Grey Matters Now – 06 William

GMN episode 6

At Risk Youth – Who are they really?

William’s Story

Join me, David Magee, Michael Julian, and Katy Bray for an open and honest round table discussion connected in 3 parts of the country and a variety of perspectives. This topic about the dangers of substance abuse is SO big it was difficult for me personally to start facilitating the conversation. I awkwardly just looked up at this mountain and took the first shaky step and the rest of the conversation just flowed with these brave, candid and beautiful individuals. This episode is intended to brainstorm by sharing personal issues and stories. I want to be very clear; this is NOT a platform for blame, shame or finger pointing. This is intended to be a safe place to share openly in order to problem solve.

When I stumbled across a newspaper article spreading through my social media circles written by a fellow college classmate, it felt like a force had taken ahold of me and shook me to my core. I knew this force would not let me go until I contacted the author, David Magee, to ask if we could discuss his deeply personal story that was also so universal and so multi-faceted. It only took reading the first few lines of the article to make me feel like I could not breathe. His article was intended to warn university students of the dangers of binge and risky behavior and to let them know it does not have to be a right of passage when you enter college. He and his family made the brave decision to share their son’s story of an accidental fatal overdose in hopes it would resonate and help others. What he did with this story/article was bust down the door of shame and free everyone that was locked behind it to share their own stories and to discuss topics normally considered taboo or “dirty laundry”. Free people to breathe….I am not alone…free people to make their OWN decisions…free people of peer pressure….free students to care about and help their peers…free us all to dump all of our, now uncorded, shame, crap and dirty laundry out in the open. We are all now free to discuss and sort through all this old uncomfortable stuff together and finally use it to problem solve. Free to come together as a community to create some solutions to foster healing and brainstorm about prevention.

William Magee was a 2012 Ole Miss graduate who was in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies. William was remembered by everyone as the young man with the beautiful smile; kind, sweet, and popular – he seemed to have it all. He lettered in track and was named to the SEC academic honor roll. The 400 hurdles are considered by many to be one of the most difficult in sports, and William had the courage to walk on and do it in the SEC. If only we could see the dangers and unpredictability of life’s hurdles. If only we could see the suffering hidden behind his beautiful smile, the social anxiety, general anxiety and low self-esteem.

William’s story is the same story as when we were at Ole Miss in the 80’s. It makes me wonder and almost have a survivor’s guilt – why am I still alive – how come I got to live…. ? This story is still, as if not more, relevant as it was when I was in school – I have to say though I was seriously shocked and saddened. I felt like this was something I HAD to explore because for some strange reason the universe let me live. Unfortunately, Williams story is sadly becoming a common story. Young men in particular still seem uncomfortable discussing anxiety, depression and dark feelings and the opioid crisis has become a full-blown epidemic. Last year 115 Americans died every day from an accidental overdose and the rate of these deaths has risen 522% since 2002. At this point I don’t know anyone that has not been affected by this personally.

“For Ole Miss freshmen: My son William’s story” By David Magee
“A new freshman class started at Ole Miss this week and I wish I could tell them all this story.
It’s about my oldest son, William, who was a freshman in 2008. He would gladly tell them himself, if only he were alive.”

I was honored and humbled that William’s family would let me interview David, William’s father, for my Podcast Grey Matters Now – let’s change the world one difficult conversation at a time please!

The hope and manifestation of positive change in just one year! Below – The William Magee Center For Wellness Education at Ole Miss.

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check with the center’s name in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For information on the wellness center and how you can contribute:

Resources and helpful articles:

More about Michael Julian and his very personal healing journey :

Resources for anyone or someone you care about struggling with addiction:

Not just for the immediately suicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Is a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.