We need to do better

I hesitated in sharing this particular column on my blog, but felt the message is worth the post. As much as this is about Chester Bennington’s suicide, it’s also bigger than that. Chester’s tragic end after a frightening and difficult battle only comes to the forefront of conversation because he, like many other celebrities, are already in the spotlight. But every day, there’s a Chester, a Robin, or a Chris we don’t actually hear about. Every day, someone takes their own life. And it’s not because of cowardice or weakness. It’s not because they simply are giving up.

It’s because every single fibre of their being is screaming at them ‘this is the only option’. That this is the only way for their friends and families to live happy lives.

Talk to anyone with a failed attempt at suicide. The majority of us will tell you moments after we took steps to end our own lives, we regretted it. Moments later, we had amoment of mental clarity where we realized what we were doing was wrong, and it was fucking stupid. But in that moment? We are not in reality. Our brains are simply not working right. We are so far gone nothing logical can actually enter our brains. The fatalities are the ones taking actions incapable of being undone. In that moment of literal insanity, they kick out the chair, they slit their wrists, they do something that does not allow for the changing of minds.

As long as we, as a society, write off these actions as cowardly and weak, we will be unable to tackle to root of the issue. To recognize the sickness that is in control, the same as a cancer shreds the physical parts of someone’s body.

Until we learn to recognize mental illness ravages our minds the way a physical ailment ravages someone’s body, we will be unable to save more lives than we can now.

This was originally published as a column in the Orangeville Citizen on July 27th, 2017. 


“I find the answers aren’t so clear
Wish I could find a way to disappear
All these thoughts they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Nothing seems to go away
Over and over again
Just like before.”
– One Step Closer, Linkin Park

The loss of music icons has become somewhat of a regular occurrence over the last few years. As many are aging, it’s expected. For others, not so much.

When the news broke that Chester Bennington, the frontman for Linkin Park, had killed himself, fans around the world felt a deep sense of loss. Just two months after the death of another music icon for our generation, Chris Cornell, it felt surreal.

I sat there for a moment as my newsfeed filled with report after report, wondering if this was how it felt for Nirvana fans when Cobain overdosed, or Elvis fans when their king of rock’n’roll met his end.

It was painful. It was sorrow. It was strange. The way the loss felt was different than anything else.

With Chester, it wasn’t just the empathy towards his family and loved ones, or for the pain and suffering he must have been feeling to do what he did. It wasn’t even that sudden moment of recognition that we would never hear his haunting voice carrying through any new music.

What made Chester’s suicide different wasn’t just the power in Linkin Park’s music over the years.

It was seeing him succumb to the very thing that he saved so many of us from doing ourselves.

Linkin Park was the first ‘dark’ music I ever listened to. I was 14 years old and consumed by thoughts of ending my life. After my first attempted suicide, I felt alone. I didn’t think anyone could understand the pain, the anguish, and the darkness that smothered me every moment.

Then, I heard Hybrid Theory. One Step Closer was the first song I listened to, and it was like everything I was feeling was echoed in the song. The aggression, the hurt, the anger, the being on the edge.

I couldn’t get enough of that album. There were days when I’d be home by myself and I would just listen to some of the songs and cry. It was cathartic. In my little dark corner of the world, I didn’t feel quite as alone or as misunderstood.

I don’t know that I fully understood the lesson it was teaching me then, but as an adult, I do now. That lesson is only echoed by Chester’s actions – hat mental illness and depression do not discriminate.

These cruel, dark, awful things are not limited by age, income bracket, gender or race.

Over the past week I’ve witnessed people make comments like, ‘He was rich and famous, what did he have to be depressed about?’ or ‘He had a family with six kids! He must have been selfish to not be happy enough with them.’ It breaks my heart, because it shows how much work we have yet to do.

Mental illness is a difficult thing to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. To reach the depths of wanting to kill oneself, and then trying to carry it out, you are incapable of reason or logic. The darkness has consumed you to the point that reality is so skewed, you only know the lies your mind is telling you.

The lies telling you that you are a waste of oxygen, that you are the root of all your family’s problems, that as long as you are alive your family will suffer because you are such an awful person.

You literally believe that the most loving action you can take for your family is to remove yourself from the equation – permanently.

Trying to seek help when you hit such a point is difficult, because you do not think you are deserving of it. You don’t have to have ever even done anything bad, yet you are convinced you have somehow become the worst person in the world. You are convinced all you deserve is pain.

In a discussion I was having with some people on Facebook, one person said Chester’s death is an example of how we are failing as a society. Unfortunately, I have to agree with him. Sure, we’ve made a lot of strides in some areas, but in others, we haven’t.

Suicide is now the leading cause of death among teenagers. Kids. People who haven’t even lived the best part of their lives. It’s even higher amongst those who identify as LGBTQA+. We have such a problem in this society, highlighted by how many people immediately jump to blaming the person suffering, as if every person should somehow be expected to magically erase that depth of pain themselves.

When it comes to those who are different than “normal” we simultaneously tell them they shouldn’t care what others think and that there is something horribly, fundamentally wrong with them.

That their entire existence is wrong.

Then we wonder how they got so far as to want to end things.

Typically, I like to wrap up my columns on a positive note. To say something encouraging, something empowering, something inspiring. But I feel like to do that with this would be to gloss over the harsh reality of the situation.

Folks, we need to do better. We need to be better. We need to be more aware of the struggles our loved ones are facing – to not dismiss the signs or to dismiss their feeble cries for help simply because we think they’re seeking attention, or doing it because they’re weird.

We need to do better so that we stop seeing people facing the same fate as Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Amanda Todd, Jeanine Blanchette and Chantal Dube, and every other name splashing across the news.

We need to do better because the dark lyrics of a song shouldn’t become truth for so many.

“I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn’t even matter.” – In the End, Linkin Park

Rest in peace, Chester Bennington.

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