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Family ends silence after 'My 600-lb Life' star commits suicide

Published: Aug. 15, 2018 at 10:58 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2018 at 9:53 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Family members of a Midlands man known for his role on TLC's reality show, "My 600-lb. Life" say they can no longer stay silent on some of the battles he was facing before taking his life.

James "L.B." Bonner, 30, was found dead from a gunshot wound earlier this month. His family says they're warning other families to seek help before it's too late if a loved one is suffering.

LB's mother, Karen Bonner, remembers the day she saw her only son for the first time.

"He was eight pounds. He was the prettiest little boy I had ever in my life laid my eyes on," Karen reminisced.

After having three girls, the Bonners decided to adopt a little boy and in 1987, James "LB" Bonner Jr., became the final addition to their family.

"I was so excited," Karen said.

The adoption was no secret, and his mother says LB often turned to food for a little extra comfort.

"He started gaining weight when he was just probably five or six-years-old and it just kept going and going," Karen said.

In 2013, LB would face a brand-new challenge after losing his leg in an ATV accident. This only added to his stress according to his mother.

"I took him to weight-loss programs. I did everything that I could, and it seemed like it just never happened and then when LB got older, he turned to alcohol," Karen said.

A stroke of luck came when he earned a spot on TLC's "My 600lb Life." Family members say he started watching his weight and changing his diet.

"When he died, he had done his prep meals that week that was still in the refrigerator," Karen said.

His father, James Bonner Sr. said LB would not talk to his family much about things that bothered him.

"[LB] wouldn't talk to us about really anything, really," James said. "And I encourage everybody to keep an eye on your children and get some help."

In the weeks before his death, his family says LB appeared to be in a good place. He had gone from nearly 650 pounds down to about 270 pounds. Plus, he was filming his second season with TLC.

"He had a smile that I've never seen before. He was healthier than I've ever seen before. I thought my brother was great. I had no worries. So, I want to reach out to people out there that love alone is not going to save them and you've got to look deeper," LB's sister Tera Bonner Shumaker said.

Experts say that could mean having an uncomfortable conversation.

"The research around the world and the United States is showing that asking about suicide is the number one intervention in stopping a suicide," SC Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative Program Director Alex Karydi.

LB's mother is pleading with those who may be suffering to seek help.

"Please get help. Please, don't do this to your family," Karen said.

If you or someone you know is battling depression and contemplating suicide, there are a number of resources you can use to help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 - a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week hotline where people are there to help you and listen. All calls are anonymous.

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