by Glenn Reedus
Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader

Mental health issues are being identified as the reasons that led 26-year-old Chef Josh Marks to take his own life. Mr. Marks had been a runner-up in the Master Chef national competition last year.

Joshua Marks, known affectionately as the “gentle giant” is being remembered as a loving son with a winning smile, and a funny and loyal friend, but also someone whom the system failed. Mr. Marks, 26, was found dead in a South Side alley October 11 of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide.

Mr. Marks had distinguished himself professionally as a chef having finished in the runner-up slot a year ago on the nationally telecasted cooking show “Master Chef.” Yvette Moyo, co-founder of Real Men Cook (RMC), a national Fathers Day event designed to bring families together, said Mr. Marks also was a spokesman for RMC from November 2012 to February 2013.

Moyo said she helped negotiate a contract with the General Mills Co., makers of Hamburger Helper for Mr. Marks to have an official role representing that brand this year with RMC.

Sam Lee, a high school classmate of Mr. Marks remembered him as humble and a faithful Christian. He also said during their days at Dunbar High School, where they graduated in 2005, Mr. Marks was “funny, yet reserved.” He recalled that several years later he saw Mr. Marks at a RMC event and Mr. Marks was encouraging and told him “God has bigger plans for our lives.”

It was Mr. Marks’ mother, Paulette Mitchell, who found her son dead in that alley. She recalled that she received a call from her brother who had told him Mr. Marks was seen with a gun walking in the alley near his grandfather’s house.

“I only left for a couple of hours to pick up my daughter from school Friday afternoon.” She was referring to the time immediately following the phone call.

“I rushed back to the South Side to get to the neighborhood, and just started driving through the alleys near my dad’s house looking for him,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “All I could think was I have to get to him in time.” She said she frantically drove through alleys searching. “I saw Joshua laying there in the second alley that I turned down,” his mother said. “I screamed for help and held him. I just didn’t get to my boy on time. I didn’t get to my boy.”

Mrs. Mitchell said Mr. Marks was diagnosed as being bipolar about one year ago. Last week a doctor determined he also suffered from schizophrenia. “He was very distraught by this new diagnosis,” she said. “He was just coming to terms with having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but he just couldn’t handle this new diagnosis. “Joshua was so kind, so gentle. He loved life. He loved people. He would never hurt anyone. He was just a gentle sweet soul, but he hurt himself. That breaks my heart, that he hurt himself.”

She said she hadn’t noticed anything wrong with her son until after he competed on the television show. She noted that taping the show seemed to be extremely stressful for Mr. Marks.

His stepfather, Gabriel Mitchell, said reality shows take a toll on individuals. “Josh had a following of fans and was put on a celebrity type pedestal, with the expectation from others that there was money and fame; but his personal realty was he was struggling mentally and financially,” he said. “I think people expect that you come away from a reality show and have it made. That’s not necessarily the case.” The October 11 incident was the second time this year Mr. Marks shot himself. In July, Chicago police responded to a call involving Mr. Marks and when they arrived he wrestled with them and was charged with aggravated battery. The call noted that Mr. Marks had a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face at the time.

He was taken into custody but got no mental health treatment, according to Mrs. Mitchell. “They knew of his mental illness, yet they threw him in jail with no treatment?” He said his stepson was not given any medication for his disease.

Mrs. Mitchell said after she posted bail for Mr. Marks she sought a full-time mental health program for him. She eventually enrolled Mr. Marks into an outpatient program described as “the best available through insurance.”

Last February, Mr. Marks recorded a public service video for the Make a Sound Project – a nonprofit suicide awareness project. In the video, Mr. Marks spoke about his bipolar disease and how he used music and lyrics to relax.”

Although Mrs. Mitchell said she believed the July incident was more of a call for help rather than a suicide attempt. A stoic Mitchell also said her son’s death will be the catalyst to form an organization in Mr. Marks’ name that will help those with mental illness address the same issues that tormented her son. “I am not done. This is not over. I am going to make sure that Josh’s voice and dream live on by fighting for mental healthcare treatment,” Mrs. Mitchell said.

Services for Mr. Marks will be Monday, October 21 at Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester. The wake begins at 10 a.m. and the funeral service is at 11 a.m.

Editor’s note: Visit to view a video where Mr. Marks discusses his love for cooking.