Kristoff St. John’s Son’s Suicide Was a ‘Breaking Point’ for Late Actor, Colleague Tells PEOPLE

Julian St. John/Facebook; Robert Voets/CBS/Getty

Kristoff St. John’s son Julian died by suicide in 2014 at age 24 following a lifelong battle with mental illness

When Kristoff St. John‘s son died by suicide, the Young and the Restless actor was forever changed.

“He was able to overcome so many things, but the death of Julian was just a breaking point for him in a lot of ways,” Stephanie Sloane, editorial director of Soap Opera Digest, tells PEOPLE of St. John, who died Sunday at age 52.

The soap star and ex-wife Mia’s son Julian died by suicide on Nov. 23, 2014, at the age of 24 following a lifelong battle with mental illness. He was reportedly found unresponsive in the bathroom of a Long Beach, California, facility.

In a 2013 Soap Opera Digest interview, St. John discussed Julian’s struggles.

“My son, Julian, has been suffering from a drug addiction for some years now and has also been diagnosed schizophrenic. Unfortunately, he doesn’t take his medication, which disallows a daily health routine,” he said. “Quite often, people who suffer from bipolar disorder self-medicate because they refused to take their pharmaceutical drugs, so we have had our issues. Poor boy felt that the local park was more of a home than his mother’s home or mine, based on the relationship he has with a certain female, and I can’t condone that relationship. I never thought my son would be the kid at the gas station with the gas can trying to get a couple of dollars out of somebody for a bogus story, and this is where Julian is.”

Still, the actor was proud of Julian’s work as an artist.

“He is expressing himself through his artwork, which has been recognized in the past year by a few prominent galleries, so there’s hope,” he said.

The actor had also had his own issues with a parent. St. John was estranged from his mother, Arlene, throughout his life. They had just reconnected after 20 years when she died of an aneurysm in 2012.

“My mom was white and my dad’s black and her parents never accepted that relationship – or me, ” he told Soap Opera Digest. “Her family was racist and the man Arlene later married was also racist, so we never had the relationship that we were both desperate to have.”

And in 2011, St. John was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

“What I learned was that you have to get back up and keep moving forward,” he said in the Soap Opera Digest feature. “To understand the gravity of drinking and getting behind the wheel, for me, came from getting arrested and taken to jail. Now, I won’t step into the car with keys after having any kind of cocktail; it’s not worth it. It’s hard enough driving in this town 100 percent sober, you add drinking, texting, anything to distract, you’re putting yourself and other people in great jeopardy. So I’ve learned my lesson. You’re not going to see me on that DUI list ever again.”

Then, in 2017, St. John underwent psychiatric treatment after a reported scare regarding his mental health. According to TMZ, he threatened to kill himself with a gun and was placed under a 72-hour hold for psychiatric evaluation.

The incident shed light on St. John’s “private pain,” says Sloane, who had known the actor for over 25 years.

“My thoughts in 2017 were, ‘Wow, you don’t know the private pain that people go through,’ ” Sloane says. “He was so loving and not afraid to show it, but I think that just proves that you never really can know someone’s pain — even though Kristoff actually shared a lot of his suffering with the world. He would be so brutally honest about the trials and tribulations he’d been through in his life and with his children.”

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SOURCE: People – Kate Coyne, Aurelie Corinthios