You should know that there are some days – like the day I learned about Cecil the lion’s death – I am secretly relieved my brother, Jimmy, isn’t here to know about this. You should know that his own passion for protecting endangered species was one of the things that killed him in the end. As a wildlife artist he spent his days studying, photographing and painting the world’s amazing creatures. But he spent his nights falling to pieces, drinking, worrying about those majestic creatures, wondering what on earth could be done to halt their extinction, to slow the rate at which our modern world extinguishes them from the planet.
I did not understand, then, what was happening to him. I didn’t know that underneath it all, his mind could not take the passion and pain he experienced and channel his art and his anger. I didn’t know he could not release it. I wanted him to throw open the valve and let it go, pouring out fire-hose-style behind him, making a difference. “Jim, you can’t just be upset about it, you need to find a way to actually do something,” I would say to him in the midst of his blackest depressions, certain he would feel better then, scrambling with my own worry as I watched his mind disintegrate, tugging at the valve which was somehow stuck damn-it why won’t it move? Why won’t this damn thing budge?
Could he see me frustrated and scared? Of course, he could. I did not then understand why he could not just get up out of bed and make a difference, why he could not decide to do whatever he could to change the world. With the rage that lived inside of him he could have torn open the universe with his bare hands to protect animals like Cecil from being snuffed out. Instead, this rage destroyed him.
When my brother took his own life, this is what the world lost: not just a brilliant wildlife artist deeply disappointed with the selfishness of humanity, but the passionate beating heart of an advocate, friend of the animal kingdom, lover of the created world.
This is why the world should care about mental health: not because I lost my brother, but because the gentle souls who feel most deeply, the hearts that beat as moral compass of us all, the voices calling us to do better, to be better, to love better, these are the voices we so often lose to suicide.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts please download this document from Simon Fraser University professionals to help you walk through steps to be safe and get help by clicking here: Coping With Suicidal Thoughts . I wish you peace.
Fireflies: Finding Light in a Dark World by Heather Gordon-Young tells Jim’s story. Please visit her website to view the book trailer: www.heathergordon-young.com Ask your local bookstore to order this book or purchase on-line on Amazon. The images here are Jim’s paintings. Please view his online gallery at Fine-Art America. All proceeds from the purchases of prints and other reproductions go to the Jim Young Foundation, which exists to make the world a safer place for people who struggle with mental health issues.