Death of Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss puts spotlight on suicide, how to help

The unexpected death of beloved hip-hop dancer Stephen “tWitch” Boss on Tuesday shocked his fans and friends, with stars from Jennifer Lopez to Dwayne Johnson sharing their tributes.

Even more surprising to many was that Boss, 40, who starred in “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” died by suicide.

His cause of death was confirmed by the Los Angeles County Coroner.

Boss’s wife, dancer Allison Holker, issued a statement Wednesday confirming her husband’s death, saying: “It is with a heavy heart that I announce that my husband Stephen has left us.”

Boss was a father of three who had celebrated his ninth wedding anniversary with Holker on December 10, just days before his death. In her statement confirming his death, Holker said her husband “illuminated every room he entered.”

PHOTO: Stephen Boss attends the Critics Choice Association's 5th Annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television at Fairmont Century Plaza on December 5, 2022 in Los Angeles.

Stephen Boss attends the Critics Choice Association’s 5th Annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television at Fairmont Century Plaza on December 5, 2022 in Los Angeles.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, FILE

The light Boss wore was evident on Instagram, where he entertained his nearly 4 million followers with frequent videos of himself dancing with his holker and their kids.

Among the tributes shared online was one from singer Justin Timberlake.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear that someone who brought so much joy to a room was hurt so badly behind closed doors,” Timberlake shared in an Instagram story. “I have known [Boss] through the dance scene for over 20 years – he always made everything and everyone shine. You just never know what someone’s going through.”

April Naturale, Ph.D., interim CEO of 988, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline said that while it can be heartbreaking to see someone as outwardly positive and happy as Boss die by suicide, it’s more common than people might think.

“Actually, it’s not uncommon,” Naturale told ABC News. “We know that anyone can continue to demonstrate a certain way of being together in their work life or with family and friends without letting them know they may be suffering from major depressive symptoms or anxiety symptoms or from severe stress from a traumatic event.”

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In 2020, the most recent data available, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 10 to 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2020, over 45,000 people died by suicide and over 1 million adults attempted suicide. Another 12 million adults have “seriously contemplated suicide,” according to the CDC.

The suicide rate among men was four times higher than the rate among women in 2020, the CDC reported.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts – free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Lifeline on 988 or text. Or call 1-800-273-8255 [TALK]. You’re not alone.

Naturale pointed to the death of Robin Williams as another example of someone who often tried to bring joy to others but struggled privately. Williams died by suicide on August 11, 2014 at the age of 63.

“He was a comedian and presented himself in a certain way,” Naturale said. “We all have this sense of how we present ourselves to others, but we may not talk about what’s going on in our own minds, or because of stigma, we feel it’s not safe to talk about it.”

Naturale said it’s also not uncommon for people to struggle emotionally with someone’s death, even if they didn’t know them, especially when the death is unexpected, as was the case with both Williams and, more recently, Boss .

She said people who may be having a difficult time over Boss’s death should also reach out for support.

“Obviously we’re concerned about people who have been in the public eye who seem like they’re the best in the world and very optimistic people,” Naturale said. “So it’s really important that people know they should be talking to someone who can understand and accept them.”

Dealing with suicide loss, prevention

Suicide affects people of all ages, resources and backgrounds.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt. Suicide is also associated with mental health disorders, particularly depression and alcohol use disorders.

Certain events and circumstances may increase the risk, such as B. A psychiatric illness including but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

The difficult thing about not having someone — whether a friend, family member, or neighbor — speak publicly about their mental health issues is that helping them can seem difficult, Naturale said.

She said the most important thing is to let people know you’re there for them and available for conversation.

“Don’t be afraid to say to each other that we care, that we care about each other, that we don’t want anyone to feel alone or isolated, and that we’re here for them whenever they need us. ‘ said Natural. “Knowing that they are not alone is a really important message to convey to people, especially those who may be having suicidal thoughts.”

Naturale said even when a person isn’t willing or ready to talk about how they’re feeling, it helps to know someone is there.

“We know from research that isolation and a lack of social support are some very serious issues,” she said. “And in the company of someone who may be suffering from a mental illness like depression, these become very important warning signs.”

There are many resources available for both people struggling with their mental health and those who want to learn how to support others.

In addition to the 988 Lifeline, a free and confidential 24/7 resource, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, a US-based advocacy group, also has a hotline and full online support guide with free resources to support people living with mental illness and their loved ones.

The NAMI HelpLine, staffed by trained volunteers, is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), [email protected], or by online chat.

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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also provides online resources for people struggling with mental health and their family and friends.

The website for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers five steps that can help you help someone contemplating suicide:

Step one: “Questions. There is a common misconception that asking if someone has committed/considering suicide gets the idea into their head – it doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to ask!”

step two: “Protect them. If someone admits to contemplating suicide, it’s important to see a doctor right away, especially if they’ve shared their plan with you or have access to firearms, the leading cause of suicide.”

step three: “Be there. Listen without judgment and with empathy. Let them know they have a shoulder to lean on when they need it.”

step four: “Help them connect. Help them find a support system to turn to. Support is very important for someone fighting the idea of ​​suicide.

step five: “Follow up. Follow-up could mean preventing suicidal thoughts or another attempt.”

It’s important for people who have lost a loved one to suicide to remember that it’s nobody’s fault, said Katie Hurley, a licensed clinical social worker and child and adolescent psychotherapist in Los Angeles.

“We never know why someone took their own life, and that’s really hard,” Hurley previously told ABC News. “Even if a note is left, it doesn’t really give us closure.”

Hurley recommends making a list of all the ways you’ve supported your loved one and turning to them in times of grief.

“We can relieve some of that guilt by looking at something that reminds us, ‘Here’s what I did to help you on your journey,'” Hurley said, adding that the letter a list can be a therapeutic practice.

Other Hurley tips include relying on a support system, seeking professional mental health support, and preparing yourself for how to talk about the death of a loved one. Read more of their tips here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Lifeline on 988 or text. Or call 1-800-273-8255 [TALK]. You’re not alone.

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