Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness

October 3, 2021

On Saturday, October 3, 2021, Julians friends and family, in both Philadelphia and Miami, took part in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Out of the Darkness Walk. The team was a major success, raising over $10,000 in Julian’s name to support others struggling with suicidality and the friends and families of those touched by suicide.

Tony, Julian’s father, was tapped to give remarks at the Philadelphia event because of his professional background as a respected child psychiatrist and as a survivor of suicide. His speech is posted below.

Donations to the AFSP in Julian’s name can be made here.

Out of the Darkness Remarks

Thank you for inviting me to speak. 

As a practicing psychiatrist, I’ve always admired AFSP and actively supported its mission to “save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.”  I’ve participated in Out of the Darkness walks with colleagues, psychiatry residents and medical students from the University of Pennsylvania, and I’ve encouraged people to connect with the organization. 

Sadly, I’m here today as a grieving father, along with my family and friends, to honor Julian, age 32, who died on May 19 of this year.  Julian was a remarkable man whose creative mind, adventurous spirit, amazing sense of humor, generous heart, and caring soul deeply touched all who knew him.  Despite his many gifts, he was plagued with anxiety and wrestled with depression through much of his life. 

Julian was born and raised in Philadelphia.  He went to middle and high school at Masterman, just down the street from here.  He played soccer and baseball right nearby, and he learned to ride a bike and roller blade along MLK Drive where we’ll be walking in a bit. 

Julian cherished his family and friends, was an avid dog lover, and was passionate about politics. He was a talented, hard-working chef with a fierce devotion to his craft.  He wanted the meals he prepared to be wholesome and nutritious, always striving to make them memorable. 

Julian deeply loved music with eclectic tastes that included hip hop, techno, world beats and indie rock.  And he was an amazing dancer who’d regularly go out to hear live DJs in venues around the city where he’d dance the night away.

There’s no doubt the pandemic was very hard for Julian.  He lost a job, was out of work for a time, then took a position that was very stressful for him.  COVID restrictions kept him socially isolated, unable to see friends or listen to live music.  Eventually he fell into a dark depression from which he never recovered.  We miss him so much – his laugh, his smile, his humor, his presence… 

All of us are here because someone we know and cared about died by suicide.  While our loved ones’ stories may be very different, we’re united by our shared grief and joined together by our need to remember that person, to honor their memory, and to make a statement about the significance of their lives.  This is our burden but it’s also our purpose.  It takes courage to bring suicide out of the darkness and to bear witness to the pain we survivors of suicide loss are facing.  To those of you who have come here to walk along with us, Thank You! Your support and solidarity are vital to our psychological survival.  Your presence here today is a source of spiritual strength – an emotional antidote to the isolation and loneliness that grieving families often feel.  

As we all know, suicide is complicated.  There’s no single explanation for why it happens, and there’s no simple way to prevent it.  Prevention efforts across all sectors of our society are extremely important to undertake… and it’s equally important to remember assertions like “suicide is preventable” can worsen the guilt that suicide loss survivors feel.  The slogan implies that we did something wrong, that we missed some important warning signs, or that we didn’t act in a way which could have saved our loved one’s life.   Our terrible pain is bad enough without these sound bites ringing in our ears.  It’s better if we acknowledge the simple fact that suicide is sometimes preventable and that we need to do whatever we can to reduce its prevalence. 

Advocacy for more research, improved treatment approaches, better access to compassionate mental health care, broader community outreach and education are all important goals of AFSP – which is why it so richly deserves our ongoing and full support.  

Julian’s death has been deeply traumatic.  There are no words, there are just no words to describe what this has been like.  We’re still intensely grieving.  It’s still early in the mourning process. There are many rivers to cross in our journey through this landscape of sorrow we find ourselves in, with Julian gone.  It’s still hard to believe.  Yet despite the deep shock and unspeakable pain, the heartbreaking sadness, the sense of unreality and incomprehensibility, and the terrible longing that continuously haunts me, there is a clear sense of purpose in my heart – to keep my inner compass pointed to love, and in so doing, to keep Julian’s memory alive.  I’m forever grateful to him for the love he brought to the world and for the gifts he bestowed upon me and upon all who knew him. 

In closing, let me say, I wish all of this for all of you who are grieving your loved ones. I want to give a “shout out” to Johnny Walton’s mom, Mary who is here today.  Johnny was a friend of Julian’s… they grew up together… and he died a little more than two years ago…  And, to all of you here, thank you, stay strong, hug each other, and let us walk in remembrance.

Thank you.  


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