Losing A Child To Suicide, Episode #134

Phillip Tyler

Today’s guest is Phillip Tyler, a loss survivor and mental health advocate. Phillip received a text on Nov 29th, 2017, that revealed the devastating suicide of his son Devon and started the beginning of his journey with grief and comfort.

Everyone Devon encountered commented on his infectious smile. One of Phillip’s last texts from Devon was after he helped someone in need. The text read, “We all need that one chance, that one glimpse of support. We are all family. Life is chaos, be kind.”

Phillip is a Crime Prevention and Education Officer at Gonzaga University and a married father of three. His career has included time with the county sheriff’s office, the United States Air Force, and the Spokane NAACP.

He’s a certified Comfort Trainer and serves on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Washington board of directors. He’s a Community Rep. with the WSP Independent Investigative Team and a member of the Mayor’s Mental Health Taskforce.

Listen in for some great takeaways about Phillip’s journey as a loss survivor of suicide, and helping Devon’s legacy to live on to create more kindness in the world.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…

  • Learn more about Phillip Tyler and his son Devon [3:23]
  • Why Phillip is passionate about mental health awareness [5:08]
  • Why Phillip works with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention [10:20]
  • Phillip’s experience being at the forefront of others’ loss and grief [13:54]
  • Changing the conversation around Black men and mental health [17:30]
  • How to teach young men to embrace their emotions [22:13]
  • What everyone can do to combat cyberbullying [25:30]
  • The most valuable lesson Phillip’s grief journey has taught him? [28:42]
  • Phillip’s advice for someone who is struggling (or knows someone who is) [31:58]
  • What Phillip did today that put him in the right mindset for success [34:36]

Why Phillip is passionate about mental health awareness

Phillip lost his son Devon to suicide five years ago. It was one of the most devastating experiences of his life. It took Phillip 50 years to realize that suicide and mental health are complex issues—not just something suffered by those who were weak. Phillip conformed to a standard of behavior in the service that said someone was “weak” for taking his or her life.

He was malformed because he had the belief as a Black man that he couldn’t show emotion and he passed that behavior down to his sons. When his son took his life, Phillip began the transformation into who he is today. The trauma that was born into him led him to advocacy.

Changing the conversation around Black men and mental health

Frederick Douglas said, “It’s easier to build strong children than repair a broken man.” Black men have been appropriated into a culture of having to be strong and suppress emotions. Phillip learned that behavior from his father and taught it to his sons. He realized that it’s nonsense. We need to resignify what it is to be masculine.

It starts by being vulnerable and showing that you can have deeper relationships with other men. Model that it’s okay to show emotions. All men are human. All humans have emotions, so Black men should have emotions too.

BJ Williams created a campaign called “Can I Be Vulnerable?” that interviewed professional athletes talking about their mental health and their emotions. When you see that, it changes the way you perceive how a Black man must be.

Phillip created the “W.E.A.K.” campaign where they resignify the word weak as an acronym: Willing to Express Adult Kindness. It’s easier to build strong and resilient young men by modeling the right behavior. But men have to be willing to step up and show their emotions.

How to teach young men to embrace their emotions

Parents have to model the correct behavior. A lot of the life lessons we learn are taught by what we see and hear. We have to teach young men how to navigate confrontation. Disagreeing with someone shouldn’t lead to conflict. They need to be taught better coping skills early on and we need to model it ourselves.

Black men have been taught to put on a mask when they leave the house. They have to smile and exude positivity. They’ve been taught that if they aren’t smiling, they’re intimidating. But behind that mask are suppressed emotions. But you can’t heal what you don’t reveal.

The Million Mask Movement is about helping people remove their masks, reveal what’s behind their smiles, and start to heal. It starts with sharing stories and building close relationships with other men.

The most valuable lesson Phillip’s grief journey has taught him

Connection matters. Connection is what has helped Phillip through his grief. When you have a loss, people reach out immediately. But eventually, that connection fades. The true connections that remain make a difference. It’s also why Phillip says that you can’t underestimate the power of sending a note, making a phone call, or texting someone. It helps them feel heard, seen, acknowledged, cared for, and loved. The grief journey is not linear. There might be a day where someone feels down and that phone call or text message can change everything.

Listen to the whole episode to hear Phillip’s advice for those who are struggling or know someone who is.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Phillip Tyler


Loss Survivor, Air Force Veteran, Former Corrections Lieutenant, Former Vice President and President of Spokane NAACP, Former PrimeTime mentor, Human Rights Taskforce, and Spokane Schools Diversity Council board member. CPTED specialist. Certified Comfort trainer, AFSP-WA Board of Directors, Community Rep. with WSP Independent Investigative Team, and member of Mayor’s Mental Health Taskforce. Currently studying Communications at Gonzaga University.

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Guests on the Mitlin Money Mindset Show are not affiliated with CWM, LLC, and opinions expressed herein may not be representative of CWM, LLC. CWM, LLC is not responsible for the guest’s content linked on this site.

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