Kristoff St. John, the veteran soap opera actor who died earlier this year, felt responsible for his son’s mental health struggles and, ultimately, the child's suicide, his former wife revealed Wednesday.
As part of her mission to help raise awareness about mental illness, Mia St. John shared with TODAY details about the struggle her son, Julian, battled with schizophrenia and how that fight led to a drug addiction.
His illness ultimately led to treatment at a California psychiatric hospital, where he died in 2014 at age 24.
The former boxing champ said her son's father, Kristoff St. John, a longtime staple on “The Young and The Restless,” carried tremendous guilt over the death for years.
“He definitely blamed himself. Kristoff, he was the man of the family,” his former wide said. “Our culture does not really accept mental illness. The Latinos don’t, a lot of the black families don’t, so he was raised in that environment where it’s, get off your ass and shape up. Cheer up.”
St. John said her formerly outgoing, friendly child started showing symptoms of mental illness as a teenager. While she and her ex-husband did everything they could to help, they, like many parents, found themselves at a loss for understanding the intricacies of their son's mental disease.
“I want parents to know that the biggest thing you can do is educate yourself,” she said. “Educate yourself. Learn about these illnesses.”
His ex-wife said she continues to struggle with his loss.
“Kristoff’s death was extremely hard for me, because a lot of people know that he remained one of my best friends to the day he passed,” she said. “Especially in the last year of his life, where the family really had to get together and just take care of him, make sure he got to work. It was really difficult. It was a really difficult time for me.”