Welcome To The Suicide Club, Chester.

chad holding a mic

Hannah Baker had 13 reasons for killing herself in the controversial American drama series, 13 Reasons Why. Some days, amidst a crazy-busy life, I feel like I might only need one, but this isn’t about me. This is about how suicide is increasing at an alarming rate and how people, even celebs who seemingly ‘have it all’ choose to die at their own hands.

We live in a global society damaged by greed and self-love. Bullies are no longer restricted to school playgrounds and the putrid stench of peer-pressure has far outlived our teenage years. Two decades ago hardly anyone personally knew a suicide victim, today we all do. Our parents, our siblings, our children, our friends and our heroes on stage and television are all losing the battle against their tailor-made demons and bidding farewell to life. We cry for them and sometimes even condemn them when what we really need to do is understand the very elusive ‘why’ and prevent another soul from falling victim to the darkness too.

This is no attempt to glamorize suicide but rather one to try and enforce understanding. The recent suicide of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington has just reiterated the notion that anxiety and depression aren’t fastidious. It doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. It doesn’t distinguish between a 6 figure bank balance or an empty account. If it wants you it will take you and you are going to have to put up one helluva fight to escape its formidable clutches.

Depression manifests itself in many ways: A belief that you are not worthy. A suppressed appetite and subsequent eating disorder.  A need for isolation and withdrawal from society. Everyone experiences depression differently. We each have our own demons to slay.

I clearly remember the day Kurt Cobain shot himself. It was 2 days before my birthday and I was devastated. Ironically enough, amidst my tiny pile of birthday gifts, I would find my very own copy of ‘Nevermind’, a gift from the coolest mother alive who loved the band as much as I did. That was my first real encounter with suicide and probably the one that affected me most as an impressionable pre-teenager. Kurt wasn’t the first icon to kill himself (remember Virginia Woolf &  Ernest Hemingway?) and he certainly wasn’t the last. What started out with a seemingly isolated incident soon avalanched into a flurry of celeb suicides that could fill an entire Hollywood morgue: Alexander McQueen, Junior Seau, Robin Williams, Gia Allemand, Chris Cornell and now, Chester Bennington to name but a few all joined the infamous celeb suicide club.

On 18 May 2017 Audioslave and Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell hanged himself in his hotel room. He was found on the bathroom floor with a red exercise band around his neck. Cornell battled with substance abuse for most of his life but was drugs to blame for his death or was the high life of a mighty rock star simply not all it was cut out to be?  The world was shocked to learn of Chris’s death and one person, in particular, took it harder than even his family did – his close friend, Chester Bennington.

Bennington and Cornell forged a friendship through music more than a decade ago. Both were troubled musicians and found comfort in an accepting friendship. Chris even went as far as naming Chester godfather to his 11-year old son. When Chris took his own life he took a piece of Chester’s with him.  Chester lost his friend, his confidant and in the blink of an eye, his demons doubled in size. It was clear from one of Chester’s Tweets that he was devastated by his friend’s death. Chris lost his battle against life and Chester would follow shortly after.

Chester came from a broken home and he too battled with alcohol and substance abuse for a great part of his life. He also battled with something a lot more sinister and apparently shameful – depression. His struggle with anxiety was apparent yet completely disregarded.  What finally pushed him over the edge far enough to hang himself on the birthday of Chris Cornell will remain unknown but speculation has been running wild since his death on 20 July 2017. Were the bad reviews Linkin Park’s 7th LP ‘One More Light’ received the final straw for an already emotionally drained Bennington or was it, in fact, the death of his friend that brought him to the realization that ‘if he can’t beat it, neither can I’.

Over the years as frontman of rock group Linkin Park, Bennington penned many a song that could have read as a suicide note but it is an inclusion on ‘One More Light’ that really hits home. The lyrics to ‘Heavy’ affords one a glimpse into what might have been going on inside of Chester’s head at the time of his death.

‘I’m holding on

Why is everything so heavy?

Holding on

So much more than I can carry

I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down

If I just let go, I’d be set free

Holding on

Why is everything so heavy?’

Many are of the opinion that the only person who could save Chester killed himself only months earlier. Whatever the case may be the burden he had to carry became too heavy and on 20 July 2017, Chester Bennington hanged himself.  Approximately 1 million people die from suicide every year. That is 16 in every 100 000 people. One life taken every 40 seconds!

If you still haven’t watched ‘13 Reasons Why’ for whatever reason I urge you to do so now. It won’t make you less of a man I promise. It may, however, paint you a very grim picture of how our actions and reactions can impact a life of another to the point where they give up on life altogether.

There is nothing glamorous about suicide and contrary to what you may believe it isn’t a selfish act nor is it a sign of weakness. What suicide is, is a small victory for those we call the victims. It is the one thing in the universe they had full control over – their own mortality. As a society, we need to send out a message that it is OK to not be OK. What’s not OK is to bully, to ridicule, to belittle and to ostracize. If we fail to find kindness within ourselves and instead continue with our malicious ways we might as well tie the next noose ourselves.

‘I tried so hard

And got so far

But in the end

It doesn’t even matter

I had to fall

To lose it all

But in the end

It doesn’t even matter’ – In The End, Linkin Park

Author: Justine Bishop

Untamed, outspoken and just a little bit crazy.

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