Thursday, 20th July, 2017: Linkin Park vocalist ‘took his own life’. (BBC)
Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, Chris Cornell, Elliot Smith, and now, Chester Bennington. We have lost another extremely talented artist, and all anyone can do at this moment is chant “rest in peace, you’ll be missed.” The thought that the booming voice of most of ours favourite band will never be heard live again, hasn’t sunk in yet. Who could’ve thought, that behind those strong lyrics and unbeatable music, hid years of abuse and depression?
You know what the worst part is? The fact that it takes a person to end their life, for people to realise that someone around might be silently suffering. It has taken a league of celebrities committing suicide, to bring to the surface that mental health has nothing to do with fame or money. Rather, it further gives you a curtain to hide behind.
Here’s a question that we need to address right now,
How many more lives will be lost before we realise, “mental health matters“?
Life and Career
Since the early 2000s, Linkin Park has been an all time favourite rock band. The uniqueness of the band came not just from the music, but from the powerful voice of their vocalist, Chester Charles Bennington. Born on 20th March 1976, in Phoenix, Arizona.
With an early interest in music, Bennington started his career with a band called Sean Dowdell and His Friends. From there, he went on to form the band, Gray Daze. After struggling with finding another band, Chester went on to audition for what was to become Linkin Park. Over the years, he has been the vocalist for other bands as well, including Stone Temple Pilots.
Along with Mike Shinoda, Chester was the lead vocalist and songwriter for Linkin Park. The journey that began with Hybrid Theory went on to give the world a league of extraordinary music. Hits like Numb, Lying to you, Burning the Skies and many more have been some of the most loves additions to alternative and rock playlists. The songs haven’t just made it to the top for their beats and rhythm, but also for their amazing lyrics.
Childhood Abuse and Addiction
At the age of 11, Chester’s parents got divorced and subsequently, his father gained custody of him. This is about the time when Bennington first began substance abuse. At the age of 17, he moved in with his mother and was banned from leaving the house when his mother discovered his drug activity. In later life, while touring for Linkin Park, he also developed a heavy drinking problem. In 2011, he claimed to have quit, noting,
“I just don’t want to be that person anymore.”
“This skull-this place between my ears-is a bad neighborhood. I should not be there alone.”
Bennington revealed that he had suffered sexual abuse from an older male friend when he was seven years old. He was afraid to ask for help because he did not want people to think he was gay or lying, and the abuse continued until the age of 13.
The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father but chose not to continue the case after he realised the abuser was a victim himself.
Chester’s abuse extended to school life as well. He was physically bullied in high school. In an interview, he said,
“I was knocked around like a rag doll at school, for being skinny and looking different.”
Mental Health and Suicide
Following the traumatic experiences in his early life, Chester was battling with depression while building his career. Depression is not just a phase that people can overcome in some time. It is a monster that takes away so much more than just happiness from a person. It can take years for someone to overcome depression.
And being in the entertainment industry is not really a great help because an artist is under mass scrutiny at all times. Somehow, people forget that artists are humans too. Their fame and wealth cannot save them from the shortcomings of life.
You’d often hear people label suicide as ‘act of cowardice’. What we need to question is, however,
Would you call a person who has suffered years of abuse, a coward?
Don’t you think that a person who suffers silently, goes about with a heavy heart and mind, and struggles on a daily basis with their own selves, is an extremely strong person?
Why don’t we think about the extremities of the circumstances that drive people to take drastic steps like self-harm or suicide? Imagine the low point someone would have hit to think of something as drastic as ending their own life.
Worldwide, suicide is among the three leading causes of death among people aged 15 to 44. Between 25 and 50% of these individuals also have a substance abuse disorder or major depressive disorder.
It takes immense courage to talk about your demons, and even more strength to seek help. Common people hide their mental issues and deny having a problem. Think of celebrities, often made into idols and role models, struggling with abuse and disorders.
Being under the constant public eye, they’re made more conscious about their habits, lives and issues. Don’t you think we should be looking up to them, not just for their extraordinary talents, but also for their courage?
Celebrities are just like any other human being, prone to illnesses, and battling issues like depression whilst being rich and famous. It’s about time we create the world which is more sensitive to mental issues.
If people with a huge media presence admit their problems and come out with support, it would also help other public figures to take a similar step. Additionally, people like you and me would be able to draw strength from their experiences.
In The End,
Let’s make ourselves more aware, and be more accepting. Talk about it, listen to it not just after the tragedy has taken place; not just after a life has given up. Be more accepting and understanding while the person is still existing.
It’s easy to be keyboard warriors and diss an artist’s year-long hard-work in a moment. We find it to be our birthright as consumers to go over the line with our criticism.
What would it cost us if we were a little more accepting in our behaviours? What would it cost anyone to be a little more empathetic?
But think about it, it would end up saving a life; it would give someone an assurance that they can get through the hard part of their lives. And we wouldn’t have to write grieving posts like these to shake people to sanity.
Edited by: Aafreen Ansari