July 24, 2017


The death of Linkin Park front-man Chester Bennington has hit me very hard; harder than any other celebrity or musician’s death I can think of in recent memory. I feel at a loss for words… but I will try. Bennington was rich, famous, had a beautiful wife, 6 kids, adoring fans… everything from an outsider’s perspective, which goes to show that depression and substance abuse can affect any of us, even those who appear to have it all. That is a very important thing to remember and learn from this tragic situation.

Whenever a person commits suicide, there are those who feel they must point out how it is a cowardly act. A selfish act. “How could someone do that to the people they love?” What people who have never experienced clinical depression on a personal level don’t understand, is that the rational logic they are using to look at the act of suicide is not the mindset of a depressed, suicidal person. Depression makes you feel as if you are a burden to those around you. It makes you feel like no one will miss you, and that your pain will finally be gone. People who are suicidal don’t want to die; they want to not live anymore because the pain is too much. Those are two very different things.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma to talking about mental health. I read something that really put it in perspective for me however. There seems to be a shame associated with having to seek mental health services for a couple of reasons. People feel embarrassed but would you feel embarrassed if you needed to see a doctor for diabetes, or high blood pressure? People also feel ashamed if they have to take medication to “be normal”, but let’s apply the same logic as we did a moment ago. Would you feel ashamed to take insulin because your diabetic, or blood pressure medication for high blood pressure? The brain is an organ just like any other in your body and it can get sick. We should encourage people to seek help to become healthy again.

I’m going through my own struggles with depression and anxiety and I want to share my story here to help break the stigma that I talked about in the paragraph above. I’ve battled anxiety since college; roughly the last 14 years. At times it can feel debilitating. You put things off because of unlikely scenarios you’ve worked up in your mind. You dwell on the most arbitrary of details from conversations, thinking you’ve done something to embarrass yourself or offend someone. You feel everyone hates you for no reason. These thoughts are not rational but they are as real as you or I in the mind of someone with anxiety. Anxiety often is accompanied by, or leads to depression and much like anxiety, depression can make things feel impossible. It can make you feel like the bad things in your life will never get better. My depression worsened after the passing of my daughter Marley who was born with a genetic disease and only lived for 13 hours. When you have something in your life that causes you depression such as the loss of a child, it can turn all your thoughts dark and negative, and it can feel impossible to escape it.

                That’s why I made the decision to see someone. The morning of Bennington’s suicide, before I had found out, I had called to set up an intake appointment with a psychologist to find a professional to talk to that could hopefully help me work through my issues. I wish I had sooner, because just making the appointment has made me feel better. I feel hopeful that I may be able to understand better how to work through my difficult times. Unfortunately, Bennington couldn’t figure out how to get through his. The day Bennington took his own life would have been Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. The two were very close and it was evident to anyone who followed Linkin Park that Cornell’s suicide had a major impact on Bennington; more than any of us knew. And that pain was in addition to childhood trauma that had affected Bennington for nearly his entire life, and the stresses of the life of a celebrity who shared his entire being with the world. It’s especially sad to think how the reaction to Linkin Park’s new album may have played into Bennington’s depression. Their new album is full of deeply personal material that Bennington was very proud of, and it was met very harshly by fans for being “too pop”, or not what fans had hoped for. Linkin Park was even nearly booed off stage and had water bottles thrown at them at a recent show. It’s another reminder that our words and actions affect people. That’s especially important to remember in the internet age where it takes two seconds to anonymously post something hateful, but can have a much longer lasting impact on someone than we’ll ever know.

                Chester Bennington was a tortured soul, and through his pain, gave us music that helped many through their own difficult times. There is no point in trying to make sense of something so tragic. We can only look at what happened, and hope that we can learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again. We must keep our eyes open for the warning signs. We must make sure people know we are there for them, and we must love one another. If you or someone you know needs help, for any reason, there are resources and people who want to help, and people who care. Below are some phone numbers and websites that may be helpful to someone in need.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255