illness that they are not alone, and will inspire people living with mental illness.
“People know that Lee wasn’t the only one. And for them to see everything he accomplished in the 29 years, it’s more than some people accomplish their whole lives. He was able to do that with a mental illness and, yes, it ended tragically, but through that we’re inspired,” Lewis added.
Rizzoli & Isles Tribute Episode "Goodbye"
The launch of the Lee Thompson Young Foundation coincided with Rizzoli & Isles’ tribute episode to Young, entitled “Goodbye.” After Young’s tragic death, writers decided to memorialize both the actor and his character, Detective Barry Frost, onscreen. Unlike Young, Frost died in a car accident.
The episode aired Tuesday, June 24, and Rizzoli & Isles’ cast and crew took to Twitter to remember Young and promote the Foundation.
— Rizzoli and Isles (@RizzoliIslesTNT) June 24, 2014
— Sasha Alexander (@sashaalexander) June 25, 2014
Rizzoli & Isles executive producer Jan Nash took great care in crafting the episode so that, should any of Young’s family members watch the film, they would feel that it honored Young without exploiting him.
“We realized that we had to have the character die so we could deal with that loss the same way the people on the show have dealt with Lee’s loss. What comes with that is we had to make sure we were not being exploitive and we were honoring his memory appropriately…and I think we all feel as a collective that we, to the best of our abilities, accomplished that,” Nash told TV Guide.
According to Nash, stars of the show Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander were adamant that the show pay tribute to Young in its fifth season.
“When I met with [Harmon and Alexander], it became very clear that what they wanted was to make sure that we dealt with Lee’s death in a way that was not just respectful to the actor and the role that he had filled in this company, but also to his character,” Nash told Slate.
When asked whether Nash and the writers had considered incorporating depression or mental illness into the storyline of Frost’s death, Nash answered that they had not out of respect for Young and his family.
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