Bestselling Author David Magee Speaks to GPS Parents; Upper School Students and Eighth-Graders

Journalist and former GPS and McCallie parent shares his family’s story and strategies for facing addiction and other mental health challenges.
In 2013, David and Kent Magee, whose children attended GPS (Mary Halley) and McCallie (William ’08 and Hudson ’10), received a phone call no parent wishes to answer—their son William had overdosed and died. He was 23.

This tragic event propelled David, a bestselling author already, to expand his repertoire with a much more personal story. In Dear William: A Father’s Memoir of Addiction, Recovery, Loss, and Love (2021), he shares a raw glimpse into the struggles of a grieving family.

On October 27, David brought his family’s very personal story to the GPS Frierson Theatre for GPS and McCallie parents, touching on everything from his own struggles with addiction to the alarming increase in adolescent mental health issues. Of note, David reported 87% of high school students get less sleep than is recommended (8-10 hours), and the majority of college students feel “very lonely” at some point. He also highlighted the increase in both illicit and prescription drug misuse in teens and young adults. 

His wife, Kent, joined David for the second part of the presentation. In the telling of their family’s story, they made it clear that even a “perfect” family can be struggling beneath the surface. The presentation ended with a question and answer session.

The following day, David and his daughter, Mary Halley, spoke to GPS students. During her high school years, Mary Halley struggled with an eating disorder, for which she is now in recovery. The pair shared tips for balancing stressors, living a healthy life, and finding joy, which included:
  • Don’t misuse substances 
  • Value sleep and make it a priority
  • Find a physical activity, such as walking or running, to keep your blood pumping
  • Know that you are not alone; mental health challenges are common
  • Ask for help—earlier counseling often makes a difference
  • Invest in healthy relationships
  • Earn what you get/find ways to serve
  • Be intentional about social media
  • Believe in something greater than yourself

Following William’s passing, the Magee family opened the William Magee Institute for Student Wellbeing on the Ole Miss campus. David regularly speaks on addiction, recovery, grief, and finding joy around the country.

To view the parent presentation, click here.