Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Dr. Kecia Ray
on December 19, 2022

Last week the world was shaken by the announcement of Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss’ suicide. According to reports, he left his home days before and walked to a hotel, where he eventually shot himself. The media was full of reports of his passing and extended sympathy to his family. He was 40 years old. Many speculate he suffered from depression, although his wife said he didn’t show any signs of depression. Others suggest he spiraled due to not being able to find a job with a similar income after the Ellen show ended, yet it was reported he had multiple projects lined up in 2023. Five years ago, he gave a speech about overcoming adversity and making the right choices, and this week he is gone. 

A range of factors may increase the risks of suicide, such as relationships, community, and societal levels. Situations or problems stemming from these factors can increase the possibility of suicide. The individual risk factors of suicide include a history of depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental illness diagnoses. Relationship risk factors relate to experiencing harmful interactions with other people, such as bullying, break ups, violence, or isolation. Risk factors considered community-related include lack of access to healthcare, stress, community violence, historical trauma, discrimination, and suicide cluster in the community. The last category of factors includes the stigma associated with mental illness or seeking help for mental issues, easy access to lethal means of suicide, and unsafe media portrayals of suicide. Any combination of these factors may increase the risk.

tWitch was a celebrity figure recognized by youth; he worked with several youth dance camps, and several were highlighted on the Ellen show, which he executive produced. His life was influential to many young hip-hop fans who watched him dance on various stages. Most of his followers will grapple with why this happened. It’s not easy to talk about situations like this, even when it is a high-profile celebrity. But, it needs to be talked about, especially with our youth, because he was such an influential celebrity to them. 

Suicide is not an easy topic to address, but it is essential to be able to talk openly about it, especially with teens and children. They need to know that they can come to a caring adult whenever they feel sad, depressed, or have thoughts of harming themselves or others. Before the conversation, take the time to know the risk factors and plan the discussion before addressing the topic. Choose the right time and location for the conversation, and be honest and direct. Teens need to be able to talk about what happened and how someone as bright and full of energy as tWitch could die by suicide. 

During Boss’ interview about overcoming hardships, he often wondered if he was making the right decisions, and he discussed how responsibilities get bigger over time in life. Stephen Boss isn’t alone in having anxiety about responsibilities and fear that decisions may not be right. Teens feel that way every day, especially seniors getting ready to exit into life beyond high school. If any teens are in your circle, take the time to talk with them about Stephen Boss and tell them they can always turn to you when they feel overwhelmed. Experts say his death could trigger suicides. Resources are available to help schools support teens and even to help teens who may not be reaching out for help. A recent interview by VICE shares how Gaggle can help support students and locate students in need of support. A national hotline, 988, exists for anyone who needs to talk about their feelings of suicide. 

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