When Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington took his life a few months ago, the loss was palpable. One of the unfortunate by products of his loss is that he has become one of the faces of mental illness.
His widow, Talinda Bennington, recently shared photos of her husband that were taken just days before he left this world. Without knowing anything about him, one might guess that based on the pictures, Chester was a man who was content, even happy with his lot. He had a successful marriage, happy children and a music career that many can only dream of.
But pictures and smiles can be deceiving. Living with depression and mental illness does not mean that someone is spending their day lying around, mindlessly watching television or staring at the wall. For some, living with mental illness and depression means finding whatever it is within ourselves to get up and do what needs to be done while fighting the urge to say f*ck it and lay in bed all day.
Underneath the smile is an ocean of dark emotions with dangerous creatures whose sharp teeth threaten to pull us down to the murky depths at any moment. Somehow, we want to find a way to swim to shore, but the ocean and her inhabitants keep us in the water.
I wish I could swim free, but it seems like the more I swim, the more I tread water and the farther away the shore feels.
Depression, like any illness, knows no bounds. Whatever labels we or others use to distinguish ourselves are meaningless in the face of mental illness.
The suicide of Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington last week hit many people hard. Linkin Park’s music is powerful, raw and real. It was not just the loss of one the great rock singers of this era, but of a man who lost the battle to the demons in his head.
One of the podcasts that I sometimes listen to is WNYC’s “Here’s The Thing”, hosted by Alec Baldwin. His guest on the most recent episode was actor/singer/Broadway superstar Audra McDonald. One of the things that she spoke of was her suicide attempt during her college years and how surviving it helped to create the person she is today.
The old saying “you can never understand a person until you walk in their shoes” is an especially potent statement when it comes to mental illness. Unless someone knows what it is like to live with mental illness, as well-meaning as they are, they cannot the difficulty of living with mental illness.
I will leave you with the video above. We have lost one too many to mental illness. How many more will we lose before we do something about it?
In the wake of the sudden loss of Linkin Park’s front man Chester Bennington to suicide earlier this week, the outward pouring of grief from fans, his band mates, fellow musicians, friends and his family speaks of the collective heartbreak of the loss of a man who will be missed.
Korn guitarist Ben “Head” Welch initially called Chester a coward before altering his statement.
Is suicide the act of a coward? Some may say yes. It is giving into our personal darkness instead of fighting and finding a way towards the light.
To label suicide as the act of a coward is wrong. It does not help those who are dealing with the pain of mental illness and it does not help the loved ones who lost someone to suicide.
Mental illness and suicide are a call for help. To label someone who has committed suicide as a coward only ostracizes those who are haunted by the specter of mental illness and the thoughts that lead to suicide.
I understand that grieving often brings us to say and do things we would not do otherwise. I also understand that we are all entitled to our opinions. But at the same time, the statement that suicide is cowardly only hurts the effort to prevent suicide and help those who feel that it is the only way out from their pain.
It hurts because I know the pain and the agony that can bring on suicide. I also know that this man was an amazing musician. I am not a huge fan of Linkin Park, but I understood their music. One of their most recent hits, Heavy, hit a raw nerve. The lyrics spoke to me in a way that few songs have.
Suicide claims too many of us. It smothers our light and takes away the possibilities that life can bring.
My heart goes out to his family, his friends and those who knew him best.