Eddie Tully aims to seize the awkward

Entertainer lost his brother to suicide in 2015, now he is looking to help families avoid the same tragic circumstances

Eddie Tully (left) stands next to his brother, Christopher Tully, who sadly took his own life in 2015.

South Philly-based entertainer Eddie Tully will receive the “Lifesaver of the Year” award from the Philadelphia chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Friday night, March 9, at the AFSP’s annual Save a Life Gala.

Tully lost his brother, Christopher, back in 2015 shortly after it was announced that he was missing. After a three-week search for Christopher, his body was found on the bank of the Schuylkill River. His death was ruled a suicide.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Tully said of earning the award. “I feel honored to be recognized for spreading the word about suicide prevention and being an advocate for the AFSP, but the tragedy behind it is sad.”

Tully, who works as a DJ, has a sizable social media following. He often used his platform to promote AFSP’s message.

“Anything we’d do he would promote it through his platform,” said Garden Logan, the publicity chair for AFSP. “He’s a very well known personality in the city. It’s nice to see him jump in and help us. It helps you heal when you help other people.”

“Losing a sibling is devastating. My parents losing a child is devastating,” Tully said, who noted that he works hard to help make sure other families don’t have to go through the same thing. “At least I know that my brother didn’t die in vain. At least someone else doesn’t have to go through this tragedy.”

Tully talked a lot about the stigma behind talking about suicide. He likens it to a disease or an illness, like Alzheimer’s or lung cancer. There’s no stigma about talking about it if you have those sorts of diseases. Why should there be stigma if you’re suffering from depression?

”Just like any other illness that attacks the body, it’s something that can be healed and prevented,” he said. “I think all people suffer from depression in some way, shape or form and it’s hard for some people to identify it early on.”

Tully thanked the AFSP for helping mold a message that would leave an impression on people.

“I think understanding the warning signs, being able to open up the dialogue, I think the AFSP has helped me get that message out to people,” Tully said.

The AFSP has recently launched a campaign called Seize the Awkward, which is about empowering young adults to use an awkward moment as a time to jump in and talk about issues that might seem tough at first.

“The conversation may be messy or awkward — but opening up can be a good thing,” said Stephanie Coggin, vice president of communications and marketing for AFSP, in an email to The Review. “When it comes to mental health, awkward silences don’t have to be a bad thing. Embrace the awkwardness and use it as an opportunity to reach out to a friend.”

According to Coggin, 76 percent of the time when teens are struggling with something, they’ll talk about it with their friends first. Through research, the AFSP learned there was a readiness among the 16 to 24 age group to do something, but they needed the tools to recognize risks and warning signs, how to have a conversation and how to get to support and resources.

She said it was important to “trust your gut” when bringing up the subject around other people.

“If you notice that a friend or family member is acting differently than they normally do — ask them ‘Seems like you haven’t been yourself lately. What’s up?’ or ‘Are you OK? I’m here if you want to talk.’ Listen. Follow-up. Stay in touch.”

Tully said one of his favorite memories of his brother Chris was the 10-year New Year’s Day tradition they started in 2004 of giving a six-foot tall trophy to “the people’s favorite” Mummers String Band.

“We tried to bring it back to the street and literally have the people in the cold vote on who their favorite string band [was]. Every year we gave away a trophy to South Philly’s favorite string band.”

If you or someone you know is going through a hard time and contemplating suicide, call 1–800–273-TALK. For more information visit seizetheakward.org.