Mother reaches out to others by sharing her family's struggle with son's death by suicide

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined... that's according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

In 2018 we mourned the loss of high profile celebrities including Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain... and here in Augusta, a popular musician, Phillip Lee, who was just 29 years old when he took his life in September.

Recently, I had a conversation with Phillip's mother, Terry. This is her story of losing her firstborn child to suicide.

Phillip Lee was admired not only for his incredible talent, but for his kind heart, and genuine love for people. More than half of those who die by suicide suffer from major depression.  According to his mother, Terry, Phillip had struggled with alcohol and drugs.

"We knew about some of the drugs, we did not know the full extent of it."

Terry and her husband sought help from professionals ... eventually doing an intervention to help Phillip get the treatment he needed.  

"It took a while to get Phillip to recognize the difficulty that he was having, and the difficulty that the substance abuse was causing in his life. And so, we really had to almost allow everything to unravel in order for him to hit rock bottom to see that he needed help...   And, he was in the middle of accepting that help, and making great strides, and getting those substances out of his system, and taking the next right step that he needed to take in recovery."

But all of that ended September 6th.

So this heartbroken mother is using her son's music, and words from his journal, to reach out to others ...  and hopefully raise awareness that every day some 117 Americans take their own life.

"As painful as it is, it is a path that we've been placed on as a family. And so, we will walk the path to try to assist others in reaching out to help to get the help that they need in order to be able to deal with the things that are going on in their life."

These are some of the warning signs to watch for:

  • You don't feel like yourself
  • You feel agitated
  • Withdrawing from family, and friends, and activities
  • Feeling hopeless
  • You've made backup plans to take your life

"There are so many people dealing with substance abuse and with depression. And, so many people who feel alone, and so many people who are isolated in doing life by themselves, not feeling like it's appropriate or that they can talk about this. And, that is what is putting them at great risk. We have to get the message out there that it is okay not to be ok."

Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15-64. If you are hurting, there is help. NAMI Augusta meets the second Thursday of the month at 6:00pm at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church on Walton Way.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-talk (8255).

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