My heart sank as I read yet another depressing headline today: Paul Oliver, former NFL defensive back for the Chargers has taken his life at the age of 29, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report dated Wednesday, September 25. The husband and father of two was called 'the happiest guy ever' by a former teammate.
Not only did I find myself saddened because of the simple fact that yet another individual felt that suicide was their only option, but I found myself thinking of a disturbing pattern that has been taking place lately. I realized that in just the past month alone, THREE famous 29-year-olds have chosen to end their lives.
1. Gia Allemand - The bubbly former contestant of 'The Bachelor' died on August 14, two days after her boyfriend found her hanging in her home. All across the web people have sounded off with theories as to what may have driven Gia to suicide. However, it has been confirmed that Gia was upset about her boyfriend not yet proposing to her. We also know that shortly before her suicide she had confronted him with suspicions that he'd been unfaithful. It looks as though that this young, beautiful girl was mostly fed up with heartbreak. She was 29.
2. Just 7 days later, former Disney star Lee Thompson Young who starred in 'The Famous Jett Jackson' decided to end his life as well. Police were sent to his home after he didn't show up for work. He was discovered lifeless with a gunshot wound. He was 29.
3. Now at just 29, Paul Oliver has also chosen to leave this world prematurely.
Now, I certainly can't account for the countless suicides that have taken place outside of the media, the ages or the statistics, but I do know that I have attempted to counsel multiple individuals struggling with these defeating thoughts since I was a teenager. Those who have dealt with these feelings of defeat are all ages, and all have different backgrounds.
My question is: What is suddenly up with 29 year-olds committing suicide?
This really got me thinking, because I just happen to be 29 myself. I can definitely emphasize with some of the struggles they were likely facing, BUT I can't comprehend what got them to this sad, unfortunate point of no return.
I'll be the first to admit...29 is an awkward age, and I wasn't overly excited to get this close to 30 already. Quite obviously, anyone that turns 29 knows they are one year from entering a whole new age bracket, and commonly this places pressure on a person. For me, it wasn't so much the age itself, but the fact that I wasn't where I wanted to be at this age.
Leading up to my birthday, I found myself thinking things like: "Wow, last year of my 20's. I thought I'd be married with children by now. I thought I'd have such and such career, and such and such amount of money. I thought I'd have a house....not an apartment...etc. etc." I also began to think of how my opportunities for acting and modeling will only continue to become more and more on the decrease. There's pressure for the average person to get "older," but in the entertainment business, so much emphasis is on age. If a 22-year-old is wanted for a role of a young woman, it just simply usually doesn't matter if the 30-year-old looks the same age or younger than the 22-year-old....it is usually all about the number...unless of course you are already established. We all also know that in the country music industry, unless a female is an established artist already, her chances for her big break greatly decrease as she gets through her 20's.
Though 29 was my most difficult age to accept yet, never once did I lose hope. I instead took this opportunity to defy the odds, and to work that much harder, but what was the story with these three lives that ended much too soon?
Likely, they all ultimately made their sad decision for different reasons, and they shared the similarity of sadness....but did they share other similarities in their thought process?
My point is, it's odd that THREE spotlighted people have taken their life at the same age within this past month. Maybe it is all coincidental, but Gia's story especially sounds like it was one of age insecurity. She obviously was ready to have a husband and children by almost 30....she was fed up with the heartache. Though we don't yet know Oliver's reason, we do know his NFL career ended two years ago. The football star was no longer playing the game he loved, and at this point it seems reasonable to wonder if he was currently having difficulty with his identity. We also don't know exactly why Thompson Young took his life, but once again....was this possibly another example of "age vs. where I am in life" discontentment?
This may be the month of suicide awareness, but honestly, every month, every day, and every second should be suicide awareness. We all deal with our struggles differently and though we don't know everyone personally who made this sad and final choice within this past month, here are three examples that I know about.....three that are my age. At 29 we are supposed to just be getting started....not giving up and leaving.
May we all take the time to listen, encourage, and to be there for one another. Most importantly, may everyone know their foundation, their support network, and always hold onto the hope of their purpose and calling.