Joseph Lavery Gullo, of West Berlin, died Wednesday, May 10, his obituary says. He leaves behind his incredible parents, Gregory and Susan (Diamond ) Gullo; his brother and sister, Gregory Gullo, Jr. (Kate), and Erin Gullo (Kyle); his two beloved dogs, Jager and Meep; as well as countless extended family members and close friends who will cherish his memory forever.
Born in Willingboro, Joseph graduated from Cherokee High School in 2011 before earning his BSN from Rutgers University and working as an RN at Virtua Memorial Hospital.
Joseph was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when he was a young adult following a childhood diagnosis with ADHD, according to a GoFundMe launched by family members who say he “worked unbelievably hard to the point of exhaustion to battle his mental health issues.”
“He was prescribed virtually every class of medication available to treat these disorders, and while some medications helped, they either had terrible side effects or were only transient in their effectiveness,” reads the campaign.
Meanwhile, never wavering in his passion to his nursing career, Joseph spent weeks receiving other forms of care and “left no stone unturned” in hopes of overcoming his growing mental health challenges.
“Ultimately, his body simply ran out of gas and the heavy burden he felt throughout his life combined with the lack of access to mental health resources in our healthcare system proved too much for him to go on, and he unfortunately ended his own life after a failed attempt six months prior,” reads the campaign.
Joseph also showed resistance in seeking treatment with serious fears of incurring medical debt — one of the reasons his family felt motivated to launch the fundraiser that is well on its way to developing into a full-blown nonprofit organization to offer financial assistance to those in similar situations.
“One of the primary stressors for anyone — let alone those battling mental health issues — is finances,” the fundraiser says. “Joey ruminated over the extraordinary debt acquired as a result of his numerous hospitalizations…It was a terrible cycle of seeking treatment that was lackluster but all that was available, and dreading his incoming medical bills which compounded the stress of living.”
Joseph’s family has raised more than $35,000 in the wake of his tragic passing. The campaign provides an efficient way to donate to Joseph’s legacy, which will support financial services for those suffering from Bipolar Disorder and allow them to focus 100 percent of their efforts on treatment.
“While Joey's passing is fresh on our minds as are the wounds in our hearts, we wanted to provide a streamlined option for your donations that will be utilized to help other vulnerable individuals who would benefit from having their hospital bills after an involuntary stay essentially ‘wiped out,’” reads the campaign. “This way they can hopefully focus on getting better when they are discharged and not worry about how they are going to pay for the treatment they received while inpatient, and thus not working and earning income.”
The campaign was less than $5,000 short of reaching its initial goal and quickly approaching 400 contributors as of Thursday, May 25.
“We are looking into how to create a non-profit organization and make a more robust program in the days, weeks and years to come in Joey's honor, and your funds contributed today will afford us the opportunity to jumpstart this extremely important endeavor,” the fundraiser says.
Countless tributes had also poured in on social media highlighting Joseph’s iconic legacy of kindness, empathy, and bravery despite his internal struggles:
Joseph’s memorial was held Monday, May 15 at St. Mary of the Lakes R.C. Church in Medford.
A series of updates from campaign organizers since its launch on Saturday, May 13 confirmed that they were “preparing to make a difference in the world of mental health support,” adding that someone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder herself had already reached out to assist with launching the nonprofit when the final goal was reached.
“…it just blew me away that even one day after he was laid to rest, individuals are already offering to help however they can and openly discussing their own struggles,” reads a Tuesday, May 16 update. “You all are amazing. You are doing Joey proud.”
“We sincerely appreciate any and all support you can provide and know that Joey will be looking down from Heaven smiling at how his life struggles have resulted in a beautiful way to help others in his memory.”
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