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A Mother's Love

Lifestyles of Hope

I have heard it stated that a person can live for up to three days without water, but living without hope is a whole different story. Phillip Lee Jr. had a magnetic personality and could make someone feel like they were the only person in a room full of people. He was sensitive and caring, often seeking out those who were hurting or alone. Phillip was gifted in academics, music, and athletics and was an influencer in all those arenas. When he took the field, everyone knew he was in the game. When he entered the room, everyone felt it. And when he stood on the stage, all lights and eyes were simply drawn to him. He was well acquainted with attention, and yet, seemed drawn to lonely corners when the lights went down.

His life was full of love and passion, but when mental illness and alcohol dependence became part of that life, hope became elusive. The darkness of depression enveloped him like a cold, damp fog. He was here one minute…and then, gone.

Our family and friends continue to this day, over four years after his death, to ask “why”…”how did we miss this”…”what could we…should we have done differently??” The answers to those questions are as elusive as hope was for Phillip Jr. on that September morning.

As painfully devastating as the loss of this son was, new determined purpose has been slowly birthed from the pain. As I began to move in my grief, from the bed to the chair, and then to the computer table in our home, I began to research all topics related to mental health. As a nurse with over thirty- five years of clinical experience, I was astounded by the statistics that I read. Was the statistic true??...that one in five, youth or adults, would have a diagnosable mental illness in ANY given year?? I looked back at the picture of my precious family hanging on the wall. Five precious children. And I knew that the statistic was accurate.

Carrying the same passion for life that my son did, Overflow Foundation, a 501(c)3 mental health education and advocacy organization, was started in memory of Phillip Jr. in 2019, only five months after his death.

The overall mission of the foundation is to #PHIL (Pour Hope Into Life) by promoting mental health and suicide prevention, as well as providing mental health education. To date, over 1500 individuals have been trained by the foundation in Mental Health First Aid, a one-day class that anyone can take to learn more about mental health and mental health challenges. This class teaches signs and symptoms of common mental health disorders, how to respond to someone in a non-crisis and crisis situation, and what mental health self-care means for all of us.

Given the statistics and the overwhelming presence of continued stigma regarding mental health challenges, the work of the foundation sometimes seems like an uphill battle. Access to care, the costs associated with that care, and limited providers of mental health care are but a few of the challenges I face in leading individuals to resources, hope, recovery, and resilience.

There is also an overall knowledge deficit regarding mental health in general, a fact that resonated painfully loud in our home as we sought to care for, and seek care for Phillip Jr. We were very unsure of what to do and what resources were available, and during a time of crisis is the worst time to try educating yourself. Privacy laws, while put in place to protect
the patient, often do not allow for family members to advocate for their loved ones during a mental health crisis. Advocacy for other families and individuals who are struggling is now a pivotal part of the work of Overflow Foundation. Despite the challenges, I maintain a lifestyle of hope every day. The pain of my loss never goes away. There has not been a day since this loss that I haven’t cried. But ultimately, I know that my greatest source of hope and comfort lies far beyond anything this world has to offer. As God comforts me, I in return can comfort others and lead them to that source, one step at a time, one day at a time.

There is a wealth of research being done now regarding suicide prevention. Maintaining healthy connections with people that love you and not isolating in your moments of pain is the greatest deterrent to suicide. It's okay to not be strong all the time. Just don’t isolate in your pain.

Phillip Jr. will live forever in the hearts of all who knew him. His picture hangs on the wall at Mellow Mushroom in downtown Aiken, only steps away from one of the many stages he performed on. And a Mural of Hope can now be seen in The Alley of downtown Aiken that points people to local, state, and national mental health resources. His music and voice will never be silent, as his CD, called Overflow, released in 2017, continues to play. God holds him now in heaven, while we hold him here in our hearts.

If you would like to donate towards the work of Overflow Foundation, you can do so by visiting our website: www.overflow.foundation.

If you are struggling, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255(TALK) or 988. Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The overall mission of the foundation is to #PHIL (Pour Hope Into Life) by promoting mental health and suicide prevention, as well as providing mental health education. To date, over 1500 individuals have been trained by the foundation in Mental Health First Aid.

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