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Stephen 'tWitch' Boss's death shows people who seem full of light and happiness can still struggle

Suicide is up in Ohio and Black Ohioans fare worse; Cleveland mental health experts ask people suffering in silence to seek help
FOX 2022 Upfront Red Carpet
Posted at 11:44 PM, Dec 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 11:40:21-05

CLEVELAND — Stephen ’tWitch’ Boss, the DJ and dancer from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” has died at age 40.

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner confirms he took his own life.

Tributes from celebrities like DeGeneres, Justin Timberlake, former First Lady Michelle Obama and more are pouring in for the lovable entertainer, father and husband.

In many of the tributes, people talk about his light and the happiness he brought others and sends the message to anyone out there who may be silently suffering to tell someone.

Millions watched tWitch on his social media pages dance with his wife, Allison Holker, and exude happiness, but his sudden death is another tragic example that social media or a public persona is a highlight reel that doesn’t always depict the whole story of someone’s life.

Ivan Conard is a licensed social worker and a researcher at Case Western Reserve University. He said tragedies like tWitch’s death, no matter if we knew him or not, hurt.

“It just goes to show some people are good at wearing that mask, you know, that exterior,” he said.

Conard is dedicated to taking a community approach to destigmatizing mental health in the black community.

“That stigma around seeking help, that stigma around going to counseling, of utilizing a suicide hotline or even just having a casual conversation at the dinner table to say ‘you know what? I’m not doing fine,’” he said. “This ideology of ‘this is what a man should be’ and ‘this is how he should contextualize himself in different spaces.’ So whether that's not crying, whether, it's saying, ‘hey, you know, put your chest out and, you know, take it on the chin.’ I like to reframe that and kind of think about what is the community response in lieu of, you know, these areas of mental illness and then how do we somewhat rethink mental health.”

According the Health Police Institute of Ohio, suicide deaths have increased in Ohio over the last 14 years, with black Ohioans faring worse, with a 56% increase from 2011 to 2022.

Conard said there’s not one pinpointed reason for this, but many—including stigma, racial trauma, generational trauma, the need for more community programs at schools, recreational centers and more dedicated to mental health.

“I’ve seen it with my own life. I’ve seen it with clients. It takes, once again, a community approach to say ‘hey, are we going to decide to do better or are we going to decide to say it’s okay to not be okay,’” he said.

While the world doesn’t know what tWitch may have been going through, Scott Osiecki of the Alcohol Drug Addiction Mental Health Services Cuyahoga County, or the ADAMHS Board, said it is important to know the signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

The symptoms can vary as each person suffers differently but some of the more general ones include mood swings, depression, withdrawal or isolation, change in daily habits like sleeping or eating, risky behavior, giving away personal belongings, recent trauma or a life crisis and threatening suicide.

“If you're considering hurting yourself, tell somebody, right? There's nothing to be ashamed of, you know? And we find out from from tWitch’s death that it affects everybody, all walks of life, mental illness or depression or thoughts of suicide,” he said.

He encourages anyone who may notice these signs in someone to ask them what they’re thinking or planning, to persuade them not to do anything until you can get them help.

He said the help that can be provided, is proven to work.

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” he said.

If you or someone you know is suffering call or text 9-8-8, it is a 24/7 national hotline.

Or reach a crisis counselor by text at 741-741

You can call the ADAMHS Board at 216-623-6888

RELATED: Stephen 'tWitch' Boss, former 'Ellen' show DJ, dead at age 40

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