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What ‘Greenleaf’ Can Teach You About Suicide Prevention

An image of Grace Greenleaf from the show

Have you watched the latest season of Greenleaf? If you haven’t then I want to warn you that there will be a spoiler in this article. 

After watching the first half of the season, there was a very emotional scene with AJ that goes hand in hand with Suicide Prevention Month. 

I wanted to discuss the key signs that were shown in AJ and how Grace could have been more supportive to help prevent AJ’s attempt. 

If you are interested in finding out about this correlation, keep reading! 

In our last post, Licensed Social Worker Ashley Nazon listed 6 key signs that loved ones should look out for when they are worried about the risk of suicide. 

Shortly after publishing that post, I started watching Season 5 of Greenleaf on Netflix.

In the first episode, AJ is noticeably uncomfortable and mentally unstable. 

AJ’s mom, Grace Greenleaf, has done her best to be supportive and be a source of comfort to him, but it is clear that he has felt more suffocated rather than comforted. 

This is a feeling that some people who are struggling with their mental health can feel when their family doesn’t give them space. 

Although it is important for people to have support when they aren’t feeling their best, too much support can be just as draining as being alone. 

Everyone heals differently.

Some may feel the need to be alone at times and others may need as much support as possible. 

So, it is important to pay attention to warning signs of suicide risk and communicate with your loved one to understand how much support and attention they need. 

Disclaimer: I am not providing professional advice or acting as a psychologist. The information provided is from my own research and is being used to help bring awareness to the subject.

What Signs Could Grace And The Rest of The Family Have Looked At To Be More Aware of How AJ Was Feeling?

A picture of Grace and AJ in a heartfelt scene in Greenleaf

Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge) and AJ Greenleaf (Jacob Gibson) – Courtesy of OWN

1. Becoming Distant 

At the beginning of the season, there is news that another male was found guilty for a crime that AJ  committed.

This man that was convicted also died in a shoot out, which left Grace and AJ stunned. 

The reason behind Grace’s feelings was different from AJ’s though because he felt guilty that someone else was going down for a crime he committed. 

After this news, it was very clear that AJ was more distant and was not expressing how he actually felt to anyone. 

In a scene right before he attempts suicide, he is alone bouncing a ball on the wall. Grace comes in to tell him that they will celebrate that night. 

AJ Greenleaf (played by Jacob Gibson) – Courtesy of OWN

As she leaves, you can tell by AJ’s body language and energy that he felt isolated and alone in how he felt about everything. 

In this moment of talking with him, Grace probably thought that his sad emotions would dissolve away after having fun later with the family. 

This could be perceived as a great way to support someone, but that is giving too much space to someone that is having suicidal thoughts. 

It is important not to leave someone alone when they exhibit these signs because similar to this scene, the individual may not be able to deal with their thoughts until later tonight. 

Taking action immediately by using kind words and asking how they are feeling is a great start to providing effective support. 

2. Decreased Mood 

AJ never really showed many signs of happiness since he was neglected by the family for most of his life. 

But, when he was around his sister and cousin, he definitely had a lighter mood and was smiling often. 

Left- Zora (Love Simone), Center – AJ (Jacob Gibson), Right – Sophia (Desiree Ross);
Courtesy of OWN

When he had got the news about the crime he committed, his mood immediately shifted and he didn’t recover from it. 

As stated before, when he was alone after talking with Grace, it was clear that he was battling his own thoughts and emotions. 

It was clear beforehand to everyone though that his mood was lower since the news was delivered.

But, his family assumed that he would be okay and with time he will feel better. 

To help increase his mood, Grace could have tried to do something with him in the moment. 

Instead of waiting later that night to celebrate, taking him to lunch, playing a game, or watching a movie could have helped to make him feel less alone and increase his mood. 

The signs of someone with a decreased mood are clear.

Some examples are:

  • Not talking as much 
  • Less energetic 
  • Not showing signs of happiness
  • Zoned out 

Being present and paying attention to the individual’s body language can really help to pinpoint if they are feeling different, but haven’t expressed it to you. 

3. More Agitated and Reckless

This sign was more prevalent in season 4 as AJ was running off and stealing drugs.

Of course, Grace saw this as a problem, but she wasn’t in the position to comfortably suggest him to get help or to be a person he can confide in. 

This was potentially one of the first signs that were clear, but as an observer, it seems understandable since Grace gave him up for adoption. 

The feeling of abandonment can cause feelings of anger, frustration, and rage.

All these signs were shown in him, so these actions were correlated with that in particular. 

But, coming into season 5, you can definitely consider these actions as a sign of suicide risk. 

When someone is showing agitation and recklessness, you could: 

  • Listen to what they have to say 
  • Answer them in a calm voice 
  • Acknowledge how they are feeling 
  • Don’t tell them what you think they should do 

The key to each of these signs that were shown in Greenleaf is to listen to your loved one when they are having a hard time.

When someone is feeling alone or more agitated, it is important to make them feel heard. 

If you make them feel like they are being dramatic or that their feelings will pass, that will only drive them further away from you and could potentially increase their suicidal thoughts. 

The goal is to help provide more support to those who may feel alone or are battling their thoughts.

Prevention is possible and by paying attention to your loved one’s body language and non-verbal cues, you can help to bring light to their life. 


If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This line is open 24/7.


I hope you found this article helpful and it will help you to notice these small changes in someone who is struggling with their mental health. 

If you enjoyed this article make sure to share it on your socials and leave a comment about what you think about this topic!

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2 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed the latest season of green leaf and I liked how they dealt with the topic of suicide and self harm. Although not apparent to grace and the rest of the family at first, you were right that AJ was exhibiting signs of someone dealing with suicidal thoughts and I’m glad that he was able to get the help needed even though that only came about after he attempted to commit suicide.

    1. I did too! I am sad that this was the last season, but all things must come to an end, right? I agree! I appreciated the fact that at least Grace was doing her best to be there for him for support and comfort. Definitely think this was very important for everyone at home to watch because it is not talked about enough. Thank you so much for reading!

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